I am a visual artist and educator.
I create art predicated on realities and legends of my upbringing. My works are visual records of family, community, and border culture along the Rio Grande Valley, my home. These Borderlands have long been ravaged by poverty, human trafficking, and the ongoing Mexican Drug War. The Rio Grande cuts one land and people in two, like a wound, bleeding a legacy of pain, tears, and struggle that have beset the area for generations. History, national identity, race, class, and language all intersect along the border and upon the bodies of Tejana/os. My family has resided in this geographic territory for over four generations.
I have researched vernacular arts like pano arte, drawings on handkerchiefs believed to have emerged from Chicano prisoners in the 1940s, and the huipil, embroidered Mayan textiles worn by indigenous women in Southern and Central America. These art forms are reconfigured to tell contemporary stories of life along the Texas/Mexico border. Juxtaposing colorful watercolor-drawn images of flowers indigenous to Texas against stark, monochromatic media images, meticulously rendered in pen, I offer the beauty of home against grisly depictions of violence and death. Using these tools on domestic textiles such as handkerchiefs, pillowcases, and bed sheets, my work draws upon what Amalia Mesa-Bains coined, the domesticana, and examines psycho-political struggles of life along La Frontera.
After earning my MFA, my work took a shift towards examining issues involving education, human rights, class and race, which is informed greatly by my extensive work and service as an urban educator in San Francisco, Oakland, and throughout the East Bay. For example, my piece, Don't Shoot (2014), which is featured as the cover of the human rights education book, Bringing Human Rights Education to US Classrooms: Exemplary Models from Elementary Grades to University by Dr. Susan Roberta Katz and Dr. Andrea McEvoy Spero, is part of the ongoing School Series, a collection of visual vignettes that serve as a reflection of the school systems and societal structures that have been set up for urban youth of color, especially young black and brown males, to fail. Don't Shoot, was created as a response to the killings of unarmed black males during the Summer of 2014, and spurred the development of the School Series. My extensive research on the public education system, ranging from school pushout and elementary genocide, to the school-to-prison pipeline coupled with my work as an urban classroom teacher, has further motivated me in bringing to light these daily tragedies while encouraging dialogue around causes and solutions.
The nature of my work transcends multiple perspectives. It revolves around my identity, struggles, and lived experiences as a dark-skinned 5th generation Tejana growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, in one of the poorest counties in the United States, to my current station in life, as an Artist and Educator, navigating Motherhood in the burgeoning but ever-complicated San Francisco Bay Area. My work is a testament and tribute to my home, from the South Texas Borderlands to the Bay Area.
As a mother, I began focusing on work surrounding Maternidad, and the concept of motherhood, in addition to the growing crisis surrounding the US-Mexico border with the heartbreaking institutional separations of families. Images of children being ripped from their parents’ loving embrace, and watching them in detention facilities is nothing new. However, the growing exposure of these horrible events and escalating vitriol and racism permeating this country, especially around immigrants and people of color, brought a greater and more profound meaning to my work, as a Mother, as a Tejana, and as a child of the Borderlands. In a way, I have gone full-circle in my current stage of work, bringing my focus back to La Frontera while still maintaining my watchful eye and presence around issues surrounding our children and our most vulnerable people, from the classroom to our most marginalized communities.
My hope is that my work continues to create dialogue and sustain messages with socio-political connotations, connections, and critique. I would also like my art to provoke not just further inquiry around critical issues that affect our community, but action.
The struggle of the silent, the marginalized, and the underserved has been part and parcel, a continued motivation behind my calling and my craft.