BLOG: Abel Salas “LA Phantom Sightings” re: Mujeres de Maiz “Somos Medicina” (March 2008)


LA Phantom Sightings

The last weekend of the monthlong Somos Medicina celebration organized by Mujeres de Maiz coincided with the opening of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement.” I am proud to say I made it to the video screenings at Self-Help, a soul stirring presentation of conscious hip-hop, rap, spoken word, jaraneras and the closing ceremonia at Proyecto Jardín as part of the former. Can’t say enough about how true and powerful and uplifting the art exhibit and the films and the energy were. If I’m mum for a moment about the hotly anticipated LACMA show, it’s because I agree with Oscar Magallanes and feel like the sisters got it going on with the kind of work that people need to know about. I can rattle off names, hurl shout outs to film and visual and word comadresDalila Paola Mendez, Felicia Montes, Claudia Mercado, Marisol Torres, Maritza Alvarez, and Cihuatl Ce, all chingonas who don’t need to be validated at the institution or by dry academics who barely ever even make their way to the Eastside unless it’s to check out a collection of Chicano art owned by luminary collectors such as Gilbert Cardenas. It means more to me that Gloria Alvarez and Yreina Cervantes are invited and included by their legitimate heirs. It’s the conversation that flies in the face of this tacit generational erasure, as if to say that Chicano art and movimiento politics are evolving into a more hybrid mainstream, one that brings a few emerging art stars to an invitation-only party at LACMA. Of course there are hold-outs, my own contemporaries who do stand up with serious critiques… Sandra de la Loza, la Space Chola and Arturo Romo are head on here. Ms. de la Loza was in both shows. And she is an El Sereno native. Call her a bridge and artist that can help redeem the inexcusable elitism of an exhibit that only tries to patronize and annoint… the kind of exercise that only further encourages some cool, hip youngsters. They are the kids who can tell you about ASCO and Rage Against the Machine. They’ll know all the groovy nightspots around town but are losing the legacies of Emma Tenayuca or Reyes Tijerina or Raul Salinas in the process. Meanwhile, lofts and development get approved and poor people have to leave. Excuse me if I’m a little jaded and cynical, but I’d still much rather talk and write about what’s happening in the ‘hood. How come we haven’t allowed the conversation to include the influence and beauty of Centro America on our politics and struggle? Why has Chicanismo not been there to prevent the exportation of a deeply embedded gang culture, furthering the criminalization of our youth in a global context and an interminable line of kids going to jail for making “terrorists threats” or just hanging out together on the street in the same neighborhoods being gentrified to may way for the next wave of starving artists? Why have we not spoken about the next generation of resistance to hegemony and colonialism coming from the artists that have as many roots in Mexico City and Guatemala as they do in the City of Angels? 

Enough tirade. Go to First Street Studios and check out the new show curated by Lilia Ramirez and Juan Ochoa. Go there before you make the trek out west to LACMA. These are companion and complimentary exhibitions, in my own personal and highly opinionated point of view. I do want to see the “Phantom” show, and support the artists who have contributed work but I also want to be like Adelina Anthony, a Tex-Mex-patriot, playwright and luchadora. I want to cross my arms, click my teeth and palette and say for all time that I’m Xican@ with an “X” and an “at” sign at the end.

Y mis mas sinceros perdones/disculpas al anónimo quien dijo que debo aprender no mirar, porque me podrían picar los ojos. I apologize profusely and confess that I have no idea where I’m looking at most times. I’ve been so severely inhabiting my own head and heart for two years now and especially since a return from the tomato fields in Florida, that I’m not exactly sure how I could be faulted for looking too long or untoward at anyone. If there was a mistaken perception that I was staring or engaging in some form of lurking disrespect, I would like to know and would be happy to have my eyes poked out by an honest, truthful person willing to tell me neta, to my face that they were feeling something I did was unkind or came from some machistaobjectification. This is exactly what I’m rebelling against. And it’s what we all need some good healing from.