Planning Collaborative World Domination

I had a productive day yesterday. I met with Guatemalan writer/performer Maya Chinchilla to craft a plan of collaborative world domination. I’ve been a big fan of Maya’s writings and performances about online culture and Central American identity politics. We sat at Mission Kitchen on 23rd & Mission and plotted a good number of collaborations that I’m really excited about.

First up, I’m really looking forward to creating graphics and illustrations to accompany some of her writings. We’re going to get the ball rolling really soon and I can’t wait to see what we come up with together. Stay tuned!

Peace,

Rio

*Le Sigh*

I often describe profound moments in my life as having a Wonder Years narration to them. In looking back on these moments I can hear my inner-Kevin Arnold narrating them in a nostalgic tone full of longing. This inner-Kevin Arnold was left speechless as my childhood flashed before my eyes upon viewing this recent picture of Danica Mckellar (Winnie Cooper).

Photo by Jeremy Goldberg

Photo by Jeremy Goldberg

The two biggest icons of my childhood were Godzilla and Winnie Cooper. One was my hero and the other my first crush. Godzilla’s fantasy violence and Winnie’s unconditional friendship with Kevin on The Wonder Years were comforts and provided an escape from the very real violence of the Mission District in my youth. The universes and mythologies of Godzilla and Winnie Cooper have stuck with me after all these years. My support of Danica Mckellar’s post-Wonder Years career has been well documented. I’ve also been writing a blog about my lifelong interest in Godzilla for the last week and will publish it soon. I wasn’t planning on writing about Winnie Cooper but stumbling across the above image (via twitter of course) struck me with inspiration. Danica Mckellar was my first crush and still reigns as my #1 crush to this day. *Le Sigh*

"Back in the days when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again"

Rio

A Challenge to Chicano Rappers

Something that has always vexed me is the act of laying claim to Chicano identity without bearing any political responsibilities or consciousness. To me, Chicanos don’t always have to be Mexican-Americans but the line in the sand is that calling yourself Chicano is identifying with a leftist political ideology. That’s why it burns my ass to no end that there is a genre of Hip-Hop known as Chicano Rap that is all but devoid of politics.  The only references to identity in most Chicano Rap albums has to do with identifying as a Norteño or Sureño aside from vague references to “Brown Pride.” At this point in our political culture the idea of “Brown Pride” has been exhausted of its political meaning and we’ve now progressed way beyond it.

Pop in almost any mainstream Chicano Rap album and you’re more than likely to hear stories of popping caps, being king of the block, representing a clicka, slanging ‘caine, getting respect, and other acts of depoliticized patriarchal bullshit. Despite all of these Chicano rappers trying to out-badass each other there’s one person that’s got them all beat. That person is one Ms. Lily Allen.

These Chicano Rappers aint got shit on me

"These Chicano Rappers ain't got shit on me"

This weekend I was cycling through Lily Allen songs on my ipod while riding on a train to San Jose and came across Nan, You’re a Window Shopper. The song is Lily Allen’s version of 50 Cent’s Window Shopper. It’s a cheeky diss track against Allen’s own grandmother. What’s so revolutionary about it is that the song covers territory that’s essentially forbidden to Chicano Rappers. Think about it, Chicano Rap songs are filled with predictable tropes of  violence and nostalgia but even the most baddest of cholos still hold some things sacred. Lily Allen was brave enough to break one of our most basic social conventions and for that she is more dangerous than any Chicano Rapper.

Question: Despite all the hyper-masculine posturing, can you ever picture any of these supposedly hardcore Chicano Rappers cutting a track against their own dear abuelitas?

The bar has been set by Lily Allen. I dare any of you calling themselves Chicano Rappers to reach for it. Put up or shut the fuck up.

Sincerely,

Rio

Here and There

I just wanted to let everyone know I have a post up at SOMArts’ new blog. It’s about the time I interviewed one of my heroes while on the job, Bay Area writer Beth Lisick. I still love her work and meeting her was an exciting experience for me.

