I am a part of a group show, CHICO & CHANG, that recently opened at Intersection for the Arts.
The exhibit looks at the impact of both Latino and Asian cultures on California's visual landscape through sculpture, video, printmaking, and painting. It's no surprise that the recent 2010 Census data shows that Latinos and Asians accounted for virtually all of California's population growth during the last decade; with Latinos growing 28% to over 14 million and Asians growing by 31% to close to 5 million!! Without a doubt, migrant populations have a lot to do with this shift.
The artists in this exhibition explored the meshing of cultures from two of California's largest populations - the Asian and Latino communities.
I decided to focus on DREAMers, and to highlight the stories of young people who are at the front lines of the migrant rights movement. The medium I used was Linoleum Block Print, Collage & Video. It was one of the most exciting works of art I have ever done, because I was able to collaborate with my mentor, and my mentee. My mentor, Paul Mullowney, helped me print the pieces, while my mentee, Julio Salgado, helped me with the artwork and the videos I showed in the installation. (photo on right: my linoleum block getting inked)
My intent with this piece was to show the crisis that undocumented Latino and Asian communities find themselves in under the Obama Admnisration.
While President Obama's new administration in 2009 offered an exciting set of opportunities around immigration reform, the political climate for immigrants is spiraling out of control. In Obama’s first year of office, 400,000 people were deported, more than any single year of the Bush administration. This alarming rate of 1,000 a day continues today. Some of the most affected by these policies are youth who were brought here when they were children, and are now in their teens or early adulthood. This age group of the undocumented community often call themselves "DREAMers."
The word 'DREAMers' evolved from a 10-year legislative fight to pass a piece of legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented youth who were brought to this country at a young age the opportunity to earn legal status if they met certain conditions, including attending college or joining the military. The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 and has since gone through various modifications that decrease it's impact while placing an emphasis on military service.
In the 10 years since the DREAM act was introduced, a powerful youth immigrant social movement had emerged, led by undocumented students themselves who often declare that they are "Undocumented and Unafraid," shocking even their allies in the pro-migrant field. This bold and courageous rejection of the term "illegal" has created an unstoppable force of of undocumented youth organizers, who today, lead coordinated campaigns around the country to secure rights of all immigrants.
For nearly five years, I've been following and supporting DREAMers around the country and making art about their challenges and victories. This piece contains the stories of undocumented youth and their support, disillusion, and at times, rejection of the DREAM Act. My linoleum block prints focus on the stories of three undocumented students: Prerna Lal, Julio Salgado, and an anonymous Oakand high school student. The video part of the installation also profile undocumented students, predominantly from California. The video in which youth "come out" as undocumented exemplifies the power of the DREAMer identity.
Along the way in my art-making, I met Julio Salgado, a undocumented, queer, artist activist who, using his comic-book style approach, would draw portraits and posters of his undocumented peers and their key organizing moments, whether they were being arrested in the White House or conducting a hunger strike. (photo above left: collage using my linoleum block and Julio's characters in the background. the piece is 4 x 4 feet!)
While Julio did attend college, he cannot legally work because he is undocumented. I was so inspired by his story, that he became one of the centerpieces of this installation. The cartoon figures in the background of the wall pieces are Julio's drawings of undocumented youth and the careers they would want to pursue if they had the ability to become a legalized. (photo on right: another collage using my linoleum block and Julio's characters in the background. the character featured here is my portrait of Julio!)
I am honored to use my art to share these powerful stories with you. To learn more about how you can urge President Obama to halt the deportations of immigrant youth, visit the following websites:
Special Thanks to Julio Salgado for his dozens of cartoons, to Jesus Iñiguez for his video contributions, and Reed Rickert for his video editing.
Runs June 11 - August 20th
Intersection for the Arts. 925 Mission Street at 5th Street in the iconic San Francisco Chronicle Building
Artists' Talk: Wednesday July 13, 6-8pm, FREE
(Please note I won't be participating in the artist talk because I'll be in Colorado.)
Artists in Exhibit: Pablo Cristi, Sergio De La Torre, Takehito Etani, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Mike Lai, Angelica Muro, Juan Luna-Avin, Lordy Rodriguez, Tracey Snelling,Charlene Tan, and myself, Favianna Rodriguez.
The image above is a close up of the portrait of Prerna Lal which I did as a linoleum block. I was tremendously inspired when I read her blog, and I included these words on her piece. You can read her full story by clicking here.
I have written 40 chapters of an epic love saga. My first job was at Taco Bell when I was 15 and my second one was as a janitor that continued till I was 24. I studied political economy and post-colonialism in graduate school and maintain membership with the American Association of Geographers and the Union of Radical Political Economists. If Michel Foucault and Karl Marx could conceive a brown lovechild, it would be me. I was raised by a married woman, who is a single mother and the sole-provider in my life. My father is queer. These facts are far more important to any narrative about me than my undergraduate G.P.A. Love is the only thing that drives and inspires me to do grand things. Not everyone has the same linear trajectory of immigrant success packaged as the “American dream.” Most of our lives don’t follow those trajectories. Don’t count my diplomas. You’ll lose count. Listen to my heart-beats per second. It tells you all you would need to know.