Acciones Plásticas プリクラ

At long last my top-secret collaboration with artist Maya Escobar can be revealed. Our artist statement follows the images. Big ups to Carianne Noga for helping Maya and I get this project going.

Acciones Plásticas プリクラ is a collaboration between St. Louis based artist Maya Escobar and San Francisco based artist Rio Yañez.

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan-Jewish digital media and performance artist, currently living in St. Louis.  Her work addresses issues of cultural hybridity, gender, placelessness, and the construction of identity. Rio Yañez is a Chicano curator, photographer, and graphic artist based out of San Francisco. His work utilizes and challenges Chicano mythology and visual iconography.

In Acciones Plásticas Escobar created a multi-faceted “doll” by assuming the role of designer and distributor, and even posing as the actual doll itself.  Each doll was a satirical characterization of some of the many roles that have been projected upon her, and into which she has, at points, inevitably fallen. In conjunction with these images, she developed a short series of low-definition youtube video blogs through which she inhabits the lives of “real women” who have each been visibly defined by societal constructs.

Recently, Yañez has been utilizing Japanese photobooths (known as Purikura or “print-club”) as an artist’s tool for creating portraits. These booths are much more common in Japan than their United States counterparts. As a catalyst for creative expression and social interaction they are used primarily by young urban Japanese girls. A standard feature in all Purikura booths allows the user to digitally decorate their portraits after they take them. The options are vast and include wild characters, excessive starbursts of light, pre-made phrases and the option to draw your own text directly on the image. Purikura gives the subjects near-divine powers of self-expression in crafting their own portraits.

The two artists who met over the web, decided to bring together Escobar’s highly charged and evocative Acciones Plásticas characters with Yanez’s notorious Chicano graphic-art style and new found obsession with Purikura images, as a way of addressing the construction of Latina identities.

Maya posed as The Latina Hipster: a bad-ass Morrissey-lovin’, tuff-girl sexy chica; The Latina Role Model: a diploma totin’ intellectual, sexy, social media goddess; and finally, The Homegirl: a hybridized version of Escobar’s Midwestern Chach (or Chachi Mama) and Yañez’s West Coast Chola, who sticks up her middle finger in what appears to be an act of defiance, but really is her protective shield.

Maya sent digital images to Rio, who in turn drew portraits of her as each of these constructed identities, approaching each portrait with a Purikura sensibility and decorating them each as the characters represented might accessorize themselves. The final series of portraits is the result of negotiating multiple identities and influences. Guatemalan, Jewish, and Chicano sensibilities reflected back through a Japanese Purikura aesthetic. Acciones Plásticas プリクラ challenge and question the thin line between archetype and stereotype. The Purikura elements present the novel signifiers of each social construct represented in the series.

This collaboration is the first of many to come as Maya and Rio explore the commonalities and differences of their cultural identities.


Purikura Characters

Okay, amidst all of the crazy Day of the Dead activity in the last two weeks I’ve been secretly collaborating with the talented and amazing Maya Escobar. We’ve been shooting ideas back and forth and working hard to meld her Acciones Plasticas series with my new obsession with Japanese Purikura aesthetics. I’ll be sharing the final artworks soon but I thought I’d show off some of the Purikura characters we created that are elements of the pieces.

Perhaps I should rewind and explain, Japanese photobooths (known as Purikura or print-club) usually allow you to digitally decorate your photographs after you take them. A common decoration are simply drawn characters that can add a twist and some flavor to Purikura portraits (for example this amorous salaryman in my portrait with Ava). In the case of my collaboration with Maya, they are tropes meant to inform the subjects of the artwork.

Without further ado here they are:

It’s been a great experience working with Maya and I’ll be sharing the fruits of our labor shortly. Come back soon!



Busy Chicano Omake

The week leading up to SOMArt’s Day of the Dead exhibit is always the busiest, craziest week of the year for me. I’m trying to return my life to a normal schedule while taking care of a few loose ends. I have so much to write about but not much time in the next couple of days. In the meantime enjoy these Purikura photos that I took with my homegirl Ava Alamshah.

Peace & Purikura,


Altars for the Spirits / Offerings for the Living

Hi everyone, my curated Day of the Dead exhibit will open this Friday at 6:00PM at SOMArts. Hope to see you there!

Altars for the Spirits Offerings for the Living

Dia de los Muertos 2009

Dedicated to Al Robles and Victor Mario Zaballa

Friday, October 16th through Saturday, November 7th, 2009


934 Brannan Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

Gallery hours: Tuesday – Friday, 12:00PM – 7:00 PM

Saturday, from 12:00PM – 5:00PM


Friday, October 16th / 6:00PM / $5.00-$10.00 Sliding Scale

Featuring Classical & Jazz Music by  Mutual Admiration Org.

and Contemporary Mexican & Chicano Music by Liliana Herrera

Special Performance by Tania Llambelis & the Oakland Improv Collective

FIRST TIME EVER: Artist Market of Dia de los Muertos crafts and art for sale in our Theater!


Saturday, November 7th / 6:00PM / Free

Join our flickr group and submit images to be part of our exhibition

Rene Yanez and Rio Yanez Curators, Nick Gomez Architect

With a little help from Las Mayas

Everything has been crazy lately. Although I have been super-productive I have also weathered a handful of tense moments in the last couple of days. My therapy for stress these days has been to produce a ridiculous lip-sync video using photobooth. Below is the product of my latest locura.

What’s kept me sane (aside from the fabulous love and support given to me by Mariela) are my new partners in art mischief who have given me things to smile about.

Y’know, I’ve never met a Maya I didn’t like, especially Guatemalan ones (in fact, I think they’re ALL Guatemalan). I just wanna give a holla to Maya Escobar and Maya Chinchilla for keeping me amused, challenged, and creatively active. I’ve kinda lapsed on our respective projects this past week but I want you both to know that you’re continuing to inspire me. Once the exhibit is up at the end of this coming week, we will take over the world once again.

Me and Maya Escobar: Long Distance Mashup

Me and my homegirl Maya Chinchilla

Thanks Mayas!