Neon Indian Leads a Party at–6126 Hollywood Blvd?!

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After a five year break, Neon Indian played a sold out show at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles this past Wednesday night. Alan Palomo, who heads the project alongside his brother Jorge Palomo and other fellow bandmates, released their third album on October of 2015 titled VEGA INTL. Night School. The album met favorable reviews from both critics and fans alike, and excitement sparked on the possibility of a tour, especially after such a long period of inactivity. As many hoped, tour dates were announced back during the month of December 2015.

 

The night of, several fans lined up outside the theater by 6 p.m., sat on the ground, ate snacks, and talked with fellow fans about their expectations for the show. Doors were scheduled to open until 8 p.m., so there was ample time to hear hushed and loud declarations of how for some this would be their first time seeing the act live or how they had waited a long time for such an opportunity to arise.

 

The lineup included two opening acts: Charles and Palmbomen II. Charles, who identify as Dream Pop and Italo Disco, consists of Charlotte Harlott and Uncle Charles. They began playing at 9 p.m. and had a set that lasted about 25 minutes. Their set up was intriguing, to say the least. With a screen tripod that displayed repetitive images and videos of people dressed in 70s disco fashion, a couch, and a living room table, Uncle Charles sat lounging on the sofa as he simultaneously played bass, ate Doritos chips, and drank beer, while Harlott stood and attempted to brighten up their image with upbeat dancing. They received a mixed reaction: some fans liked their no pretensions and no trying approach, while others looked on in a state of confusion.

 

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At 9:45 p.m., Palmbomen II took the stage only armed with his synth board. A one man show led by Kai Hugo, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, he stood center stage framed by long and bright strobe lights on either side and gave the audience some pumping beats that had people bobbing their heads along. Hugo’s songs followed one another seamlessly and played at the same rhythm of the lights that flanked him by his sides. The lack of vocals, though, made the set seem much longer than it was and some fans felt impatient for 11 p.m. to come, with Neon Indian in tow.

 

When time finally came for Neon Indian, the curtains lifted up from the stage to reveal a set up that resembled the album cover of VEGA INTL. Night School. The blue neon sign announcing “Night School” in cursive letters was nestled in the background to the right of the stage and the VEGA logo to the left. Palomo and his fellow bandmates walked onto the stage and assumed their positions as fans cheered incessantly.

 

They opened with a track from their new album, titled, “Dear Skorpio Magazine,” which produced an urgency to dance upon the entire audience. Palomo swiftly sidestepped, shimmied, and thrusted all throughout as he multitasked between playing electronic drums, turning knobs on his synthesizer, and singing. He did all this despite being sick, which he announced shortly after their first song. Every once in awhile, he could be seen drinking from different containers off to the side, which appeared to hold water, coffee, and medicine to soothe his throat.

 

 

Neon Indian kept the great energy going by playing a lot of material from their new album, as well as some old fan-favorites. Highlights included “Annie,” “Terminally Chill,” “61 Cygni Ave,” “Slumlord,” and “Deadbeat Summer.” “Deadbeat Summer” marked the ending of their set, which lasted about an hour, and though Palomo pretended that they would not come out again to perform an encore, about five minutes later they were up on stage playing “Polish Girl,” their most popular song to date and ultimate hit amongst fans. They ended on a positive note by closing with “News From the Sun,” as a gentle reminder that after the darkness of the night, everyone always looks forward to the light of the sun.

 

As first impressions go, this concert did not reveal what an amazing night it was going to be. In spite of a few bumps, Neon Indian successfully took fans through a tour of their night school and rewarded them with dancing hearts.

 

Neon Indian’s tour will continue on in the U.S. until Saturday, May 14th. If you have the chance to see them play at any of their stops, don’t hesitate to do it!

Drunk Girl, A Play Demonstrating the Need to Talk About America’s Rape Culture

As I entered CASA 0101’s main stage, I was amazed by how bright and colorful the set was. On the floor there was a drawing of a woman’s uterus and eggs and on the walls on each side of the stage was written the word “Power.” Two big screens were placed on top of the stage and they showed images and video footage of half naked women that were in ads for beer, clothing, and various other products. There were also ads that showed statistics of how many women are sexually assaulted every year here in America. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by these images, so why did I still feel uncomfortable?

