Make Mine with a Sugar Shine

All my peoples know that my two musical obsessions are discovering weird cover songs and Japanese Hip-Hop. I have to admit that I’ve fallen out of the Japanese Hip-Hop loop in the last two years (although I’m always down to cop an m-flo or Lisa album). One of the reasons for this was the dissolution of Heartsdales, one of my favorite hip-hop acts ever.

Heartsdales was made up of sisters Emi and Yumi Sugiyama (AKA Jewels and Rum) who were raised in New York but launched their careers in Japan. Their code-switching was amazing, they would effortlessly jump back and forth between Japanese and English with thick East-coast accents. For me, their pinnacle was always Fantasy, a cover/homage to Naughty by Nature’s OPP. It’s bilingual booty-clappin’ globalized hybrid of so many influences.

Heartsdales hat designed by Rum - At the top of my Christmas list

Heartsdales hat designed by Rum - At the top of my Christmas list

Following the break-up of Heartsdales Rum and Jewels went their seperate ways. Rum moved back to New York and is now attending Parsons, studying design. Aside from being a student she has opened an online store of her designs, including a slew of Heartsdales stuff. As soon as I saw the hats I knew I had to have one. I’m so psyched that Rum is pursuing graphic design (a career dear to my heart) and still managing to keep the Heartsdales fire aglow.

This hat is rockin’ at the top of my Christmas list (fighting a close battle with an i-phone). It can be found at http://www.zazzle.com/heartsdales_cap_hat-148029275086574978. If Santa is reading this blog, I swear I’ve been good in 2008. Honest.

Happy Black Friday Y’all.

Peace,

Rio

Did someone say Frida?

I just got back from seeing Slumdog Millionaire at the Kabuki with Mariela and my mom. It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for us to go to the movies and catch a late night show. I returned home tonight with my tummy full of turkey and my mind racing in reaction to the brilliance of Danny Boyle’s latest film.

What’s most on my mind is the namesake of lead actress Freida Pinto. When Mariela and I saw her name in the closing credits sequence we looked at each other and made faces that said “Oh Snap!” Freida Pinto sounds like it could be the name of a homegirl lampin’ at the MUNI stop on 24th and Mission. I was instantly intrigued. As the credits rolled Mariela and I contemplated the possibility of a Latina being cast as an Indian in this film. It seemed nigh-impossible but a doubt lingered thanks to Bollywood/Hollywood a (pretty awful) movie that featured an Indian woman who passes herself off as Latina.

Our conversation ended with me saying “I’mma google that shizzle as soon as I get home.” I did, sure enough, and could only definitively find out that she is in fact Indian. The origin of her name still eludes me although, admitedly, I have a shameful lack of knowledge of Indian culture. I would greatly appreciate anyone willing to drop some science on my ass about the origins of her name. Freida Pinto and the entire cast of Slumdog Millionaire gave amazing performances and I look forward to seeing more films by them.

**UPDATE**: I did some further detective work and it seems Freida’s name originates from her being Mangalorean Catholic. Very interesting indeed. If anyone has any other information on this topic please hit me up.

Peace,

Rio

Ps. Mariela and I were absolutely giddy at the sprinkling of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes thoughout the film. It pops up at least twice, including a frantic montage set aboard a train. M.I.A. also has an original song named O… Saya in the film. Slumdog Millionaire‘s soundtrack is at the top of our Christmas lists. It doesn’t come out on physical CD until December 23rd although it is available for download on itunes right now.

Like a Dinosaur on the Ark

Polaroids! Polaroids! Polaroids! That’s what I have on the mind these days.

I’m staring at my old Spectra SE Polaroid Camera right now (a gift from my Uncle Mike to my Mom and passed onto me). It’s fast approaching the one year anniversary of the death of Polaroid film. Each taken frame brings the medium closer to extinction so I’ve been hesitant to shoot what little film I have left.

Back during my days at Calarts I was inseparable from my Spectra camera. I spent what little money I had on film, eating ramen twice a day for weeks on end while treasuring my Polaroids. Below are two of two of my favorite photos from those days of glory.

Yanandez!

Marie and Me: Yanandez!

