In the Ruiz Gallery
VIDA EN LAS SOMBRAS:
Living in the Shadows 
An Installation/Exhibit by students at McLane High School

cMcLane students began their journey with Vida en las Sombras in Fall 2011 by telling their own immigration stories. Some reflected on personal experiences while others focused on stories of border crossings within their families. From this beginning, a project involving seven teachers, two teacher-consultants, several disciplines, and a multitude of students took shape.

When the final drafts of student narratives were complete, English teachers passed on selected texts to art teachers to be used as inspiration for a series of panels illustrating the stories. A biology class
became involved by wrapping bones in plastic to recreate skeletal remains in the desert. Theater and music became critical components as students created a dramatic opening performance.

The art work, both two and three-dimensional and often integrating text into the visuals, allows the viewer to follow the journey of an undocumented immigrant through the hostile Sonoran desert, to a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe – a subset of the main exhibit – and then follow a replica of the border fence into the main gallery where one can view multiple panels visually depicting the stories of McLane students, their families, their teachers, and  friends.


While the graffiti-covered fence standing tall in the main gallery of the museum symbolizes separation and division, this project served to unite hundreds of McLane students as they worked together even many weekends, to process and create a unique legacy to the undocumented who have crossed the Mexican-American border. While the slatted fence casts its shadows as a foreboding obstacle lying in the path of success, students and teachers did not allow the height, width, or depth of this project to stand in the way of its journey from the classroom to Arte Américas. The panels depict the flora and fauna of the desert, a place where life is a gift and survival is not guaranteed. The migrant artifacts – backpacks, water bottles, cell phones, a child's toy – all tell the stories of individuals with struggles, dreams, and families left behind. McLane has a 57% Latino population. This landscape reflects a part of many of our students' pasts. The artifacts are pieces of our students' present. The themes – the struggle, the dream, mi familia – are the essence of our students' journeys into the future.


In preparation for the opening at Arte Américas, students continued their exploration of border crossings by writing poetry reflecting five themes within the art work to create a dramatic performance integrating poetry, theater, and border songs. The poems--The Dream, Life Past/Life Future,
The Line, A Walk in the Desert, and Shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe-- mingle with dialogue recited by student actors posed beside their plastic counterparts at the fence. Border songs, selected by students, transport the viewer to the desert and river crossings while providing transitions between the various written texts as Border Patrol scan the fence with Mag Lites searching for illegals attempting to cross. This is Vida en las Sombras – our journey into the shadows. 



PROJECT STATEMENT:

by Marc Patterson

Lead teacher in the art project


 

This body of work began with a book, The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan, a Tucson, AZ journalist. The promotional copy for her book states, “She was a little girl with a big name, Josseline Jamileth Hernandez Quinteros. Just five feet tall and a hundred pounds, she had an adult-sized responsibility: the fourteen your old was to shepherd her ten-year-old brother all the way from Honduras to their mother in Los Angeles. But Josseline fell ill in a remote Arizona desert just north of the Mexico line, and her smuggler and the rest of her group abandoned her. She died in the wilderness in February 2008.”  
The journey to a new land of opportunity in spite of tremendous risks to young children greatly affected me. The story of Josseline reminded me of many students here at McLane High School: normal teenagers, attending high school, participating in extra-curricular school activities, wearing the latest teenage fashions, and dreaming similar dreams.   I wanted our student population here at McLane to tell their stories of undocumented friends and families. I read this story last summer, and decided to explore the issue of immigration through art during the 2011/2012 school year.

I asked some of our English Language Arts teachers to collect these stories from students, stories from their own experience and from friends and family members, which would then be given to art students as inspiration. Poetry, music, dramatic interpretations, and visual art combined to make this a cross-curricular project. During the Fall, 2011
semester, stories were written. In the Spring, 2012 semester, students created the art from the stories. There was something magical in the fact that a body of artwork sprang from McLane student voices.
During the year, students created art as they looked at the U.S. Mexican border fence as a powerful metaphor of separation and explored the many issues of immigration from many perspectives, heard guest speakers, shared articles, and watched videos on immigration. The entire art department got involved with this project, with over 700 students participating. The artwork is mixed media. McLane art teachers provided direction for students to create a three-dimensional desert landscape environment, migrant artifacts left in the desert, full-sized people interacting with a replica of the U.S. Mexican border fence, and student stories illustrated on large panels.


