The Cyber Arte Exhibition: A Curator’s Journey Through Community and Controversy
Tey Marianna Nunn, Ph.D
When the exhibition Cyber Arte: Tradition meets Technology opened at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe on February 25th, 2001, a tremendous amount of press had already been written in such publications as American Art, Art and Antiques, Hispanic Magazine, and the Santa Fe New Mexican. The reviews, prior to opening day praised this small exhibition of less then 600 square feet for the cutting edge show that it was meant to be-- and that it was. Few of them mentioned the now famous piece by Alma López titled Our Lady.
My original curatorial intent in putting together the Cyber Arte exhibition was to highlight the Hispanic and Latina/o arts and cultural presence on the World Wide Web. (One of the handouts being passed around is one from the exhibition with Latino arts and cultural websites as well as Spanglish terms for the Internet published with permission from the New York Times). I had originally titled the exhibition “ņY tu que?” which in Spanish means “and you what?”-- a play on the Y 2 K craze. The show was meant to open the 21st century in 2000 at MOIFA but plans were put on the back burner because the director at the time thought the Y2 K problem was just a fad.
The secondary purpose of the exhibition, as it was originally conceived, was to address stereotypes of Latinos, technology, and art especially since we are one of the “minority” groups greatly affected by the digital divide that stems from the lack of computer access in schools and homes--not only in New Mexico, but nationally. I had noticed for a number of years that many traditional and contemporary artists were looking towards the computer to either set up their own websites or to create art. I was especially intrigued by the fact that many of these artists experimenting with technology were women. Sometimes in our culture women and technology just don’t come out in the same sentence. I wondered how these women negotiate the borders of identity as it pertains to combining tradition and technology? Thus, Cyber Arte: Tradition meets Technology was born. The exhibition was one of the first in the country to highlight computer art. Little did I know it would become a metaphor for tradition meeting modernity, as well as many other issues, in Santa Fe, New Mexico and beyond.
For the exhibition, I chose the work of four Hispana / Latina / Chicana artists: Teresa Archuleta- Sagel, Elena Baca and Marion Martínez all from New Mexico, and Alma López from California. These strong, talented and intelligent women explore traditional elements by using technology. Whether it is digitally rendering family photos to convey family histories, or constructing saints out of computer parts, each artist grapples with how to be modern and traditional simultaneously. What I realized as the show went up is that all four artistas were responding to high-tech modern times and at the same time, they were saving tradition. (One of the other exhibition handouts being passed around features brief artist statements by the four women).
Teresa Archuleta-Sagel from EspaĖola, New Mexico is an award-winning traditional Hispanic weaver represented in our permanent textile collection. A few years back Archuleta- Sagel got environmentally ill from the weaving process and as a result she had to set her weaving aside. Needing a creative outlet she turned to the computer. Her digital paintings and use of family photos and religious icons provided for cathartic healing and expression.
Elena Baca from Albuquerque also uses family stories, photos and religious components in her digital and print process. Along with these cultural elements Baca has begun a series of “fakelifes” playing upon the stilllife tradition found in both folk and fine art. In these pieces she is making commentary on tradition and modernity- natural and artificial.
Marion Martínez from Glorieta creates religious images and traditional matachines masks from old circuit boards and other computer parts she finds in “the Black Hole” up in Los Alamos. For Martínez the process in which she creates is very spiritual and devotional in the same way the traditional santeros and santeras of Northern New Mexico sculpt and paint their images in wood.
I first met Alma López four years ago in Mexico City. I was drawn to her work and that of the other artists specifically because they were combining traditional folk and cultural iconography and recasting it to reflect the 20th and now 21st centuries. Among the works of Alma’s I chose for the exhibition were images of women and the border including La Linea, Santa NiĖa de Mochis, California Fashion Slaves and Juan Soldado.
