I had a great meeting with my homegirl Mayra Ramirez today (who’s now on tumblr). We planned some future projects together and we also took the time to take some hipstamatic photos. It’s been a while since I’ve used the app on my phone but I love the way the photos turned out.
This past Sunday I got together with the infamous Mayra Ramirez for another session of Homegirl Purikura. For this special session we were joined by guest artist and chola Evil Rose. Mayra and I met Evil Rose in Japantown and together we ventured into Pikapika to take some photos.
During our first session of Homegirl Purikura Mayra turned all sorts of heads in Japantown while she was decked out in her chola gear and persona. With Evil Rose in the mix we were a walking spectacle. Tourists who were in the area for the Nihonmachi Street Fair didn’t know what to make of us. Our presence was unavoidable.
Evil Rose was a natural Purikura artist, Mayra and I showed her the basics and she just took off with it. Mayra also continued her unique and intense approach to her Purikura practice. I decorated a couple of images but for the most part I stood back as a facilitator for this session. It was a thrill to see this powerful pair of cholas team up and work as artists together.
Lastly, I finally got to try out The Cube, the newest Purikura booth at Pikapika. I can’t wait to share the images that came from it. It was definitely the most sophisticated and technically advanced Purikura booth I’ve ever been in.
Following our Purikura adventure we all decided to head to the Mission District for a shoot in Balmy Alley. Evil Rose is not only a model/performer but a professional photographer herself. We turned our cameras on Mayra who lived up to her reputation as the ultimate Chola muse. Below are some photos, to see the full gallery of images check out my flickr page.
I also managed to record a little behind the scenes video while we were shooting. Here’s two videos of Mayra playing around. When she focuses on her chola persona she disappears into it but when she breaks character she’s equally charismatic. Check it out!
Photo by Lex Leifheit
Question: How do you explain what a chola is to someone who has absolutely no frame of reference as to what one might be?
Tonight I was part of the 2009 Chicana/o Biennial artist talk at MACLA. It was great to see my peeps and peers talking about their work like my boy Jaime Guerrero, my homegirl Viva Paredes, and Seattle-bound sculptor Gustavo Martinez (additional shouts to Mariela, Rachel, and Lex for coming out to support us). I missed seeing MACLA’s wonderful Stephanie Chiara but otherwise it was the perfect night.
The discussion of my work MACLA went really well but I was stymied by a little old lady who had no idea what a Chola was. While I was talking about my portrait of Ask a Chola she wanted me to explain to her what a chola was. Every explanation was dependent on refering to some part of urban Latino culture and she couldn’t grasp anything I tried to communicate to her. I wasn’t expecting to have to define a chola in talking about my work but it was my fault for not being able to think on my toes. What’s the best way to cleanly and concisely explain to someone what a chola is?
Speaking of Cholas, Cholo rapper Deadlee has put me on blast on his blog. He didn’t care for the review that I gave to his recent movie, homophobic cholaxploitation film Hoochie Mamma Drama. You can read my review HERE and chime in on the comments section if you want. I have no interest in any sort of blog-beef and I wish Deadlee the best of luck in his career.
After seeing Jim Mendiola’s amazing video for Girl in a Coma’s Static Mind I wanted to further explore photo sequence animation.
This was a casual first try, Mariela and I had a lot of fun taking photos in sequence throughout the Mission District. More to come, hopefully.
I have some big Ghetto Frida news coming soon and the image at the top is a small preview of more to come. Stay tuned.
My most recent Blu-Ray purchase has been the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I’ve been really digging the series and I think Summer Glau is a brilliant actress in it. As much as I like the series it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the monolithic portrayal of Latinos throughout the first season. Every single Latino male has been shown to be a lying, backstabbing cholo. I mean that literally, our ONLY onscreen depictions are as ruthless cholos in the show. The message of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is clear: Latino men are good resources for illicit goods and contraband but can’t be trusted. Even worse, all but one of them ends up killed by the end of the season. There’s only one Latina in the first season and her role in the show is just as simple but her context is a lot more complex.
