Week 8: Mexican Museum

September 6th, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

Well being my last week of my fellowship, I only did artist interviews in Los Angeles. I became more independent as I finished my internship with the Mexican Museum but still continue with my research in Chicano/a art. Even though I would only stay less than a week, I had a busy schedule. Even though I used public transportation in San Francisco, I decided to use a Zip car to make sure I was punctual to every interview.  I do have to say that managing my interviews in Los Angeles brought the best of me since I had to strategize routes, reservations, and setting up technology equipment. While there, I was able to have lunch with Dali Cao ’09 & have Cornell bonding time! She gave me great input of her experience after Cornell College and her recent residence at Pasadena, California. From being on my own most of the time, it felt great to talk to another Cornellian about things.

I was able to meet with Chicano/a artists such as Judy Baca, David Botello, Wayne Healy-Alaniz, Joe Bravo, Judithe Hernandez, and Frank Romero. One particular artist that I found interesting with his use of work was Joe Bravo, who uses tortillas as another canvas! He is also a muralist that participated in painting the Great Wall with Judy Baca a few years ago. It is the world’s longest mural! I had the opportunity to visit the mural.  He mainly does portraits of people on the tortilla which can extend to a large size. He uses a particular application on the tortilla so it will not deteriorate as the years go by. I think his oldest has been ten years or so. He is not the only artist that does tortilla art. In a way, the artist brings a stronger link to the indigenous culture by having the tortilla that is a symbol of life. The painting on the tortilla serves as an apparition to the artwork. Apparitions have been able to appear on cars, trees, windows, tortillas, etc.  One work that is able to explain the concept of apparition and cultural heritage is his painting of Virgen of Guadalupe on a tortilla. Two powerful items that pertain in Chicano art.

From being inside the museum working on a particular exhibition to catching the bus to go meet an artist was a full-in-motion fellowship. Two separate activities with one objective in mind, to familiarize and gain practice in the field.

Week 7: Mexican Museum

August 28th, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

This week I said farewell to everyone at the museum. I was able to talk to Marlena Cannon, who also served as my mentor at the museum, about her previous experiences such as her education and amount of internships. Before she got her Master’s in Museum Studies, she did a certificate program in London. I was not aware that certificate programs were offered until now. If I do decide to continue my studies, the certificate program sounds beneficial for my preparation before going to graduate school. By gaining experience and doing the program, I’ll have more background in the field as I get my Master’s. It is amazing to know the amount of duties that Marlena is able to do in the museum. Since the museum does not have very many staff, they are assigned more tasks. This demonstrates the need for the new building as soon as possible. With the new building, more people can be hired and more collections can be exhibited to the public. I would like to thank my mentor, David de la Torre and the rest of the people at the Mexican Museum for giving me the chance to take part of the upcoming exhibition and experience the museum life!

AI spent one of my last nights in San Francisco with my friend Leticia Valencia ’15, who was an amazing tour guide at the city! We got the change to go to the Golden Gate Bridge when there was no fog! Most of the time, the bridge tends to get lost with all the fog and there is no possibility for a clear picture. This city was truly amazing of being able to explore as I went to the museum or to go interview an artist at his/her studio.

Week 6: Mexican Museum

August 21st, 2013
Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art
Finally we were able to finish preparing the information required for the upcoming exhibition at the Mexican Museum. The next step will be to prepare a display of related prints that will be featured in the future. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was assigned to looking into the files for past donors at the museum with the intention of developing a database rather than the pile of files stored in the museum. The museum staff will contact them once again if they are interested in giving a contribution to the new building. From looking at files, people have been donating funds since 1997! I clearly could see how much the museum has been working on making the project a reality.
Events such as gala dinners or silent auctions are some of the other ways that the museum has been able to successfully obtain funding.  I now have a better understanding of how the Mexican Museum needs to work in order to effectively serve the city and continue to exist. Of course, grant writing also plays a role in the process of finding support for the museum.
_DSC9209My research on Chicana/o art continued on Thursday and Friday, as I prepared interview questions for visits with two artists, Yolanda Lopez and Juan R. Fuentes. I did not imagine myself spending a whole Saturday with Yolanda Lopez, who was one of the original Chicana artists to become directly involved with the Chicano movement. In the mid 1970s, her art brought a new focus to Chicana art when she did her triptych entitled the Three Generation Series where her grandmother, mother, and she appear as Virgin of Guadalupe.  The series even played a significant role in one of the first multicultural texts by Lucy Lippard, Mixed Blessings.  Throughout time, Chicana or Latina women were not often shown in the mainstream art or film. If they were, they appeared in tourist posters or presented in some sort of romanticized way that had little to do with Chicana lives. However, the Virgin of Guadalupe plays a prominent role in the lives of many Latinos in the U.S. Furthermore, Yolanda challenged everyone by combining the sacred icon of Guadalupe with real-life Chicana women. This controversial work promoted the value of women in a male dominated culture. Lopez was so generous with me.  After the interview, she invited me for a great dinner at a Korean restaurant! I soon found out that she loves to go see anime movies and likes watching the Giants play.  I was so surprised when she took me to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time! The water was quite chilly, but was worth it. I would have never had guessed that I would share my first experience of seeing the Pacific Ocean while watching the sunset with the famous Yolanda Lopez. I will never forget this experience._DSC9433