The playwrights, Josefina Lopez, Rocio Diaz, and Libette Garcia, did not intend their audience to feel comfortable while watching the play Drunk Girl. Like many other plays CASA 0101 has shown on its main stage, Drunk Girl challenges the audience to think about difficult issues in order to inspire them to talk about and change them. Through the use of dark humor, Drunk Girl encourages both men and women to reevaluate the meaning of consent and to stand and speak against the rape culture that plagues America.

“Red Flag Game Show,”the first scene in Drunk Girl, immediately starts to challenge the audience by making them consider if they would know what the actions of a gentleman are. During this scene, women of different ages try to guess whether a man is a rapist, a serial killer, a creeper, a stalker, or a gentleman. Various men introduce themselves, and even Christian Grey makes an appearance. This made me wonder if I am be able to tell the difference and I became troubled when I realized that my answer was no.

As the play continued, the meaning and importance of consent was reiterated. Playwright and actress Libette Garcia said she hoped that people were “reminded that sexual experiences need to be consensual. Often, women feel obligated to do things they don’t want to do. In many parts of the play, women are reminded that they can say no and men are reminded to protect women if they find that women are in danger of rape or sexual assault.”

One such scene, “Unlucky Man,” shows the case of a man who was sent to prison for raping a woman. This man emphasized that she kept showing him she wanted him with her body, so he took her to his apartment and had sex with her. He never says that the woman explicitly said yes to having sex with him, and this made all the difference. He explains he was raped in jail even though he kept screaming no. As he weeps, he explains that getting raped is a person’s own kind of prison. This prison is what thousands of men and women in America have to live through after getting raped.

While Drunk Girl has some stories created by the creative minds of the playwrights, many of the cases shown were taken from the playwrights’ own experiences and conversations.Josefina Lopez says that she “was inspired by all the women who were raped by Bill Cosby coming forward and society finally believing women.” Lopez teaches writing classes and says that “a lot of students have shared being sexually violated or experiencing traumas due to physical abuse so I wanted to write stories about courage, rage and all the things society does not want to talk about.”

Lopez succeeded in her task of encouraging people to talk about these issues because these stories forced the audience to think about how rape culture surrounded them and to speak against it. In one powerful moment, when a character asked members of the audience to stand up if they had been raped, a woman did indeed stand up. This showed the other audience members how common this is and also showed how safe this woman felt to share her experience to a room full of strangers. A work of art can be influential when it addresses such sensitive material as rape. People can show statistics but it is different when you show this act occurring and when you put a face to that statistic. This presentation can be more powerful than facts.

“Essentially, we all want our “fairytale”—whatever that may mean to us. Whether you are someone who wants one lover for the rest of your life, or you are an ethical Chingona having some promiscuous fun, the intimate experiences with people are precious to us. We want to be safe, we want to have fun, we want to be cared for, and we want to share reciprocal feelings with someone,” says actress Maia Villa.

In the scene, “Lolita Corazon,” Villa plays Lolita, a Chingona who is proud of being what men call a “tease.” Lolita demonstrates that women can and should take control of their sexuality and should not be shamed for it. She, like other characters in the play, was raped and says that maybe one day she will feel comfortable to have sex, but for now, she is owning and taking care of herself. Lolita demonstrates that women should not be shamed for acting sexy because dressing and acting sexy does not mean women want to have sex.

As Drunk Girl draws to a close, all of the actors and actresses come out, some playing guitars or pounding on drums and shout, “no means no” and continuously say it is only okay to have sex with someone if he or she says yes. The actors take their final bow and exit the stage. After seeing the play, the word “Power” that is written on both sides of the stage now stands out to me even more. In the span of two hours Drunk Girl showed me that we do have the power to change rape culture. We need to speak up against it. People need to understand that when someone says no, it means no. There is no double meaning. Women should be able to feel safe everywhere they go. People need to understand that nothing gives them the right to have sex with someone if he or she says no because that is not sex, it is rape. Drunk Girl makes it clear that nobody should feel comfortable with the sexualization of women and rape culture.

Celebration: Dissecting Angelica Becerra’s Art, Part 2

This is the second installment of our 2-part interview with UCLA artist, graduate student, and total badass Angelica Becerra. If you missed the first part, no worries! You can catch up with our amazing talk with Becerra here.