While I was hanging out with my dad today he showed me a video that we pop up in. It’s about the Andy Warhol events that we’ve been producing at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. It nicely encapsulates the first night we did, check out our Warhol performers.

Peace,

Rio

Visual Stimulation via Twitter

I’ve been twittering for about a week now at http://twitter.com/rioyanez.I signed up as a way to contact Amber Rose after she started writing and posting about the portrait I created of her. I have to say, the most exciting aspect of twitter is the way people distribute images. The short urls for twitpics that often pop up on tweets  evoke a sense of curiosity in me; more so than the many thumbnails that can be found on facebook. I think the lack of a thumbnail is more alluring and it forces you to chose to see the image or not, there’s no middle ground of a provided preview.

I recently awoke one morning to discover this image tweeted by Snoop Dogg. In it he’s posing with a wax Tupac at Madame Tussauds wax museum. It blew my mind. To see the forever youthful Tupac next to a mature Snoop Dogg was a profound reminder of just how long ago his death was. Even though he still makes music today, I’ve often thought of Snoop Dogg as a living piece of history. With all the intense violence of the 90′s scene I often wonder how he survived his G-Funk glory days. Say what you may about Snoop, it’s incredible that one artist could work side-by-side with a (now) historical figure like Tupac and still be relevant today. Nonetheless, seeing him casually posing next to a likeness of his dead friend brought up a whole range of emotions.

My favorite twitpic has thus far been this hilarious photo of Kim Kardashian with a jacked up sunburn that she herself tweeted. It gave me a good laugh and was a clever way for her to diffuse the power of an embarrassing image. By putting it out there herself, she’s made the whole thing a non-story for online tabloids.

The accompanying caption to the image reads: PLEASE HELP ME! I am so sunburned! I fell asleep with huge glasses on yesterday! This tan line is not ok!!!

More documentation of this hilarious sunburn can be found here and here.

Wear your sunblock y’all,

Rio

Ps. I’ve currently set my tweets to automatically update on facebook. I’m starting to have second thoughts about this though and am considering making them seperate. What do most people do? Any advice?

Becoming Media with Dadanoias

Part of maintaining credibility amongst Chicano peers is striking a delicate balance between identifying with our indigenous roots and acknowledging our European influences. Cindylu wrote a great blog on the occasionally laughable difficulties of doing this. Performing race and culture (or the implication that someone is doing it only to show that they down with brown) can be a sensitive subject for us.

I say this because I always give my Chicano friends a lot of shit whenever they pay deference to anything from Spain, mostly to give them a hard time in jest. My confession today is that I’m super excited to receive the new art book by Spanish artist Dadanoias (A.K.A. Kahlo, real name Marta Castro Suarez). As a present to myself for filing my taxes on my own for the first time I pre-ordered the book from Amazon.

Dadanoias’ artwork has been circulating throughout a handful of Chicano blogs recently. When I first stumbled across her work on flickr I have to admit that I thought she was Chicana. The digital collage aesthetic and color combinations screamed Chicano art to me.

The interventions in her images are exciting and alluring. In each piece she inserts herself as a part of the medium of the image and layers on original and borrowed images. Dadanoias doesn’t caption her pieces so there’s a lot of meaning left open for interpretation. Visually peeling back layers and meaning in her images does indeed make a good challenge.

Dadanoias gets extra nerd points for co-opting Urusei Yatsura illustrations for her work. I wonder what Rumiko Takahashi would think of her images?

Peace,

Rio

The Difficulties of Being a Latina Hipster

I’m officially declaring my love of Holly Valentine from Hyper Crush. I’m bummed that I missed their show last night in San Francisco. This video illustrates the difficulty of being a Latina hipster. No matter how much of an ironic hipster you are, being bilingual and code-switching is still a novelty that will get you mocked. You can see the look of inner-turmoil on Holly’s face as Preston and Donny clown her, it’s burning with angst and conflict.

Seriously though, I love Hyper Crush. I can’t front either, I mess with Mariela all the time when she speaks Spanish on the phone (especially with her mom). She and Holly both can code-switch like seasoned pros; I am merely a humble pocho.