Allan Sekula and I at the Port of Los Angeles

Allan Sekula and I at the Port of Los Angeles

I was rescued from my instant-camera blues by this recent post by Cindylu. Her Poladroid images sent me scurrying over to http://www.poladroid.net/download.html to download the Poladroid application (Mac only as of this writing but the site says a PC version is in the works). Poladroid is a simple drag and drop application that allows you to create facsimile polaroids using your own image files. Amazingly you can change the image’s density and color temperature by “shaking it”. Some of the other features are a little ambiguous because there’s no English language instructions yet. I’ve been experimenting with it lately and I’ve been, if nothing else, very entertained seeing how I some of my favorite photos look as Poladroids. Below are some of the results.

Ava A.

Ava A.

Guillermo Gomez-Peña at the Rite Spot

Guillermo Gomez-Peña at the Rite Spot

Laulin Osher at 24th and Bryant

Laulin Osher at 24th and Bryant

The format of all the images created by Poladroid is based on Polaroid 600 film. The program’s official site says a Poladroid Pro application is in the works and I’m hoping that the Spectra format will be an option. If anyone else has experimented with Poladroid please send me a link to your images, I’m curious to see what people are doing with it!

Peace n’ Polaroids,

Rio

Zora’s List

I first heard the story of Zora Colakovic this past weekend on an old episode of NPR’s This American Life. To make the story short, Zora was a child when she started to become obsessed with her dreams of becoming a superhero fighting with guns, swords, and super powers. Without actual super powers a teenage Zora started to keep a list of skills to acquire that would enable her to be a super hero. She became determined to be her vision of a hero by age 23.

At age 13, Zora’s list of skills included Martial Arts, Chemistry, Hang Gliding, Metaphysics, Helicopter Piloting, Airplane Piloting, Parachuting, Mountain Climbing, Wilderness Survival, Evasive Driving, Rafting, Scuba-diving, Mountain Emergency Medicine, Body Building, Archery, Demolitions, Throwing Stars, and Knife Throwing.

As she grew older Zora would update the list and, incredibly, she mastered almost all of the skills she set out to learn. Her pursuit of becoming a super hero led her to graduate high school at the age of 15, get her BA at 18, achieve a Master’s degree at 20, and complete the coursework for a PHD at 21. After being deemed to risky and dangerous for a job at the CIA, Zora flourished as a bounty hunter and private investigator putting her skills to work.

I was blown away by Zora’s story and her dedication to her childhood lists. Like her, I wanted to be a super hero as a child but never had the logic of how to practically apply those wishes. I’m really inspired by Zora’s lists and the path she took to live her dreams. I begun to contemplate what, at this point in my life, is on my list to learn in order for me to be the person I really want to be.

After googling Zora’s name I didn’t come up with much aside from various announcements that a movie based on her life starring Jennifer Aniston was once in production (and it seems doomed to be stuck in development Hell). I was heartened to come across to this lone post that seemed to genuinely discuss her story. That blog’s author, like me, was contemplating what their own version of Zora’s list would include.

So my question to everyone is: What’s on your version of Zora’s List? To hear the This American Life episode featuring Zora Colakovic you can download an mp3 from this link (27.1 MB). The story is in the second act around the 20 minute mark. I’m working on my list, what will yours include?

Peace,

Rio

A moment of youth and rock stars

I had a conversation with Mariela recently about what has changed in our lives as we’ve gotten older. More specifically, how we see ourselves as we’ve gone from being in our early 20’s to our late 20’s now. I told her that biggest difference for me was in my taste in music. Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on it, the real difference I think is that I don’t have as many rock stars to worship as I once did.

As a teenager my idol was Eddie Vedder, I wanted to be him when I grew up and every word he sang was gospel to me. Before that, I was obsessed with comic book artist Jim Lee. It was always really easy for me to really latch onto someone or something and be very passionate about it when I was younger. As I’m now approaching the age of 29 my fanatic tendencies have subsided and turned into casual admirations of my heroes.

Despite this decline there is still one true rock star in my universe, Nikki S. Lee. I’ve been following her work since 1998 like a teenage girl follows the films of Zac Efron. Her Project series has had a profound influence on my identity as an artist and my work (especially on the performance videos I made at Calarts with Marie Hernandez). To me, she is a living super-hero.