    
Contributing teachers: 
Art – Rommel Contreras, Paul Germain, Matt Marhenke
English – Donny García, Melissa Reimer
Theater - Kellerie Aldape
Biology – April García
Videographers – Manuel Bonilla, Aaron Fitzgerald








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In the Galería de la Comunidad
Google Mexican
An Installation by Luis Bravo
Now showing until August 19, 2012 

 

Artist Statement: 

The Google Mexican project is inspired by the export and import of culture, race and the unofficial economy across the U.S. and Mexico border.

  I used Google Images as a way to understand where I (and others) belong in this complex cross-border, cross-cultural reality, shared by our two nations. Immigrants are inaccurately defined by their nationalities instead of their identities. Evidence of which is found in a simple Google image search for the word ‘Mexicans’.
The results are determined by special algorithms and programs to establish the order in which the images are displayed. Factors like the established history of the web page and the location from which one searches also determine the results.  My work attempts to break through the multiple layers of alienation to understand more deeply why nationality is used as a primary category of self-identity and political orientation. I selected
My work attempts to break through the multiple layers of alienation to understand more deeply why nationality is used as a primary category of self-identity and political.  Particular images from Google searches  represent events in my own life that define who I am today.
Reconstructing these images has also allowed me to portray how society often exploits immigrants with no political representation.    -L. Bravo   


 



Naming our others means understanding them and accepting them in the multiplicity of their differences…. But more importantly, there is something radically democratic in admitting that many times we do not know how to name our others.”
                                                                                                -  Nestor Garcia Canclini







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In the Fresno Art Museum Partnership Gallery
Make 'Em All Mexican: 
An Installation Environment by Linda Vallejo
Showing until August 19, 2012 



Amidst the current roiling national debate about American identity, veteran California Latina artist Linda Vallejo creates a realm in which US popular culture is overlain with a Mexican-American sensibility. Gleefully raiding the world of classic commercial images of middle class WASP life, Vallejo gives common American icons a new sabor, or flavor.

 The result is the satirical series Make ‘Em All Mexican (or MEAM) featuring 30 mixed media works, including re-purposed/altered commercial figurines, and 2-dimensional mixed media pieces.

According to the artist, “like many Americans, I’ve become a person of the world, with a wide cultural perspective. At a moment of introspection, however, I decided to focus on popular cultural images and objects once beloved of white, middle-class America in the mid-20th century, and re-vision and transform them through my personal Mexican-American, Chicano lens.” 
 
In 2010, Vallejo began acquiring numerous popular 20th century collectables, as well as appropriating vintage commercial imagery from the internet, stocking her studio with these source materials in order to “make ‘em all Mexican.”





Now in 2012, Vallejo is well on her way to producing a compelling body of work, combining various media, juxtaposing incongruous forms to create images and objects not only peculiar to the artist’s Latino heritage, but also resonating across racial and social lines. Ironically, MEAM is timely in light of the unease about and among Latinos since the Recession, recent immigration debates, the election of President Barack Obama, the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and the persisting cultural and political questions about 21st century American identity. MEAM, in addition to being thought provoking, is also a very funny exhibition, perhaps the art world’s equivalent of the routines of stand up comedian George Lopez.


Make ‘Em All Mexican: A Series by Linda Vallejo is organized by the Central California Museum of Art and curated by Gordon Fuglie, the CCMA’s Director and Head of Curatorial Affairs. William Moreno, President of the Board of Directors, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, also contributed to the exhibition.




Linda Vallejo was born in Los Angeles in 1951.  Her mother was born in Concord, California, and her father, Adam Vallejo, was born in San Angelo, Texas, and graduated from UCLA in 1951. 

Her father entered the United States Air Force as a commissioned officer and the family moved to Germany.  Ms. Vallejo has a brother, Tomas and a sister, Roseann. On returning to the USA, the family lived in several states. Linda attended elementary school in East Los Angeles and Sacramento, middle and high school in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early 1960’s, and completed high school in Madrid, Spain, in 1969. 

The artist received her BA in Fine Arts from Whittler College in 1973, completed undergraduate studies in lithography from the University of Madrid, Spain, and received a Master of Fine Arts from Cal State University, Long Beach, in 1978. 

Vallejo lives in Topanga Canyon, California, with her husband of thirty-three years, Ron Dillaway. Her son Robert graduated from Georgetown Law School and is a practicing lawyer in Orange County, California, and her son Paul graduated from UC Santa Cruz and attends Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.


 

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