This is what happens when you’re fed up with the art world. And white people. And white people in the art world.
Oh and did I mentioned that she graduated from Harvard?
Okay but let me explain why its amazing that the youngest just graduated, Harvard aside.
We are the children of immigrant parents. Our mother and father both left everything behind to start anew in a country they knew nothing about, with a dream in their pockets and a future in their eyes. Our father constantly playing a game of tag with la migra, only letting himself get caught when he was tired of playing only to play again a few days later. Our mother using up her savings to pay for a coyote, only to be caught the first time around. Round two led her to the streets of Los Angeles, literally, as her contact fell through and the stars were here only comfort. What am I saying, you can barely see the stars in LA.
Fast forward to my brother's high school graduation, the first to graduated. He was already working for an insurance company and didn't want to go to college. School wasn't his thing. But he continued on to community college for our mother's sake, a woman who fought with her parents to attend elementary school. And middle school. And high school. Years later, and two associate degrees, he transferred to the local state college. After sleepless nights and long work hours, he finally got his bachelor's degree. Years later, the family found out that he secretly applied, was accepted, and already attending classes at The University of California Los Angeles getting his MBA.
Somewhere in between all that, the oldest daughter began looking into college. She was the first to thoroughly explore higher education options. State schools. Private schools. She looked into financial aid options. She utilized her high school resources. And as a joke, she applied to Harvard. In no time, Stanford and Harvard were fighting over her. Four years later, she graduated from Harvard, and another three years later, received her master's at Harvard as well.
Later on came my time, a mixture of the older siblings: a dislike of school but a passion for learning. Mostly a desire to move out. Unfortunately, academics were not my strong suit... as proven by the rejection letters. Tack on the pressure of trying to beat Harvard, well... lets just say those rejections really hurt. I was accepted into a handful of state schools and a small liberal arts college. Although money became a rather large concern, my mother said, "Go where ever you know you will be happy. Don't worry about money." And they made it happen. They helped me attend the school of my choice. As the years passed, I was awarded new merit based scholarships, I received substantial raises at my work study job, and by my senior year, I did not have to take out a single loan. Low and behold, I got a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art and Computer Science.
During my first year, the youngest began her college application process. She sought schools with strong writing programs and faced the same ordeal of trying to beat Harvard. She on the other hand, was strong in academics. Heck, she had already won a $20,000 scholarship for college her sophomore year in high school. She had a fighting chance of beating Harvard. There were some rejection letters, but many more acceptances, and one very important waitlist. Harvard. She made a trip to the East Coast to visit her top school making a pit stop in Cambridge. A few weeks later, on a hot spring day, she broke the news that she was accepted into Harvard and decided to attend in the fall.
Fast forward to last week as we all flew across the country to attend many graduation events. Truth be told it was exhausting, but absolutely incredible. We attended Harvard's Latinx Graduation and witnessed as parents walked across the stage with their children to place a stoll upon their shoulders. We went to a First Generation ceremony which recognized the milestone students had accomplished. And of course, the grandiose Commencent. That incredible moment as the youngest of four received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University. Well, technically the Harvard College.
Thus the four children exceeded all expectations. Despite the stigma of dropping out of high school and teenage pregnancies, the four children graduated from college. Friends and family constantly asking our parents, how did you do it? Apparently it is strange to have all children graduate... according to one friend, its usually just one of the children who graduates, but to have all children? Honestly, I don't think its weird. But this is an accomplishment for our parents. A woman who fought for her education and a man who barely made it out of his third year in elementary school raised four, hard working children. And they in turn did the one thing their parents ever asked for: get an education.
Moral of the story? As my younger sister said, Si se pudo, por la Familia!
I was happily walking out of Victoria's Secret with my new bra and free panty. (Yay for angel card perks!) My sister was on a phone call as she walked ahead of me and my friend. As we walked out of the store, trying to figure out where to go next, I hear, "Excuse me did-" I turn around to see a VS employee looking at us.
"Did you purchase a fragrance?"
"Oh, can I check your bag? The beeper went off."
We heard nothing. "... Sure"
My friend looked at me and said, "It's because I'm a big black dude."
The employee gave me my bag and said, "Thank you." I grabbed it, not looking her in the eyes and walked out of that store, absolutely mute. What just happened? We did not hear the alarm at all. Did you really stop us because of some secret alarm? Are you even allowed to do that? I use to work in retail and we were not allowed to check bags or pockets as customers left the store, no matter our suspicions.
Did she just racially profile us?
I was stunned. Why didn't I ask why she was stopping us? Why didn't I ask to hear this secret alarm? Why didn't I say anything?
I am angry at the employee, but I'm angrier at myself for not saying anything. I'm angry because I did not stand up for my friend. I'm angry because he felt obligated to lighten the mood afterwards, for my sake.
The worst part? The employee was a woman of color.
UPDATE: After my sister read this post, she asked if the employee specifically asked about the fragrance. When I said yes, she could not believe it. She and our friend were looking at fragrances for a good while before meeting me at the cash registers. Two employees had gone up to them to ask if they needed help.