 

Giovannie: One thing I wanted to ask about: I find it interesting that you’re on Tumblr because there’s a lot of… I work in a museum, right? I’m always around ‘Fine Art’ or ‘High Art’ with a capital A. I feel places like Tumblr are full of art, we can call it ‘popular art’ or whatever term really. I feel a lot of it is made via technology: computers, Photoshop and all that. One of the things that makes your art stand out is that they’re portraits and they’re watercolors. They remind me of Old Master Portraiture because they’re kind of looking at yours but it’s not following the traditional styles. You mentioned before that your tía taught you painting, but I was hoping you can talk more on why the use of watercolors and why does it come out the way it does

 

Angelica: Oh yeah! So every artist will tell you this. We go through phases with our mediums because we’re finding the mediums that work best for us. For me, I had a bit of a backwards journey: most artists want to get to the oil paints because that’s seen as the highest quality ingredient, for professional high art, too. It’s the most expensive (which is why I don’t use it).  That really epitomizes what it means to be a serious Artist. Painting with your oils and your palette you look like Bob Ross and shit. Your evolution is like from finger paints to Bob Ross and so… I mean I learned through Bob Ross and Channel 28 (laughs).

My journey was more like, my tía had oil paints. She somehow came up with the money to buy some, so I began learning with really high quality tools when I was little. I started painting when I was maybe 4 ½. I was painting still life fruit when I was five, which I don’t know how that happened. She was staying with us for two months and those two months were when she was painting this piece the size of a door. And she was working on it and it was in our living room and I wanted to help her so she basically set up a little canvas next to her and I would paint next to her for days and days and days. So, I started with oil. I liked it, though it’s the most difficult to work with, I would say.

I left Mexico when I was 10 and I got to the US and art didn’t become a part of my daily life anymore. I didn’t have my tías with me. My mom was working and we still didn’t speak the language and we were getting used to being discriminated against here as opposed to over there. So I stopped making art until I got to high school, and there there was no oil paints. I went to a public high school. I went to LAUSD, so we had acrylic, those big tubs that everyone gets a little spurt and, you know, you just pass it around and we all get it a bit.

 

 

Giovannie: Yeah and it fucking stains your shirt forever because acrylic don’t come off.

 

Angelica: Totally! And we only had prime colors too, we didn’t have anything fancy. We just had yellow, red, and blue and black and white. So my high school teacher was very gracious and provided some colors and some mixing ingredients. But we were working with some lo-fi, like, this is what you get, you know. So I made most of my portfolio in acrylic because I had no choice, charcoal, too. That’s when I used the most mediums.

But then I got into watercolor because it had the things I like. People think it’s childish to use watercolor, they think of those little kid palettes you buy… like Crayola’s (laughs) But then there’s also this aspect to watercolors where it can be really expensive and high quality. I liked the qualities of it all, that it’s transparent and that you can mix it, that it’s never done. I liked that it can always be messed with, just add some water and then you go back to it. But then, watercolor, if you fuck up, you’re done. Watercolor can be really unforgiving. I liked that it can be really temperamental. It’s very similar to me. I’m very volatile. I’m always flowing, I’m a water sign. And my moon is fire so I don’t have any Earth in me at all, never grounded, always moving. So, that was cool. And also, watercolor you can take with you. And it’s cheap. Cool to carry. That’s how I chose it, probably not going to use anything else in my life.

 

Giovannie: And so do you like the way your pieces come out?

 

Angelica: Yeah!


Giovannie: There’s kind of a less realist aesthetic to the faces and bodies in your portraits. It doesn’t look like a carbon copy.

 

Angelica: Yeah. I’m not a perfect drawer. There are some mistakes in it. The aesthetic is what I like. I like that it looks handmade. Because it is. It’s an aspect to my own sensitivity, I like things that are handmade, you can see the love in it. The people that I am painting deserve that. I have a deep respect for the people that I paint.

I’m not really sure, now that my artwork is being seen more, I’m getting a lot of questions about commissions. And I’m not really sure how I feel about that because it’s not so much that I don’t wanna do stuff for people, it’s more that I choose people who I paint and they mean a lot ot me. If I’m painting these people and it’s not for me, then I lose the integrity of my work. You feel me?

