Tag Archives: maya

Some thoughts on Sculpture

14 Sep

In my sculpture class I was asked, “what is sculpture?”. this is not my best answer but an answer that is developing….

Being of Mayan decent, I have seen monumental sculptures all my life. I have seen small sculptures created in front of me by vendors and artists selling on the streets in Guatemala. I have been to Tikal, Peten and I have seen  pyramids and12 ft sculptures. When the question was first posed in class, I was confused about how to answer it. But the Siquieros exhibition made me remember my own ancestry.  I can see further now, about what sculpture has been throughout time and throughout the world. Sculptures have told stories of kingdoms, villages, and tribes. They have been used to record and document our understandings of the universe mathematically, physically, and spiritually. Tribes that carved out totem poles created masterpieces representing power and spirit. If I can acknowledge what sculpture has been in the past it is easier to talk about what it is in 2010.

Art, including sculpture, seems to be a lot more focused on creating a conceptual meaning and understanding to it. There is a series of work that is created by an artists with an over arching theme or concept attached to it. It seems driven through academia and theory. And then again, I haven’t been part of that art world. Seeing the work of Siquieros, he did not need to write a huge paper as to the conceptual meaning and theory that drove his work. It was simply explained in one sentence or word that was used as the title of his murals and sculptures, i.e. Man the Master and Not the Slave of Technology or Portrait of the Bourgeoise.

Art is dynamic and exponentially challenging critics as to what is considered art. Is graffiti and wheat pasting art or vandalism? I ran into a book that talks about street art as art that serves humanity, much like public art is talked about. Except one is funded by contractors, transit authorities or government offices, and the other is funded by broke artists pushing society to reconsider their environments and social standings.

Where do sculptures fit? More of it will make sense through out my process in this class. I have experienced installations and sculptures in ways that deeply impact my mind. I saw an installation at the beginning of the summer by a Cal Arts MFA graduate. She recreated a life size model of a toy called “The Victim”:

She layed the sculpture  on the floor and as soon as I approached it I thought it looked like a woman getting raped. I began to study the installation and I found out why this sculpture existed. The artist provided examples of places where this toy was sold and a history of feminist women’s groups asking toy stores to remove this item from their shelves. Even more interesting was a video installation that recorded the responses by cyber writers to a film involving a rape scene. The responses talked about masturbating to the scene, other’s who did not feel it was wrong to recreate scenes like that in the movies, other people who said they had seen “better” rape scenes” Nothing else was provided but my friend and I figured that some of the comments, which were grotesque, were made that way because of the anonymity that exists in cyber space. We began to analyze patriarchal culture in the mainstream and how this toy allows for women to be constantly be portrayed/become victims of violence. This sculpture installation involved a typed history, a video, a comic book, the actual toy, and brought in the world wide web.

Sculpture and installations can be powerful when a strong message is intended to be delivered during its creation process. Sculptures can be wacky. Art is art and it why is it constantly being defined, and who has the right or the “authority” to say what it is, and what it is not. Art critics are annoying, but slowly I am becoming one myself.  I just wish people weren’t so snooty when talking about art. Art should simply be open to interpretation. Siquieros says, “Art is for the people”.

Interview with Luis Enrique Guzman

15 Feb

To listen to the original Spanish interview with  audio interview with Luis Enrique Guzman, please click here.

Luis Enrique Guzman at an Immigrant Rights Rally along with members of Homies Unidos

Luis Enrique Guzman at an Immigrant Rights Rally along with members of Homies Unidos

Luis Enrique was born in Guatemala, near the University of San Carlos. As a child growing up in Guatemala’s period of armed conflict, he was a witness to many of the student protests. At a young age he turned his attention towards issues of human rights and social justice. In 1981, at the age of 12 he was at home when he began to notice smoke coming from the University. The student movement was protesting the rise in transportation costs. But this peaceful protest turned unexpectedly violent. Luis Enrique, being young and curious, ran to see what the commotion was about, only to become witness of military police men firing their rifles at students. He saw the bodies of university students fall to the floor and die on the streets. It was this memory that changed who he would become.

Luis Enrique became an activist and joined the student movement. In the midst of his activism he came across a Mexican journalist who had photographed the massacre of Panzos, a community located in Alta Verapaz. Through these photographs, his consciousness was again impacted. He saw the limbs of men, women, elders, and children tortured and cut off, including women who were pregnant. The pictures of the scenes were graphic and violent. According to the Commission on Historical Clarification, the massacre at Panzos was only one out of 626 massacres that the Guatemalan Armed Forces was responsible for. The height of this violence occurred between the period of 1979 to 1986, under the governance of general Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia (1978 – 1982), general Efrain Rios Montt (1982 – 1983), and general Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores (1983 – 1986). A genocide took place in Guatemala where over 200,000 people died, many of them of Mayan ancestry. By 1982, the army adopted a different tactic and started executing more women than men in a brutally systematic manner.

Luis Enrique was profoundly affected by the state of his country and decided to take part in the guerilla movement. But before he could join, his mother talked to his father who lived in Chicago, Illinois and planned to send Luis Enrique to the United States. When Luis Enrique was 19 years old he emigrated to the U.S. Life changed for Luis Enrique after he moved to Illinois. After some time he decided to move to California. Unfortunately he was caught up in the criminal justice system and after violating his parole for crossing state lines, he was arrested in Nevada and imprisoned in a California state prison for three years. On June 12, 2006, the day he was to walk out as free man, the Department of Homeland Security waited at the prison doors to take him into their custody and transport him to an immigration detention facility.

While at the immigration detention center, Luis Enrique continued his activism. Once again he witnessed human rights violations inside the detention facility, including the death of Victorilla Arellano, a woman who was HIV positive and who was denied her medication. In August of 2007, he organized a peaceful demonstration with other detainees. Over 10 security guards beat Luis Enrique but the organizers were able to have their demands met.

Luis Enrique also began to spend time in the library inside the detention center. He began to research his case and realized that if he were deported, he would surely face death upon arrival in Guatemala. This is because he had been part of a student movement while he lived in Guatemala and he now carried tattoos on his body. Although his tattoos were not gang related, Guatemala’s “social cleansing” would label him as a gang member, making him susceptible to torture and murder either by other gang members or by the police. Luis Enrique was not going to take this chance and asked the judge to allow him to defend his case. He continued to do research and began to reach out for legal assistance.

Thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, a national organization advocating for individual rights, and Homies Unidos, a Los Angeles based gang prevention organization, he received books to continue his research and was able to recruit three key experts who would aid him in convincing the Judge of the potential torture, or death that Luis Enrique could face if deported to Guatemala. Thanks to the Geneva Convention Laws against Torture, which was adopted by the United States, Luis Enrique successfully proved his case and won his freedom in December 2008.

Luis Enrique now continues to be a human rights activist and organizer. He is also a volunteer at Homies Unidos and gives legal assistance to detainees and conducts research for immigration cases. He is not a lawyer, but in fighting in court for his freedom for over two years, he has been able to use his experience for the benefit of the immigrant community. In a time of uncertainty for immigrants and their families, the story of Luis Enrique Guzman serves as an example for every individual to learn how to defend themselves, and stand up for justice.