Myriam Gurba Talks to Favianna Rodriguez!

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Myriam Gurba is the author of Dahlia Season and many must-have chapbooks. She interviews Favianna Rodriguez for the RADAR blog. Catch Favianna Rodriguez on January 9th at the RADAR Reading Series and read more of Myriam’s work at http://lesbrain.wordpress.com and http://www.futuretensebooks.com/futuret/books.html.

In Mexico, there is a proverb that lumps tequila-drinkers in with finger-painters: Los niños y los borrachos siempre dicen la verdad. Kids and drunks always tell the truth.

Favianna Rodriquez’s straightforward art, art that manages to be straightforward even when it’s abstract, tells it like the woman sees it. It flows in the same vein as the aforementioned lumpy proverb so I guess la Favianna siempre dice la verdad!

Rodriguez’s art also practices reverse colonialism, which I suppose is decolonialism, and, therefore, the best kind of colonialism.

How does Rodriguez’s art accomplish this? Let me enumerate some ways. Through her political posters which get plastered to international surfaces. Through her art walls which broadcast histories braided to fantasias. By making her stencils and stickers available for free to activists. By creating Día De Los Muertos altar installations to honor dead Mexican movie stars. By belonging to art collectives and alliances. Through every frickin’ thing she does and she is always doing something. She is a doer.

Rodriguez’s art bursts into public, and sometimes private, spaces and blooms. Once you see it, you’ll feel pollinated. It pollinated me, and I didn’t mind. However, others have minded.

“My work has been vandalized. I don’t have a problem with that because I think that people are going to react to the work in inappropriate ways all the time. Sometimes, they’re not going to understand what I’m trying to say or sometimes they will understand and it’ll make them mad but I think that that’s the role of art and culture, to solicit responses from people so that we can create a dialogue. Of course I haven’t been happy when my work gets vandalized, especially when it’s a mural or when someone paints a penis on it, for example. However, at the same time, I do think that we as a society have had less and less access to public space and we need a public space where we can have discussions about our ideas. Sometimes that space becomes my artwork and that’s ok. I’m not against that, although it doesn’t make me happy; but, I also like that the art can sometimes make people upset and make them react in strong ways.” –palabras de la Favianna Rodriguez

Rodriguez uses hella old-fashioned techniques, like printmaking, along with the rather new fangled method of digital art, to crank out much of her oeuvre. Her color palette tends to be manic and tropical, like my abuelita’s bird collection or my hair in 1996. Favianna indulges in abstract self-portraits, too, portraits that are like elegant goddess doodles. But the bulk of her work focuses on people who are more clearly people and folks in the folksiest sense. They have bodies that the mainstream media loves to ignore and seldom celebrates. From Rodriguez’s posters, prints, and murals, faces with big nostrils and indigenous cheekbones glare at you. Bodies with girth and width plow the earth, run, and scream. Plenty of her female images boycott smiling and that is a beautiful thing. Consternated women are gorgeous. They never get enough face time.

Rodriguez gives it to them.

Rodriguez’s work doesn’t dress up its politics, it is naked politics, literally at times, and it critiques every variety of asshole. Misogynists, racists, classists, corporate fuckers and those melting our polar ice caps are some targets. Also, the Mexican revolutionary meme of el pueblo emerges a lot. Her work seeks to unite, impassion, and catalyze el pueblo. Technically, el pueblo translates to the city, and it refers to a cosmic-y, philosophical concept of community, but Rodriguez’s work takes el pueblo to a transnational level. Her work will take Iraq, connect it to Mexico, and connect that connection to your backyard’s dirt.

“I’m constantly inspired by struggles happening around the world — whether it’s fights for human rights, for immigrant rights, or against climate change. Those are the things that really inspire me and as I understand what activists are doing or as I understand an issue more and more, I get inspired by that and [that] translates into my work. I think that I’m just inspired when people who have traditionally been oppressed, who are facing racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia, really stand up to reclaim their humanity. Those are the things that inspire me and it’s where I get my ideas. I think that my ideas actually emerge from the work that people are doing around the world.” –more for La F

A thing about Rodriguez’s work that tickles my Chicana brain is that it puts Spanglish in the spotlight. Spanglish is the language of prophets because it is one of the blatant patois sung by the growing non-white plurality. It is a favorite among immigrants’ kids. It is a bridge.

“My parents … weren’t initially [very supportive of what I do] because given that they were migrants they really wanted me to have an education where I would pursue a career that would give me economic stability. That’s something they really pushed for when I was growing up so, art was something that was treated as a hobby not something that I was encouraged to pursue a career in. However, after I dropped out of college and after years of insisting that I would never be a doctor or a lawyer, my parents became very supportive of my work in my mid-twenties. It’s been over 10 years of them playing a very supportive role. They really like the work I do even though sometimes they don’t always understand it but, overall, they are kind of the reason that I’ve been able to succeed so much.” –her

Rodriguez’s work also uses “obscenity” as strategy. For example, she has nestled the words puto and joto into art pieces where, instead of being closeted, they come into the brain and provoke. I hope one question being provoked is, “What is a puto?” and that this question is actually asked aloud.

I think that there is still a lot of secrecy, shame and isolation when it comes to speaking about our sexuality or about other issues that people are shamed for. Whether it’s abuse, being queer, being from a migrant family or even being a person of color. We’re trained to think that there are certain things that we shouldn’t speak about and art is such a powerful way to get those ideas out into the world. So, I use art to break some of those stigmas because I think that just like those stigmas are constructed, they can be deconstructed when we say these words or when we show this kind of art out in the world more and more.” –mas and more


To get pollinated by Rodriguez’s art go to her website, http://www.favianna.com and visit her blog, where you can download her free slut power posters!

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