Reading Parts

Reading Parts

When I signed up for a facebook page I did a search for Nikki S. Lee on the site and came across a legit profile for her. On a lark I sent her a friend request which went months without approval. Recently my friend request to her was approved and I felt ecstatic to see her name and image appear in my friends list. When her birthday popped up in my homepage notifications I left her a comment wishing her a happy birthday. To my shock and amazement she replied with a simple comment seen below.

Words can’t describe my excitement at this brief acknowledgement. I did an endzone dance followed by the Harlem Shake in celebration of her comment. I felt like busting out with a Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy” bow. Suffice to say, that childhood excitement returned to me for a day, one that I will not soon forget.

A little younger,

Rio

La Chicana Feliz

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Zulma Aguiar at this years College Art Association conference in Dallas, Texas. I had been following her work for quite some time and became determined to create a portrait of homegirl when we finally met face to face. After photographing her at the conference center this portrait is one of the results.

Zulma is a multimedia artist and activist; her writings can be found on her blogs Chicana Feliz and Chicana Feminist. What I admire most about Zulma is that she has taken on the monumental role of chronicling the work of artists, activists, and performers throughout the United States. Her scope is international but Zulma has really focused and captured so much of what Chicanos are working towards these last few years. Zulma’s documentation, reviews, and reports on contemporary Chicano artists and their work will provide for our historical canon in years to come. Every time I see a status update from her she’s travelling to another art opening or performance event like an unwavering Chicana energizer bunny. Homegirl’s path is in the footsteps of my friend and neighbor Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez whose 500 Years of Chicana Women’s History and 500 Years of Chicano History have filled such a gap.

Zulma is an amazing artist in her own right. Her work has taken on identity, the culture of our borders, and femicide in Mexico. I have taken a lot of inspiration from her video What is a Chicana Feliz? In defining my own self-image as an artist. I actually completed this artwork about a month ago but agonized over the background for quite some time. Initially I wanted to create some sort of border wall but the results were all too grim. The background I ended up creating is a hybrid of two current aesthetic influences: Communist propaganda posters and El Chapulin Colorado.

Zulma Aguiar

Zulma Aguiar

I want to create another portrait of Zulma soon because she is a woman of many looks. Since I shot the photo this image is based on, homegirl has switched up her style a good number of times. More to come soon.

Peace,

Rio

Pop Crucifixes Vol. 2

Here’s my second round of pop crucifixes. About the creation process: The crucifixes and stickers were both gathered from Mission street stores. The stickers are genuine 3rd world bootlegs and fascinating to me. Because of their bootleg status the stickers have all sorts of wonderful quirks and flaws. The Batman stickers mix are psychedelically discolored and mix elements from different Batman shows and comics. The High School Musical stickers (used in the Ashley Tisdale cross) have stickers of Miley Cyrus and Hilary Duff mixed in with them. Enjoy!

Disney Princesses

Disney Princesses

Batman

Batman

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus

Dora la Exploradora

Dora la Exploradora

Ashley Tisdale

Ashley Tisdale

Peace,

Rio

Sketchy

About a month ago, on a routine trip to Flax in San Francisco with Rene, I bought myself a sketchbook. The last time I had bought a sketchbook was when I needed a dedication book for my Eddie Guerrero Day of the Dead altar in 2006. I realized that the art that I had drawn for my comics is terribly disorganized and not well kept and I thought having a solid central book to contain my new work would be exciting.

Things didn’t exactly work out as planned. I’m starting to realize the limitations of the bootsy-ass printer/scanner that came with my computer. It prints great but the scanner bed is too small for my sketchbook. I was still able to scan two of my drawings and color them in Photoshop as a late night escape.

Mariela

Mariela

I drew this portrait of Mariela very loosely and inked it using a set of pens I’ve been meaning to use. The result is something I’m very happy with, it’s simple and reminds me a little bit of Nancy Hom’s work.

King of 24th Street

King of 24th Street

This second piece is much more in the style of my comic strips. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jughead and my strong identification with him lately. I think the whole crown motif is really appealing to me. The background is my Photoshop freehand take on the infamous Chinese Food and Donuts on the corner of 24th and Mission. I love their food, especially the Egg Foo Young, but you need an iron stomach to digest most of the menu options.

Peace,

Rio