On Sunday, I decided that I wanted to spend my day outdoors. I took a ferry to Sausalito.  While there, I took a bus to Muir Woods that was located about an hour away from the town. I was able to spend my day walking throughout the park and looking at all the beautiful Redwood trees. The fresh air helped decrease my stress and allowed me to reconnect with nature. The break was necessary.  Next weekend, I will be in Los Angeles and will continue with my artist interviews.

_DSC9481

Week 5: Mexican Museum

August 15th, 2013
500 Years of Resistance by Isaias Mata

500 Years of Resistance by Isaias Mata

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

As I continued to work on the exhibition this week, I focused on doing biographies of the artists in the upcoming exhibition. These artists were more directly related to my Chicano art research. But the museum is not the only place or venue for art.  Brenda Mejia ’15 and I took a mural tour in Mission District hosted by a member of the community-based mural arts organization called Precita Eyes. The organization provides different tours from the history of past murals to contemporary works in the area. Our tour guide and muralist, Susan Cervantes, works to bring awareness of important issues through education and collaboration with the community in creating murals. Cervantes was one of the founding members of the Precita Eyes Muralists Association and Center in 1977 and clearly was able to tell us about the murals in the Mission District. Many of them dealt with struggles for civil rights with more traditional mediums. Now, new mediums such as spray painting and digitalized images are more common. Overall, the tour experience was informative because the presentation specifically addressed Chicano history._DSC8990

Yesterday I went to do another artist’s interview with Viviana Paredes. She is the most distinctive art that I have come across while here in California. Paredes was directly involved with the Chicano movement, but she did not start making art until she completed her MFA later in life. One of her works, called Pocha Tongues, is part of a collection sponsored by the  Don Julio Tequila Company  and exhibited at the Mexican Museum right now. At first glance, I thought the work illustrated cow tongues because they looked like those I saw back home in the market! As I looked closer, I noticed that the transparent tongues had different herbs on each one. Suddenly I thought about the curanderismo, the physical and spiritual healing, that comes from medicinal plants and can be traced back to pre-Columbian times.

Pocha Tongues by Viviana Paredes. Courtesy of the Mexican Museum.

Pocha Tongues by Viviana Paredes. Courtesy of the Mexican Museum.

Herbs on the tongue not only bring healing, but they assist the very organ that we use to speak and taste or experience the world! As I interviewed Paredes, I discovered that her work is influenced by her grandmother, who was a healer and a very much spiritual person. In context, I came to understand that the tongue also symbolizes the artist’s loss of her native tongue and all that this symbolizes for her.

During the 1950′s, there was no bilingual education and her parents insisted on speaking only English at home because this was what it meant to live the American Dream. Even at home, Paredes was told to speak English with no accent. Her migrant parents, knowing how hard work could be in the United States, wanted their children to have a successful “American” life. Growing up with her parents, she developed an understanding that their heritage was “bad or not good enough,” yet being with her grandmother encouraged her to love who she was. Her feelings were conflicted. At a very young age, Paredes stopped speaking Spanish and tried to be “better.” Yet as much as she tried, she was not going to look like the people on the television. This was a critical time for Paredes and for many Mexican-Americans before the late 1960′s, who were taught that they were unacceptable and had to leave their cultural background behind.

Artist Viviana Paredes

Artist Viviana Paredes

Paredes later embraced her identity as part of the Chicano movement and the silence was broken. Art became a way of speaking for Paredes, another language. It is a visual language that allows her to share her experiences, what she sees, and how she sees it. She is now reading books about herbs and trying to learn more about their medicinal and spiritual roles. Her particular interest is in maguey that has served as an iconic symbol throughout Mexican history. It not only assists in the production of tequila, but it also plays a medicinal role. For more information about her art: www.paredesarte.com

Week 4: Mexican Museum

August 7th, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

The fourth week, surprisingly, was shorter than the previous weeks in San Francisco. Along with other interns, I worked on the three timelines for three days. Since the museum holds Mexican and Latino art collections, each timeline had to be in English and Spanish. I continued to work on Jose Guadalupe Posada’s timeline and began searching for images to put along with the dates. Not only did I want to add some of his well known artworks, but also images that would pertain more to his life such as photographs of his shop, family, himself, etc. Posada may not have lived through the entire Mexican Revolution, but he influenced a great generation of Mexican artists such as the Big Three (Los Tres Grandes)who changed the view of Mexican art and brought about a cultural revolution. The Big Three, namely Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera, executed their art very well, and made powerful statements with their murals. In the early to mid 20th century, Posada, Orozco, Siqueiros, Rivera, and other Mexican artists challenged the power of the elite and government and brought awareness to the conditions of indigenous people.