 

Giovannie: Yeah.

 

Angelica: But yeah. I like how they look, the handmade aesthetic of it. Again, I come from a  family that made things with their hands and there’s this rusticness to it, it’s rough around the edges and that’s just how it comes. The text is obviously more clean cut and gives it more of an illustration aesthetic, but yeah.

 

Ms. Nina in progress, this gloomy weather is perfect for painting her.

A photo posted by Angélica Becerra (@angelicaisaib) on

 

Giovannie: It’s interesting to note how you don’t want to commission something for one private eye…

 

Angelica: That’s very ‘museum’-ish.

 

Giovannie: I was thinking about other forms of Latinx art tailors to the idea of producing it to for the masses. You got murals, you got the prints… I was wondering if you see any connections between the Latinx art all around us, or if they are in any conversations with Latinx art at all…

 

Angelica: Hmmm, yeah, I do. I’m a grad student in the daytime. I do my research on more contemporary Chicanx art. I talk about artists like me who got involved in social movements

and lended their art to social movements, and I do see my art as a continuation of that. Chicanx art has always been so involved in civil rights movements and the images that were produced to the movements are very iconic. So my project, I see it as a healing project.

I’ve been there, I’ve been an organizer and I‘ve needed something to heal me. And much of the symbols you see in social movements are so strong and so aggressive, I wanted to create something that makes you go… *sigh* after a long day of being in meetings and not eating and you haven’t taken a shower and you have two conference calls the next day, I wanted to make work that provides breathing space. I think that’s important.

Latinx art has many branches: you got the muralism, which is cool and I respect but it ain’t my thing, you got the kind of like highly commodified, like, ‘let me make these 2000 prints of Frida and sell it’ which is kinda problematic but it’s out there, there’s also that really masculinist Chicano imagery.. mine is a lot more soft and vulnerable. i know a lot of artists around me whose art is very personal. I went to school with Julio Salgado…

 

Giovannie: That’s such a trip! I was just going to mention your stuff most definitely reminds me of Julio’s.

 

Angelica:Yeah. We were in Cal State Long Beach. He was a journalism major, a lot more ahead than me, growing up with him and watching him to portraits in the student union for $5 or for free, I was always around this amazing artist. His work is also very personal, too. Aside from his work about ICE and immigration he also does a lot of stuff about his friends and his family, about these beautiful people like MIA and Gloria Trevi who have inspired him. Popular culture art. When I see that work it’s really healing, like ‘yeah! I really would wish the cast in Friends were brown, that would make so much sense!’ (laughs) The work can be political without being politically political. A lot of times we forget to take care of ourselves. I don’t expect my art to be the next pamphlet or the next slogan or poster for the Xicano movement or the labor movement, I want it to touch a deeper part of you. I need to heal and I’m sensitive, I hope this work does that for other people.

 

Giovannie: I just finished reading Jazz by Toni Morrisson…

 

Angelica: There you go…

 

Giovannie: She was talking about like, how jazz, originally, was really made for the players, and how they understand its progressions, and if you stand outside it, it’s a bunch of noise. ‘That’s the way I want to see my art: a private thing for public consumption.’ It’s never about anyone getting it, but it’s out there and it’s for us.

 

Angelica: You’re never gonna make anyone happy. Let alone yourself. I have a whole wall dedicated to my art and that I dedicate to my friends’ art. All these people that I love. And somebody asked me ‘Oh, you must think so highly of yourself if you have your own stuff up on your walls’ (laughs).

 

 

Giovannie: Goddamn. Wow.

 

Angelica: They were kidding, of course. (laughs) Otherwise, they’d get kicked out. But yeah, I make work that I would buy myself. You shouldn’t make work you don’t want to have. It’s a daily reminder, these quotes.

The best selling piece actually is Maya Angelou. And that one’s not about being political, necessarily. It’s about being a phenomenal woman, and that’s really resonated. That one is also always bought as a gift.

I want that piece on my wall, who wouldn’t? I make work for me. And through that process I’ve found that the people that want my art are people very similar to me: these weird Chicanxs who didn’t get into hip-hop until late in their lives and barely getting into it…

 

Giovannie: Me…

 

Angelica: Yeah! Or like, Radiohead obsessed kids like me from high school, Morrissey in high school… I was that Chicana who always wore black all the time. I’ve always been that person, and I’m just finding kindred spirits.

