Jan 13, 2014

BEHIND THE LABEL

How often we hear about garment workers, the conditions in which they work, the abuses they suffer, the corporations that turn their backs on the situations. Added to the injustice is that they are often locked inside the buildings, fires break out, and the bodies are all that remain to tell the tale. The latest tragedy involves an entire building collapsing in Bangladesh, killing 1135 people and injuring 2500. Whenever I hear these tales, I ask myself, "what can we as consumers do?" and then I renew my vow to never buy from certain manufacturers whose lines are produced in these conditions


and I return to buying only hand- made garments or shopping at second-hand stores, mercados, etc. 

After many years of collecting fabric pieces from my former social enterprise, Mariposas San Miguel, I realized that I had a bag of strips of colorful fabrics, too small to be used in that project. So I used them to create a huipil. 






The leftover strips serve as a metaphor for the those workers who are so disposable, simply used and tossed aside by the very corporations who produce the highest quality, most fabulous designs, that all of us have been told we "must have" in order to be happy, successful, loved and admired. 

The strips were easily sewn onto a huipil made of other recycled pieces patched together. To add impact, I asked some friends to send or bring labels from their clothes, to affix to the huipil itself. Then I invited some others to join me in an art+action in San Miguel. 

So, one beautiful afternoon in December, Joy Wesson, Melissa Bastos, Ronny Khalil and Rebecca Peterson stood in the central plaza with me, between the Parroquia and the jardin, to interview passers-by. 



I wore the huipil, one of the few that actually can be worn. We took turns holding a poster that asked the question "who made your clothes?" / "quien hizo tu ropa?" that also featured a photo of a young girl in a maquiladora in Ciudad Juárez. 

As people stopped to read the sign, we told them what we were doing and asked invited them to participate. When they did, we asked if we could look at the labels in their clothing.




To our suprise, many were clueless about sweatshops, and had never actually thought about what's "behind the label." Others offered their opinions about how to change the system, the power of boycotting and the necessity of putting pressure on clothing manufacturers. 





As Ronny got some video footage and Melissa grabbed the sound bites, Joy photographed and Rebecca and I convinced some to donate their labels to the project. 

When they agreed, they were asked to pin their label on the huipil, increasing their level of interest and participation. 







We found that it can be a great deal of fun to interact with others about possible solutions to disturbing issues. Working together to find solutions helps us all feel more empowered to create change. 



And as the afternoon was winding down, a strolling musician clown livened things up and we danced together in the street. I love art+actions, let's do another soon!




Jan 5, 2014

WHERE IS ALAIDE FOPPA?

The new year brings with it so many changes, within and without, internal and external.  2014 promises to be a year of travel and art in combination... what a mezcla perfecta! Also a year of activism, of making more art that brings awareness, of honoring those who have come before and shown us the courage and strength it takes to use la voz

Today, as I awoke to the singing birds and blue skies of la Antigua, Guatemala, I was surprised to open La Prensa Libre to find a 2-pg. spread about the disappeared poet and writer Alaide Foppa, who would be turning 100 yrs. old this year. 
http://www.prensalibre.com/cultura/Literatura-cultura-guatemalteca-Guatemala_0_1060693929.html 

Six years ago I made my first homage to her, a huipil sculpture using one of her poems in spanish on one side, english the other. 


Huipil sculpture for Alaide Foppa, 8x13", paper, wax,
wire, wood, 2009

ELLA SE SIENTE A VECES

She feels sometimes like a thing forgotten
in the dark corner of the house
as the fruit eaten indoors by birds of prey,
like shade without face or weight.
Their presence is barely slight vibration
in still air. 
She feels they exchange glances
And they become fog between the clumsy arms who try to surround her. 
She would like to be 
a juicy orange in the hand of a child
-empty noncrust an image that 
shines in the mirror - nonshade that
disappears and a clear voice -
nonheavy silence sometimes heard.



Born in Barcelona in 1914, to a Argentine father and a Guatemalan mother, Foppa spent much of her youth in Italy. She met and married a Guatemalan politician, Alfonso Solórzano, and became a citizen of that country until they and their children exiled to Mexico after the 1954 coup.




In Mexico, Foppa became professor at UNAM, offering the first course in the sociology of women ever taught at a Latin American university. She was co-founder of fem, the first feminist journal in Latin America, and produced over 400 radio programs on "foro de mujeres", the women's forum.

When she went to Guatemala to visit family in Dec. 1980, she was disappeared, just weeks after her 67th birthday. This last December, just before my own 67th birthday, I completed this homage huipil for her.

UNA FRUTA PROHIBIDA, huipil tribute to Alaide Foppa, mixed media. 2013
Collection of Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, La Antigua, Guatemala


LAS PALABRAS

Suelen hablarle a alguien
los poetas.
Se dirigen al pueblo
con una espada reluciente 
o con una espiga 
en la mano,
canta dulces canciones
al ser armado,
revelan a nuestro asombro
deslumbrantes paisajes
y dejan flores 
en su camino.
Y yo, 
en mi oscuro nido
llevo la poesía
como un mal oculto
como un secreto
con un fruto prohibido.