Hyper Crush are also leading the charge in reclaiming the animated gif. Someone on their team has amazing gif making skills, the second one will give you a seizure:

Peace,

Rio

The Mystery of Amber Rose

I have to confess that I’m both very fascinated and very smitten with Amber Rose, the mysterious girlfriend of Kanye West. The pair have been photographed jet-setting all over the world dressed in the flyest Blade Runner-esque gear. Part of her appeal to me is that Ms. Rose is ethnically ambiguous and startling beautiful with her nearly bald head. Both she and Kanye West have been the subjects of a lot of negative speculation online but I think they’re kinda endearing as a glamorously futuristic couple.

That negative speculation is just about the only information I could find on Amber Rose. Almost all of it is gossip that she may have been a stripper at some point in her life or homophobic condemnation over her short hair and previous relationships with women. Her story thus far has only really been told in the photos of her out and about in public. The only information I could find coming from Ms. Rose herself is this interview with her – Download MP3 (Warning contains LOTS of salty language and sex talk).

Those of you who have been keeping up with my videos on facebook know I’ve recently developed a penchant for crazy/ridiculous/amazing sunglasses. Amber and Kanye have both been photographed a lot lately wearing some impressive specs, check out the ones Amber is rocking below.

The portrait I created of her is both a response and a reclamation of her public image. It’s based on a photo I found of her online, the double-barreled middle fingers really appealed to me. When I saw the image I knew I wanted to make something out of it.

My first draft of the piece (above) was a lot more detailed than where I ended up with it. It didn’t have the pop I was looking for so I went back into Photoshop to adjust the tones and details. I like the final version, it’s very simple and stripped down.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads with my style and aesthetics. I spent years mastering the impractical mouse in creating my art and now that I’m using a tablet it has opened up too many possibilities for me. I’ve been strugling to figure out what stylistic direction to head into. The tablet has enabled me to me more detailed but I’ve also become interested in this simpler and more contrasty aesthetic.

What do you think of the two styles?

and can anyone shed some light on the mystery of Amber Rose?

Peace,

Rio

Damn it feels good to be alive today!

Dang! I’m feelin’ good today! A new comic book store just opened in the Mission District. It’s been almost two years since the Mission District has had a comic book shop. Both the legendary San Francisco Comic Book Co. and the mediocre Scott’s Comics have perished in the face of gentrification in the last four years.

I was blown away today to see that the hipster economy of the Mission District has returned comics to my hood. Caffeinated Comics is a a hybrid comic shop and cafe located right on Mission Street at the intersection of Valencia (where the old Taco Bell used to be). They’ve only been open for a month; even still, I can’t believe I let something like this slide under my nose. I didn’t try the coffee but they had a small but decent selection of mainstream comics and graphic novels. Since it’s only two blocks from where I live, best believe I’ll be hitting it up again soon.

Check ‘em out at http://www.caffcom.com/

I also got to hang out with my homegirl Cary Cordova today and we got a chance to engage in some serious discussions of identity politics.

Peace,

Rio

Clash of the Titans

In talking about my own artwork I often bring up the idea of combining disparate mythologies. My love for this concept is one of the reasons I come to my job at SOMArts with a smile. Every time I arrive at SOMArts I am greeted by a series of sculpted portraits that line the walkway into the entrance of our lobby.

As one walks by, you can witness an eternal stare down between two of my favorite icons from VERY different worlds: Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Cthulhu. One is a master performance artist, world renowned for his work. The other is a fictional cosmic entity, a worshipped evil being that was a fixture in the works of writer H.P. Lovecraft.

I often wonder if anyone else appreciates the interaction between these two legendary beings. Their endless waltz of gazes, smirks, and scowls brings a smile to my face every time. The next time you come to SOMArts take a look at it as you walk by.

Speaking of SOMArts, we now have our own blog, twitter account, and flickr group. I’ll be posting to the blog every now and then so check it out.

Peace,

Rio