The most fascinating aspect of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the presence of Chola; a (what else) chola who comes to the aid of Sarah Connor on multiple occasions throughout the first season. Chola is no ordinary chola though, in the first season she is totally silent and easily the most mysterious figure in the first season. There have been a lot of discussions online speculating that Chola’s stoic silence means she’s a terminator. In the commentary track of the season finale the episode’s Director implies that Chola is not a terminator by stating her motivation is simply to “avenge her homies.” Ultimately her silence serves to exoticize her. A silent, nameless Chola is more mysterious than Sad Girl talking about what nail salon she got her ghetto claws done at. Chola is the twisted, idealized antithesis to the portyals of Latinas and Black Women on reality television shows: silent, friendly, and doesn’t react to or question the violence around her. It’s different, I’ll give the series that much, but just as harmful and stigmatizing.
Chola is played by actress Sabrina Perez. Looking at Sabrina Perez’ IMDB page reveals that she’s been cast in five roles thus far in her career. Three of those five roles don’t even give her a name and simply refer to her as the archetype she portrays; they speak for themselves: Chola, Gang Girl, and Assassin.
The question is: Are Latino and Latina performers who continually play these roles victims or villains? Is Sabrina Perez simply paying her dues while following her dreams to be a successful actress or is she a “Good German” not willing to question the implications of the roles she takes? At what point do we hold performers accountable for taking the meager roles that are offered to them by the mainstream entertainment industry?
The only other critical writing I’ve been able to find on Chola is this insightful post by a writer that goes by FengLiAn. I really am enjoying Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and I do hope Sabrina Perez can break through the glass ceiling she is being crushed against, for the sake of everyone stigmatized by her roles if not her. Keep ya head up Ms. Perez.
A print of my most recent portrait of Ask A Chola will be included as part of the 2009 Chicana/o Biennial at MACLA in San Jose, CA.
Exhibition: June 5 – August 8, 2009
Opening Reception: Friday June 5, 8:00 – 10:00pm
Book signing: Friday June 5, 7:00 – 8:00pm
Join us in celebrating the second publication of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History series, highlighting the artistic contributions by Yolanda M. López.
Artist talk: Friday August 7, 7:00pm
Join selected artists for a gallery walkthrough and an engaging conversation about their work.
510 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113
tel: (408) 998-2783
fax: (408) 998-2817
Wednesdays & Thursdays 12 noon —7:00pm
Fridays & Saturdays 12 noon—5:00pm
I should be sleeping right now. In about six hours I’m boarding a flight for Los Angeles to attend this event at UCLA for my mom , Yolanda Lopez. Before I sleep for a quick second I wanted to share this latest video from Ask a Chola featuring my recent portrait of her.
I hope y’all tune into Chola’s show tonight. She’s hands down my favorite performance artist and I’ve tried to support her work with my own art on many occasions. I thought I’d share my contributions to her presidential campaign of 2008.
If anyone I know is going to be around UCLA this Wednesday and Thursday give me a call and we can hang out.
I spent the other night listening to my favorite performance artist Ask a Chola on her brand new radio show. Between the gully banter and crazy music I loved every second of it. I wanted to do what I could to support Chola’s new endeavor so I thought I’d create a new portrait to help get the word out.
My first portrait of Ask a Chola, circa March 2007, is a good marker for how far my technical skills in illustration have evolved. I wonder sometimes if I’ve gotten too far away from my original style but I’m really happy with the direction the tablet has taken me in. There’s even a noticeable difference from my first couple of piece with it. Things are looking up!
Alas, I’m triste because I’ll be in LA next Wednesday and will be away from a computer to listen to the show with. Someone will need to fill me in on the jams Chola throws and if there are any more breathless phone calls from the mysterious Anonima. Radio Chola airs Wednesdays from 7:30pm to 10:00pm at Kill Radio.