Purikura Party!

Whew! This past Sunday I spent a whole day at Pika Pika in Japantown on a purikura marathon. I arrived at 1:00pm and stayed for six hours while artists, academics, and activists came in to create purikura portraits with me. It was an exciting and exhausting day of starbursts, cartoon cacas, jeweled flowers, and cute skulls.

I’m feeling very confident in my abilities to teach purikura techniques after this weekend. Not guiding aesthetics but navigating the Japanese menus, deciphering the decoration screens, and managing the pressure of the countdown clocks shadowing every decision. Like my other recent purikura sessions I soaked in as much as I could about how each collaborator approached their decoration aesthetic. Below are the spoils of the day and you can really see the spectrum of what is possible in purikura portraits.

Katynka Martinez
Tania Figueroa
Tania Figueroa
Audra Ponce
Audra Ponce
Jessica Martinez
Jessica Martinez & Katynka Martinez
Armand Emamdjomeh
Ana Teresa Fernandez

You can see a bunch of hi-res images from the day at my flickr album HERE. Below is my video documentation of the day set to M-flo’s Dopamine.



Tale of the Tape and other Adventures

In the last two weeks I’ve enjoyed making a couple of impromptu videos with my good friend and Chicano filmmaker Tokoztli. Our most recent adventure was a hunt to find cassette tapes in San Francisco. Tokoztli is the foremost Chicano scholar on the life and recordings of Tupac Shakur and he’s been on a quest to collect his albums on tape. Myself, I was looking for Freestyle tapes in a nostalgic nod to my childhood.

We played the SF Spanish Fly tape all the way back to my place in the Mission. Sadly, I haven’t been able to listen to it since because I don’t actually own something that plays tapes. It’s found a nice home on the shelf above my computer.

Our other recent adventure was a small tour of Banksy artworks around the city.

There’s no footage of the Mission District Banksy piece because a pimp was about to regulate on someone just around the corner and we high-tailed it out of there. Here is the actual piece (which can be found at Mission and Sycamore ) below:



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.

Calacas & Chucks

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer editing down the hundreds of photos that I shot the other day with model/artist/curator Rachel-Anne Palacios. She was our model for this year’s Day of the Dead show announcement and graphics. There will be more to come from the shoot but I’m really excited about it so I thought I’d share at least one image.

Our photoshoot started at SOMArts and after a couple of hours we piled into a car and traveled to 16th and Mission to take some more shots. I shot this video of Rachel as were on our way. Check it out:

One of the potential things to wear that Rachel brought to the shoot were an amazing pair of limited edition Frida Kahlo Converse Chuck Taylors. These rare Chucks in her collection are the real deal, part of a series of Frida Converse shoes that she purchased in Mexico City. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to take some photos, I don’t think I’ve ever been so envious of another person’s shoes before. More info on the Converse HERE.



My Life with Godzilla

I came across this photo of my parents and I while helping my mom sort through some old CDs of digital files. My mom was quick to point out my Godzilla figure which managed to join our family portrait in the lower left hand corner. That Godzilla toy is my most treasured childhood possession. It is my Rosebud sled.

The figure has now found a permanent home in my mom’s kitchen atop her cabinets. It’s surrounded by other Godzilla figures and a giant Virgin of Guadalupe statue. A very telling sight of our cultural influences.


Godzilla movies have had a huge influence on my life. One of my only memories as a newborn is watching a Godzilla movie on television while being held in my mother’s arms. In the first five years of my life I went to see plenty of movies with my parents in theaters. The very first movie they took me to see because I wanted to see it was Godzilla 1985. It was playing at the Lumiere theater on California street and I’ll never forget the day we went. Sitting there in the cool dark theater watching Godzilla lay waste to Tokyo blew my five year old mind.

It was such an pivotal moment in my life. My childhood obsession with Godzilla heavily influenced the drawings I made at the time. I would draw ultraviolent landscapes with scenes of futuristic artillery battling giant monsters. Those drawings disturbed my mother so much that she made a series of artworks about them entitled Rio’s Room. I wish I had a scan of the drawings to share but the actual movie poster for Godzilla 1985 gives a good sense of what they encompassed.

In my life as an adult, I’ve only manged to incorporate Godzilla once into my artwork. He popped up in a comic strip I did in 2007 entitled True Story. It brings together Godzilla and another icon of my, Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN.

Okay, now that I’ve pretty much forsaken any sex appeal I might have had in talking about my nerd passion for Godzilla I’ll leave you with something I discovered recently that made my day. There hasn’t been a proper Godzilla movie since 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars but a recent comedy film from Toho (the studio that has produced all of the Godzilla films) has him in a cameo appearance. 2008’s Always Sunset on Third Street 2 features an incredible sequence that presents him completely in computer animation.

I have to say, the production values on this short sequence top anything that’s ever been done with Godzilla before. I still like the rubber suits but nothing has been as cinematic or well produced as this clip. There are no new Godzilla films planned on the horizon but this definitely gives a look into what might be to come.



Ghetto Frida’s Misison Memories

I’ve busted my brain, body, and creative skill to create the brand new mural/billboard at Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco. I have plenty of profound things to say about but at the moment I’m just so excited that it is up. Ghetto Frida’s Mission Memories can be seen at Galeria de la Raza. 2857 24th St (at Bryant) San Francisco, CA 94110-4234.

For a gallery of images of the mural, click here.