 

Giovannie: You see your art going places, which is great. Where do you want to see your art continue towards?

 

Angelica: I don’t know. I’m a middle child so I’m not used to the attention, I’m just going to keep on working. I don’t really have a path, it’s always been about whatever I’m feeling. Like I mentioned, I’m for sure going to finish up the love note series with Bell Hooks and James Baldwin. And after that, whatever I’m feeling.

There’s this painting that is in the back burner that I will make, so I don’t know if y’all know this but I identify as pansexual. And, you know, the jokes will come, you know, pan. So when I first told my mom I am pansexual, because I identified as bisexual before and I talked to my mom about it and she was OK with it, at the time Miley Cyrus hadn’t come out with so she hasn’t saved us all yet. So when I told my mom her first reaction was, ‘Te gusta el pan!?’ (laughs) It was the funniest shit ever because I was a fat kid growing up and my nickname was ‘Gorda’. I was always the kid who was fed a lot. So yeah, I want to make a piece next about pansexuals. I already have it in my mind. It just needs to get done. It’s a tray of pan dulce that says ‘Pansexual Pride’ because I’m also proud of pan dulce and proud of liking it. But pan dulce can also be a metaphor for pansexuality, that you like multiple genders and are not afraid by other binaries. I can like a concha, which can also be vagina. I can also like, I don’t know, elote.

 

Giovannie: These intersectionalities get so complex, huh?

 

Angelica: Yeah. And only a Latinx queer person will understand that. Because other Latinx pansexual queers probably have had that conversation that ‘Oh, it’s pan, not “pan.”’ So I knew I needed to make a piece about that because my mom had such a funny reaction to it. I’m working on stuff like that, pieces in my brain I need to get out.

There’s another piece I’m thinking of doing about this painter called Maria Izquierdo, she is from my hometown of San Juan de los Lagos. She was a Frida contemporary, the only woman in the art school in Mexico in the ‘30s. And she was killing it. She was so cool. She was actually supposed to paint the National Palace, the murals that Diego Rivera did, but Diego Rivera shut her down. He was very influential at the time and she wasn’t very big. He didn’t want a woman painting his mural, he didn’t think a woman had the skillset or the capacity to do that. I have other things, there’s always going to be ideas in my brain. I’ve been painting for such a long time. I don’t really have a shortage of them, I just have to make them. Grad school gets in the way a lot, but it’ll get done.

 

Giovanie: What do you think the people in the portraits would say if they could see your work, as well as see how much it has touched people?

 

Angelica: It’s happened! Someone delivered the Angela Davis piece to her and she really liked it, so I was fangirling about that for days.

Yuri Kochiyama’s grand daughter works in San Francisco today, saw the piece, and ordered one. And I didn’t know it was her and saw the order and thought ‘HA HA’ but my friend —– works with her, and —- bought a piece and she saw it. She contacted me and told me, ‘My grandmother would have loved this if she were alive’ and said, ‘Thank you so much for doing this’. This makes me want to cry. Getting emails like that, obviously not from Selena or many of the other people I’ve painted, nevertheless I think they would like it. I hope they do. It’s done with the upmost respect- I do it because I just have to show love.

 

These beautiful mujeres just arrived at my doorstep. Time to get them ready for their new homes! #artmom #qwoc #artivism

A photo posted by Angélica Becerra (@angelicaisaib) on

Celebration: Dissecting Angelica Becerra’s Art, Part 1

If you are a Latinx at UCLA, you might have already been in contact with Becerra’s work before her gallery exhibition in Kerckhoff opened. Becerra’s work has not only been used for Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA flyers: she was also an active board member of SJP and pushed for UC Regents to divest from corporations that profit from the Israel-Palestine conflict. Becerra is also a UCLA graduate study under the Chicana/o Studies Department, and her work has flooded many a Tumblr and Instagram feeds from her Palabra and Revolutionary Love Note Series. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if a friend of yours has a Becerra piece pinned onto their wall. And why wouldn’t they? And why wouldn’t you? Becerra’s art speaks to a particular moment of Latinx and Latinx student history in which we find ourselves looking to our past figures for hope and guidance as we march forward into the future with their words and light.