Last weekend I finally went to the Picasso & Rivera show at LACMA, titled Conversations Across Time. Luckily two days before it closed... For some reason I thought it was open until June!! That is beside the point.
It was incredible. And not because I was seeing works of two masters. Quite the opposite in fact. The show literally reflected the concept of conversations across time and how the artists grew, both on their own and after each other's influence. Because if you didn't know. Picasso and River were actually friends. They eventually drifted, as many friendships do, but it was evident the influence they each had on the other's work.
But as I said, it wasn't that I saw masters, it was that I saw their beginnings. The show included their early figure drawings and studies, clasic self portraits and assignments. I was floored. My sister, who accompanied me, gestured at the drawings and said, "They did the same things we did!" Yes. indeed they did.
My sister pulled me away to read the description of Rivera's 1906 self portrait. It read:
As I began to cry silently, she said, "That's you!"
I looked at young Rivera's portrait and saw myself in his eyes. I too lacked confidence in expressing myself through my work, especially in the environment I found myself during my undergrad years... European culture = White culture. Its a scary thing for a young Latina! I was so hesitant to say anything with my work because I was scared of that deafening silence called ignorance. But at some point...
I made that leap.
And never looked back.
My bad.... I could give you a million excuses as to what happened, but reality is, I just wasn't motivated. I was basically freaking out about my future and I somehow ended up stuck in the same place.
BUT. Graduate applications are done. I got a job. I got into a school and I got Friday's off from work. I'm using this time to update my blog, work on my latest project, and more importantly, GET MY SHOP UP AND RUNNING. So from now on, expect updates on Fridays!
Let's talk about this whole graduate school situation.
The application process took three months. I started gathering materials and writing my statements late October with my first deadline being December 1rst (for two schools). I applied to six schools with deadlines ranging from early December to mid January. It was a rough. I rewrote my artist statement six times, and that's not including the drafts for each. As painful as the process was, it served as reassurance that I chose the right path for myself. Art is my passion, and knowing I was working to do this for a living had me all giddy.
Waiting was the easiest and hardest part. After submitting my applications, I was extremely relieved to not have to worry about deadlines and statements. I focused more on finding a better job and kind of ended up settling. Not settling on the job, but in life. I had a good job. I was spending loads of time with my family. I was content with where I was.
Then BOOM. I got some calls to interview! Which brings to pre-application period. I had spoken to alumni of the schools I was applying to and others who attended graduate school. The general consensus was, "Don't be surprised if you don't get in. I had to apply X amount of times before I got in anywhere." You can imagine how disheartening that was considering I was paying these application fees I could barely afford, only to be told I will most likely fail. Imagine my reaction when I was called for interviews from three schools. Now imagine when I was actually accepted into those three schools: California Institute of the Arts, California College of the Arts, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (By the way, I was rejected from Otis College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. But does that even matter when I got into some of the best institutions in the country?)
I was ecstatic, over the moon, and in disbelief. Everyone was so confident in me, but I was so unsure. Not of my work or skills, but of my application itself. I create images because I can't express myself with words. Even though portfolios are an important part of the application process, I was still waiting to get six rejections letters. Instead, I found myself with three letters, uncertain of where they'll take me.
After much consideration, I am happy to announce, that I will be moving to the the Bay Area and pursuing my MFA in Fine Art at California College of the Arts! I fell in love with the program and its many opportunities to work with local artists as well as its social practice program. I was somewhat hesitant because I didn't spend as much time in the Bay Area as I did in Chicago or Los Angeles, so my perception was limited to what I had seen during my two day visit in April. After speaking with many people who live in the area, I decided to take that chance. I am excited for this opportunity and itching to get to back into a studio and converse with fellow artists.
Until then, I have less than three months in Los Angles to wrap up some business. I intend to sell as much of my work as I can to help with living expenses in the bay. So keep an eye out for my shop! I also want to finish a project I started in November. I told myself it was okay to stop when I did, but I will finish it before I start school.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and to those who continue to support me. I will be updating this blog weekly, or more if I can.
It's been over two months since the end of my summer residency at the University of Puget Sound. Let's just say it was a welcome vacation yet I have been itching to work once again.
At the end of the residency, I moved back home in Los Angeles, which turned out to be a huge adjustment. The environments are completely different. People are nicer in Tacoma, Washington. There is more than one season, while here in LA it is forever summer. But LA is where everything started. It is so uniquely diverse both racially and economically, and growing up here, I didn't necessarily notice it until I left for college four years ago.
Now that I am back, ideas have been flying left and right.
However there is one idea that has been burned into my mind since June. I finally went out to purchase some printing items. To be honest, I really wanted to buy some screenpinting materials, but that wouldn't just burn a hole in my pocket, it would burn my pants off. Yeah. Its really pricey. So I adjusted, and purchased items for relief printing. It still works and I think the process and material will work in my favor.
I will share more on this project as I go along. It is an extremely personal project, and quiet frankly, I'm terrified of stopping mid way. However personal it may be, it is important to me to put it out there.