I am also continuing to email artists in San Francisco to interview them. I am hoping to get in contact with particular women that were part of a group named Las Mujeres Muralistas (The Muralist Women), who painted murals in the 1970s. Even today, most mural painting is done by men. I think that when the Mujeres Muralistas group formed, it was supposed to bring change in the focus and power of mural art, like a female mural “renaissance”.

Week 3: Mexican Museum

July 30th, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

For the last couple of days, the Mexican Museum has been an exciting place to be because they’re going through a process of approval for a new museum site. The site will be located in an area with a large Latino community where the exhibitions can have a new audience with an invested interest in the subject matter. The museum received initial approval for the location this week and continues to raise funds for their new building.

Exactly placed as it was when they were located in his home. Courtesy of Mexican Museum.

Exactly placed as it was when they were located in his home. Courtesy of Mexican Museum.

Last week, I worked on the Rex May exhibition that I mentioned in the last blog entry, but this week I was given the opportunity to do more research in Chicano art in general. It was sure overwhelming, as I researched a couple of artists in the bay area and kept track of their biography, art, and the organizations in which they participated. It was fascinating learn more about the groups they established! From what I learned, most of them are located within the community and serve the community. One example, the Galeria de la Raza, is a non-profit community-based arts organization whose mission is to bring public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art in the visual, media, literacy, and performing art fields. The Galeria has exhibited artists since 1970 and was founded by Chicano artists and community activists.

I visited with Rio Yañez a few days ago.  He is a Chicano artist who has been surrounded by artists since he was a little baby! He is the son of two well-known artists: Rene Yañez and Yolanda Lopez. He even gave me a small tour of the area filled with a great amount of murals!! Public art in the form of murals or prints appear throughout the city. His current exhibition is called Pocho Adventure Club.  His work combines Chicano iconography with his personal “mythologies” derived from comic books. One of his images shows a traditional figure like Frida Kahlo wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt! His work made me more aware of how much contemporary Chicano art has changed in the last fifteen years or so.

Rio Yañez next to "Ghetto Frida"

Rio Yañez next to “Ghetto Frida”

I took a bus to Sacramento to visit Malaquias Montoya at the end of the third week. I feel he is one of the figures that made Chicano art possible. Before the interview, he showed me around his organization Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer that also serves the community. Malaquias and his son, Maceo Montoya teach printmaking for a high school and some college students. As they continue to do their own art, their mission is also to teach the new generation about printmaking and Chicano art. In his home, the walls were covered with his art and his son’s art! I felt welcome as he told me stories from the past surrounded by this truly beautiful art. Malaquias Montoya may have a great reputation as an artist, but he never lost his sense of humanity. He is surprisingly humble. My comfort was only increased as he spoke in English and Spanish! His never-ending passion for the community showed in his tone of voice. Malaquias’s art is meant to serve as a voice for the voiceless by addressing many issues such as injustice, empowerment, and international causes. After our interview, he told me that he was glad that I was doing this research about Chicano art, because he feels it needs to be documented in the field of art history. I hope my interviews will contribute to the field and bring recognition of the contributions of these artists to the Midwest.

Malaquias Montoya

Malaquias Montoya

One of many prints he showed me in his studio!

One of many prints he showed me in his studio!

 

Week 2: Mexican Museum

July 23rd, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

From week one into week two, I spent my days emailing Chicano artists in the Bay area or close to San Francisco to hold an interview with them.  Even though there is a great amount of Chicano artists located at San Francisco, I wanted to make sure I would meet the primary artists that took part during the Chicano Civil Right Movement. I feel they are the ones who helped inspire contemporary Chicano artists. Within couple of days, I received email responses!

The last day of week one I held a Skype interview with Isis Rodriguez, who is from San Francisco but currently in Guanajuato, Mexico doing a comic book project. One of my fundamental questions that I have and will ask the artist is if they identify themselves as Chicano/a. A simple answer is a learning experience, because Isis identifies herself as Latina rather than Chicana. In her opinion the term Chicano/a may have couple variations to its meaning, but holds a political standpoint. As we talked, I asked her about the Nepantla in her current work, Masked Women Series. Nepantla is an Nahuatl word connoting “in between” or “torn between two ways”. This word came about during the colonial occupation in the Americas describing the mix of the two races. In addition, Isis mentions the word nepantla was invented by the Aztecs to describe their conflict in being forced to become “modernized”, which explains her series of women in between two worlds to capture the differences between the cartoon and her realistic cohort. This series can also be put in context how Chicana women are in a personal struggle with the modern environment dominated by popular media and how that challenges their presence in this society.