So for those who haven’t been in contact with her work: you seriously don’t know who Angelica Becerra is? Well, don’t you worry! La Gente has got you covered with an exclusive in-depth interview with Becerra about her work, her upbringing in Mexico, Long Beach, and her transitions as artist, student, mujer, a possible Otis School of Arts students, and an amazing conversation between her and her mother about the intersectionalities between pansexuality and pan dulce. When asked why Becerra even makes art in the first place, she responds with “For me, it’s so much deeper than that, it’s part of my behavior. I depend on it. The only reason I’m selling it is because my survival depends on it, you know people think that grad school salary is a living wage and… no.” (continued below)

 


Angelica: A lot of us grow up with art as an outlet and we’re not encouraged to pursue it. Well… we pursue it, my family was very encouraging. My family has artists in it. My grandpa is an artisan, he’s a carpenter. He’s a carver of woods, for churches, those big intricate doors… he does that for a living. And he does cathedral floors, too. So my grandfather has a workshop on the very first floor of our house in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, which is a very religious town. He made the cathedral floors and the doors. It’s the second most famous pilgrimage site for Catholics in Mexico next to la Virgen de Guadalupe. That’s my perspective. So yeah, I grew up with someone who had a workshop and spent 8 hours a day in there and sold their stuff. He sold the machines that makes tortillas, he makes them in mass and sells them to people who come to the city temporarily. And nobody calls him an artist, he’s 89 and still working. So yeah, that artistic work ethic; making something with your hands and selling it, that’s something that’s ingrained in me.

The aunt that taught me how to paint, she’s an architect. She went to architecture school. She does replicas for a living, hotels will want a painting of, I dunno, The Birth of Venus or The Mona Lisa but they obviously can’t buy the real thing so they ask her to paint a replica for their lobby. Or like fancy looking fruit (laughs) or religious paintings or something. So my tía sort of does that, and now she’s a teacher at La casa de la cultura which is the local art center. Every small town in Jalisco has a small culture house and she teaches painting there. And she had her studio in the third floor in the house we were just talking about. And it was such a beautiful room to me growing up though I wasn’t allowed in! (laughs) I saw it when the door was opened sometimes and she’d come out for like a minute and… it was just filled with paints and, she painted with a lot of blues and whites so it would always seem really dark in there. I remember peeking into her room and understanding its OK to go away for a minute and do your own thing… she was that tía for me.

There’s a lot of us [artists] out there, and we have people in our family that have always drawn. We have that tío who does really good graffiti letters. Or we have that tío who loves to make little toys for us. A lot of us are creative but we don’t call it that. Then when we call it that, or even when we’re younger, we see our friends majoring in art and, like the first time I met an art major I was so confused, I was just like… oh, you can do that?! What the fuck? (laughs) I’ve been making stuff my own life, my tía taught me how to paint fruit and people and faces forms and shapes. So I knew how to paint but I just learned too late, and also there’s–you know–being poor.

But there’s definitely so many of us out there. So when I make my art and see so many other people out there, it makes sense.

 


Giovanie: There’s a lot of guitar players in my family. I play guitar. Not to brag, but we actually play pretty well. We know what we’re doing. My little brother loves to tag.Yet we never think of it as, “Oh wow, we’re all just really artistic people.” I think we come to think of things, because we grow up poor, when it comes to your labor you need to make money.

 

Angelica: Right. Or, art is just a hobby.

 

Giovannie: Exactly. Did selling paintings start in grad school?

 

Angelica: My heart was more like, you need to heal (laughs) you need to do something to not die. There’s two series that I’ve done so far. The Palabras series started because I was involved with Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, I actually got involved with SJP super early in my grad school career. When I arrived to school late 2014, that Fall my first quarter, by the end of it I was already applying to be a board member.

 

Giovannie: I always knew you as ‘Angelica from SJP.’

