The GYZA³ is Life


I have a new favorite Purikura booth (sorry Candy Carnival). Gyza³ is the vanity purikura machine of Japanese fashion designer Alisa Ueno. To put it in perspective, if the GYZA³ was made in the west it would feature Kylie Jenner or Tavi Gevinson. You can see Ueno’s presentation of the booth at her blog here: It’s kind of fascinating to see how she presents her self-portraits using her own designs and aesthetics.


The Gyza³ represents a lot of the current trends with modern purikura machines. Gone are the gaudy sparkles, starbursts, and wacky character stamps that were used to create campy garish portraits. You don’t even pick your backgrounds until you decorate your photos. Gyza³ and its generation of purikura booths aim for a transformative glam experience that smooths your skin, enlarges your eyes, and reshapes your body. Instead of wacky characters your decorative options are mostly text and phrases, instead of flashy sparkles we get hearts and photorealistic jeweled objects, the results are magical realism throwbacks to the 80’s.

In the past month I’ve visited San Francisco’s local Gyza³ booth at Pika Pika with several artists. Below are portraits of myself and Rob Fatal, J. Leimone, Margarita Azucar, and Sarah Guerra.

purikura_08.22.15_04 purikura_08.22.15_05 purikura_08.22.15_06 Gyza3Elida Gyza3RioElida SarahGyza3

I haven’t looked that young and skinny in a decade. For a mere $12, Gyza³ will give you images of yourself that rival the photoshopped gloss of most magazine covers while a Japanese cover of Ariana Grande’s Break Free plays in the background. I’m all about it!

More Gyza³ portraits coming soon!





Purikura Scavenger Hunt Blitz!

This past weekend I ventured to Pika Pika in Japantown to compete in their very first scavenger hunt. Joining me were the Calitexican, poet Abraham Velazquez, and theater masterminds Sarah Guerra, Melinna Bobadilla, and Dorothy Martinez. Sarah and I joined together as a team under the name Tokyo Sucka Punch and hit the ground running.

After the scavenger hunt we had a marathon purikura party lasting for several hours.One of my favorites was the gory scene to the left below conceived and executed by Melinna.

And here’s a video of how it was made:

Of course I couldn’t resist taking some animated gifs so here are a few of the crew in action at Pika Pika.

Last but not least I compiled a video of all of our in-booth hijinks below.



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.



Support System

These past few days have been intense and busy. I’ve been promoting My Mission, planning my yearly Day of the Dead exhibit, and balancing other creative projects. Chief among them is my full blown committal to purikura as an art form. Today I spent the early afternoon with Ms. Margarita (AKA Margarita Azucar) for another round of purikura art making. We met up following her radio show on On our way to Pikapika in Japantown we stopped off at her apartment and I saw something that made me smile so much.

Seeing these two cans propping up a window in Margarita Azucar’s apartment instantly brought me back to my childhood and warmed my heart. Growing up in an old San Francisco Victorian apartment my parents used all sorts of object to prop open our windows. We used books, old toys, Lincoln Logs, and other random things to keep our windows open on a hot day. I’m hella nostalgic right now.

Our purikura session went great! Ms. Margarita rocked an awesome pink wig and busted out with some great poses for the photos, she was truly like a Chicana superhero. I’ll be scanning the photos and posting them in the new couple of days. Stay tuned!



Behind the Scenes and Mischief in the Mission

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!



La Pura Cura Purikura

This past weekend I embarked on my second collaboration with the brilliant and loco por sure Guillermo Gomez-Peña (along with members of his performance troupe La Pocho Nostra). Our project is La Pura Cura Purikura. It’s an ongoing project of purikura photos costumed, performed, and decorated by Gomez-Pena, facilitated and decorated by myself.

For this first shoot we were joined by La Pocha member Kika Olsen (below).

Gomez-Peña had the idea to dress himself as a post-apocalyptic border-shaman. With that in mind we all packed up our costumes and props and traveled to Pikapika in Japantown for a purikura adventure. Suffice to say we turned a few heads while we took photos and as Guillermo and Kika got into their characters amongst confused Japanese teenagers.

Below is a sampling of the images we created together. There are more planned Purikura sessions on the way with La Pocha Nostra so stay tuned! For a full gallery of La Pura Cura Purikura CLICK HERE.




Purikura Protest

A couple of days ago I joined up with my purikura partner in crime Maya Chinchilla to have lunch and get into some more trouble at Pikapika in Japantown. We enjoyed crepes and bought a couple of new pairs of sunglasses for the occasion. Maya suggested that we bring some social justice struggles into our concepts and decorations for the photos we were about to take.

Arriving at Pikapika we walked around to check out the new and recently repaired purikura booths they had on hand. We came across the image above of a purikura girl with digitally adorned indigenous trappings. I was surprised to see the semiotic plight of my indigenous brothers and sisters had already made its way to the art of purikura. I wonder what’s next?

Maya and I shot photos using two of our favorite booths, Viseei and Love Joker (Shiny Madonna theme, natch). Always the visionary, Maya came well prepared with props of sunglasses, books, and even stuffed animals. When it came time to decorate our photos Maya and I focused on the struggles taking place in Arizona but managed to work in a few other themes as well. Some highlights are below:

Peace and purikura y’all,


Halloween Report

Halloween 2009 was on a crackin’ this year in the Mission District. Thanks to some last minute makeup and wardrobe assists from Mariela and my Mom, I became Zombie Frida. Even for a flesh-rotten member of the undead community I was quite the hot mess.

Mariela on the other hand looked great as a vampire. We hooked up and haunted the streets of the Mission in search of blood, brains, and candy.

Zombie Frida herself was a character I created a couple of years back for a series of comic strips that I did about raising the undead.

Since I’ve been doing so much about Purikura these days I think I’ll leave you all with something from the motherland. Here is infamous multi-ethnic Japanese adult-film superstar Maria Ozawa taking part in some Halloween Purikura which she posted on her blog.