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take photographs of the museum’s collections because of security reasons. I learn that it is a process to what it is accessible to the public view. I was able to spend two days in the collections area assisting one of the museum’s staff with opening a package that held perfectly wrapped artworks. Before that, we had an informational session about collection handling. Since many of us are working on the printmaking exhibition, we were taught the steps of holding a print and using the proper tools to carry the print. Holding a print from today may not seem to make a difference, but it can also dictate the condition of the print as the years go by.

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

It took two days to take all the pieces out carefully and to open them as it was 1,000 years old. She told me that when we open packages, we must treat the artwork as if it is thousand years old because we really don’t know how fragile it may be. The box contained small compartments that held about 2-4 pieces. Specialized paper is used to wrap an artwork because of the effect it may have on the artwork. I was able to do the first steps of cataloging by making sure every single designated small figure came in the package. I kept a list near to note them down as I opened them. In the end, it was a band of musicians that were ready to be photographed for documentation.

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

Courtesy of Mexican Museum

The small figures that I was handling came from a collector, Rex May, who had a great collection from Latin America displayed in his house. Right now in the Mexican Museum, there is an exhibition of his collection. He donated a portion of his collection years ago, but it is still a great abundance of artworks! The interesting part of the exhibition is that it is arranged exactly how it looked in his house. I was told that it was his only request once his collection was given to the museum.  Next week, I will provide images of Rex May exhibition!

Week 1: Mexican Museum

July 16th, 2013

Maricruz Gutierrez ’14 Black Fellow in Chicano Art

This small-town girl has finally arrived in one of the country’s well known cities: San Francisco. It took me a day or two to come back to reality that this was happening! I am lucky that my Cornellian friend, Brenda Mejia ’15 gave me a informative tour! I completely fell in love with the diversity as I walked the streets during the day. The next day I spent my day experimenting with the public transportation system, just so I can get the “feel” and know what bus route to take to the museum. Yup it was an adventure getting into the whole “rush” feeling as people got in and then got out in a hurry! I am proud of myself for not getting lost and doing it by myself and keep in mind that I am no city girl. I found it very interesting that the museum was located at Fort Mason Center, which is a non-profit partner of the National Park Service, “connects and engages people with arts and culture on a historic waterfront campus, inspiring and fostering creativity by providing a vibrant gathering place and a home for thought-provoking programs, events, and organizations.”  There are restaurants, museums, bookstore, theaters, and more located at the Fort Mason Center! Even the fort has a historical component since it was a fortified military base established by the Spanish in 1776 then claimed by the U.S. Army when California entered in 1850. Woah! Here is the website to learn for about the site: http://fortmason.org/

View of Fort Mason Center AND the Golden Gate Bridge is not that far!

View of Fort Mason Center AND the Golden Gate Bridge is not that far!

Great to see this  view every time I head to the Mexican Museum.

Great to see this view every time I head to the Mexican Museum.

Normally I would expect to find the museum in one building, but I found it part of a building. The day next that I reported for my first day of my internship, I was given a tour of the museum. The Mexican Museum holds about 14,000 objects representing hundred of years of Mexican art and culture within the Americas. The permanent collection has five particular collecting areas, which are Pre-Columbian art, Colonial art, Popular “Folk” art, Modern and Contemporary Mexican art, Chicano/a, and Latino/a art. I saw variety of mediums which included textiles, ceramics, paintings, prints, etc. I can see how the Mexican Museum is in the planning for their new museum facilities and preparing the collection for relocation. The large size of the collections means the Mexican Museum is in need of bigger space since there is so much for so little space! One of the staff told me that some of the collection has not had the chance to be exhibited to the public.

Where the critical thinking takes place.

Where the critical thinking takes place.

First Chicano/Latino mural! Many more to see for my Chicano/a research.

First Chicano/Latino mural I saw! Many more to see for my Chicano/a research.

The first week, I was given the task to research on a particular Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada. In the Mexican Museum I will be working on the upcoming Latino Printmaking exhibition opening early September entitled: Diálogos Gráficos/Graphic Dialogues: Posada to the Present. Thinking back, I made a wise decision taking Professor Hobbler’s class Muralists in Mexico 1920-1950 where we not only discussed Mexican murals but also printmaking, paintings, and photography. I know the class prepared me well to know the background of Mexican printmaking that played a profound role to society. I will continue with researching other artists related to printmaking and how they influence contemporary Latino/a artist’s works. The majority of the prints will contain socio-political content. In the next few weeks I will provide insight (images) to the museum’s collection. Next week I will talk further more about an interview I conducted with Latina artist Isis Rodriguez.

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