 

Angelica: Yeah! And a lot of my community is that. I had done stuff with MEChA  [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán] during my undergrad and I did some stuff with workers at Hyatt as well in Long Beach. But I got into the Palestine cause because I felt that’s the issue we need to talk about that’s really urgent. That’s where a lot of people are currently losing their lives and it’s the most recent example of apartheid. So I started working through it, and I didn’t stop drawing, I would paint. My partner at the time was a writer who’s Palestinian, so we’d be making art together and talking about being creative even though he comes from a middle class family where creative writing was more accepted. He majored in creative writing. So, that’s when I started to make work about people. I was trained in portraiture. I did life drawing in high school, I did AP Art, I did AP Studio Art. I was very encouraged by my high school art teacher, Mr. Vasquez, another pocho. He applied to Otis for me, and I almost went. But I don’t tell people that because I didn’t end up going so I don’t want to claim it.

Giovannie: Buy you got in, though?


Angelica: Yeah, but it was $50,000 a year (laughs). Let’s not talk about that. I was undocumented at the time. I was undocumented until I was 18. The FAFSA application was too late for me.

 

Giovannie: And this was before the CA DREAM ACT.

 

Angelica: Yeah. This was when they began to talk about it. So, again, I started making my art because they invited Angela Davis to talk on campus. She was teaching a class at UCLA and my partner was taking it and asked her to talk for SJP because he knew she had been very vocal about Palestine. So then I get this text message saying ‘Oh, can you make this flyer for Angela Davis?’ I almost want to frame that text, because who gets that kind of text, ya know? That’s a lot of pressure.

 

And I didn’t paint for people at the time. So I just did a portrait of her, a watercolor portrait. It was the quickest thing I could do: oils take time to dry, acrylics don’t look cute (in my opinion, they’re too opaque). I did a quick flyer and it came out really good. People really responded it, they wanted a copy of it to frame and to keep but I was more like ‘Nah, I don’t sell it. I’m cool. It’s just for this one thing.’ So the event is happening, and I’m taking notes on what she’s saying because she’s amazing and she said this wonderful quote and I thought it would be amazing if the portrait I made had this quote on it. So I go home and I photoshopped it. I did it for me, not for anyone else. I showed it to people around me and everyone loved it and everyone wanted one and it just kind of grew from there and I started to think about, ‘Why am I painting these people?’

 

Happy Birthday to the powerful movement builders Yuri Kochiyama and Malcom X! <3

A photo posted by Angélica Becerra (@angelicaisaib) on

 

The next person I wanted to paint was Yuri Kochiyama. She’s from San Pedro (laughs) South Bay represent! And she’s amazing! That just kind of happened. I did a lot of research on her, I went into the deep underbelly of Tumblr (where I’m usually at anyways), and yeah. After that, it occurred to me that these were the motivational posters I wish I had growing up on my wall. If I can have it all again, I would be growing up with these people on my wall.  That’s how it really started. Then I did the Frida one because Frida’s birthday and mine are one day apart.

 

Giovannie: Cool! Her actual birthday or, because I know she claimed that her birthday was on the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.

 

Angelica: Yeah, she’s crazy. No, she was born on the 6th of July.

 

Giovannie: And you’re…?

 

Angelica: I’m the 5th. So I always felt a certain affinity to her because she’s a fellow Cancer and I’m really into astrology so it made sense to me that I’m a Cancer and she’s a Cancer. We’re very emotional people and put it all out there and wear our heart on our sleeve.

 

Giovannie: I’m surprised she’s not a Pisces sometimes.

 

Angelica: Yeesss! She felt way too deep! Her Moon sign must have something… But yeah, that’s why I was like… no wonder she’s so… wronged in love. Selena… I don’t even have to explain that. I love her. I love her so much. I used to have a crush on her when I was little, and Ana Gabriel, too. I gotta paint her too.

 

Giovannie: And the other series?

 

Angelica: The Love Note series is different. If you thought Palabra was personal, the Love Note series is hella personal. That one happened out of heartbreak, obviously. I hope people don’t think I was happy when I made those because I wasn’t. And that’s something I think Frida did really well, something I admire her for. She made beautiful work out of her heartbreak. She let people see what was going on.

 

Feliz cumple Frida ❤ #FridaKahlo

A photo posted by Angélica Becerra (@angelicaisaib) on


Giovannie: Definitely. I’ve always been very perplexed at the way we really can glorify her when I imagine her being a really sad person.

 

Angelica: Me too. I went to her house this summer and I cried… I don’t know if it was just being in the space and feeling the energy there, knowing she slept in that room. She was so sad and art seemed to be the only thing that helped her and I really relate to that.

 

When I was doing the Love Note series, the first piece I did that for that was Nina Simone. And that quote (“You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served”), I don’t pick quotes just willy nilly. It’s because I read them when I was heartbroken, or I read that book or this author and that’s really what got me through it.

 

So the next piece is Bell Hooks. I read her whole trilogy on love, because I was so lost, and the next one after that was James Baldwin: the first man I ever painted and probably the only man I ever will. I read Giovanni’s Room after Bell Hooks and it really helped me. So these are people that I read constantly and have educated me on many subjects, and this one’s about love. I didn’t know I was making a series, I did the Nina Simone one because I needed to do something and let it go. So each piece you let go.

 

The series actually began after reading the Bell Hook’s books and thinking ‘I need to paint this, too’. So that’s how it worked out, but I think the premise behind it all was to remind myself: it’s OK to feel heartbreak. You need to process it and … it’s a Cancer thing. You feel everything and you learn how to synthesize it and process it and let go. People think we’re moody but we’re just really good at meetings. Pisces can get a little lost in them.

 

Giovannie: Tell me about it.

 

Angelica: They can get lost in their feelings because they feel lost, even more. Cancers are very pragmatic people, and so my practical result was let me make something and let it go. The Sandra Cisneros piece, that’s when I got to the moment of my heartbreak, my healing, where I was like, ‘I need to love myself and I need to feel better.’ Everyone goes through this. This definitely wasn’t my first heartbreak but it was definitely my hardest one. I learned to sort of make pieces for people who are looking for that affirmation that they are worth more what they just left, or when they were left.

The next one is going to be more about self love. I’m not too sure what quote I’m using. But the James Baldwin is about taking off masks. That’s where I’m at right now, I found love but I need to remove masks that I’ve put on in order to access that love. It’s like I’ve come full circle. I’m only making four pieces.

MOLAA Showcases Chicano Art on Free Museum Day

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On Saturday January 30th, all museums in Los Angeles had free admission to the public, so I decided to roll through to MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Arts) in Long Beach. This museum focuses on Latin American Art from Los Angeles and beyond so I made a commitment to visit. MOLAA is unlike most museums that focus on Eurocentric images as it gives space to a Chicano/Latino narrative that is constantly underrepresented in the arts.  

 

I checked it out and I must say I was pretty satisfied seeing exhibitions full of Latino and Chicano artists –as a Chicana and an artist myself this definitevely stirred my emotions and inspiration.

 

One of the main exhibitions was The River Paintings by Victor Hugo Zayas that narrates imagery of the Los Angeles River through a variety of different mediums and paintings. The images demonstrate topics of industrialization, environment, community space and human interaction. The images show various abstract perspectives that are either very chaotic or calming in their method and are up for interpretation to the viewer. The main message I got out of these images emphasized a lack of awareness about ways urban advancement has made us forget there is a river running straight through our city and that this river was the foundation that this city was built on. We are too busy stuck in traffic to look down the bridge, or too stuck in the pace of our modern society to step back and realize that water and our earth is what got this city running in the first place. Below is a video of the images and his explanation to this art.

 

 

Another exhibition was Somewhere Over El Arco Iris: Chicano Landscapes 1971-2015, which showcases exclusively Southern California Chicano artists and their creations. Some images included large paintings of a woman in Dia de los Muertos makeup, sculptures of esqueletos sitting around a rowdy table and drinking, landscapes of our barrios, and the border between Mexico and the U.S. These images touched on topics I resonated with, like narratives of migration, urban violence in the hood, celebration of our holidays, a broken American Dream and various other things many Chicanos can relate to. I loved this exhibition the most because it inspired and encouraged me to be more intentional with my art. To use art to create consciousness and perspective amongst viewers which lives may not relate to this art as much as mine. Below is another video showing the images and a conversation of what it is about.

 

 

This free museum day was the best one yet and I encourage you and your homies to check out MOLAA to see some dope representation of our local communities. And of course, always keep making arte.

 

Museum of Latin American Arts

Address: 628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802  

Phone: (562) 437-1689