When I selected Alma’s Our Lady for the exhibition, it was based on my knowledge of current discourse, as well as that over the last 30 years or so, of Chicana and Latina artists and writers who have strongly felt the need to reshape and recast the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe into something they can personally identify with. As La Reina de las Americas (the Queen of the Americas) she is an image that affects all of us.
The Mexican image of La Virgen de Guadalupe appeared in 1531. At that time, it was dramatically changed from the image of the same name in Spain. She had indigenous features and elements when she appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac. Later in the early 19th century and the Mexican War for Independence her image was utilized to help Father Miguel Hidalgo and those who fought for freedom from Spain. Around this time the colors of her dress and cloak, as well as the wings of the Angel that appears at the bottom of her feet, changed to reflect Mexicanidad, or Mexican identity, with the colores nacionales (national colors) of red, white and green. Later Cesar Chávez used her image in the United Farm Workers (UFW) struggle for farm workers rights. So, even before the recasting by contemporary artists and writers, the image of la Virgen de Guadalupe was used for political and personal statements and reflected the changing times. In the 1970s Chicana artists such as Ester Hernández with her Virgen de Guadalupe defendiendo los derechos de los Chicanos and Yolanda López with her triptych of her grandmother, her mother and herself rendered as Guadalupe, interpreted the icon as much less passive than the traditional image. Other images by these same artists La Ofrenda and Tableau Vivant provided very personal interpretations. Men got into the act too with Alfredo de Batuc’s Seven Views of City Hall and a soap package from Mexico featuring the folk saint El NiĖo Fidencio dressed as Guadalupe. There is even Mita Curon’s Guadalupe Baby. Finally, months before the Cyber Arte exhibition opened, an edited version of Alma López’s Our Lady appeared on the an award-winning cover of a book, Puro Teatro: a Latina Anthology, published by the University of Arizona Press. Armed with all of this information and more, Our Lady was selected as an important addition to Cyber Arte and a symbol of women negotiating tradition with technology.
INSTALLATION AND OPENING
The exhibition was installed in the Contemporary Changing Gallery a space attached to the Museum’s permanent Hispanic Heritage Wing’s Familia y Fé exhibition. This Changing Gallery space had been mandated by the original Hispanic community advisory board to showcase contemporary artists and thus tradition, continuity, and change. The adjacent larger permanent exhibition highlights two of the most important components of New Mexican Hispanic life- Familia y Fé--family and faith-- and is exemplified by extraordinary pieces of Spanish Colonial art including santos and retablos and a number of traditional images of La Virgen de Guadalupe. I’d like to add that the Contemporary Changing Gallery is the only gallery space dedicated to Contemporary Hispanic Art in the entire Museum of New Mexico system comprised of five museums.
Three weeks after Cyber Arte opened a protest started in full force-the objective to remove the image of Our Lady from the exhibition and the Museum. As the first wave of this very emotional protest úemotional from all sides-- gained energy- arguments of insider-outsider, taxpayer funded institutions, church verse state, first amendment rights, censorship and self-censorship, gender, sexuality, education and class, as well as who had the right to use the Guadalupe image, rose quickly to the surface. Even the Archbishop of Santa Fe voiced his opinion in the press and called Raquel Salinas, the model for Our Lady and a rape survivor, a “tart” and a “prostitute.”
The events of these first weeks began an extremely difficult and painful year and a half for me personally, for the artists, for my colleagues, and for the community-- a period that has not entirely gone away. One of the main protestors declared a “holy war” ú his words-- on the museum. The timing of his comments last year is especially poignant today as they occurred just after the Taliban destroyed the buddahs and Mayor Guiliani was calling for a decency committee in New York City. As a sidebar, it is interesting to note that the Museum of International Folk Art houses and cares for the Archdiocese’s collections of religious objects but this fact was rarely mentioned.
I, along with the artists, my colleagues, and supporters, received threatening phone calls, letters and personal attacks. The artwork was called blasphemous and sacrilegious. I was called insensitive and malicious. I was accused of Cyber Porn and Catholic bashing. I was told God would strike me down and I was even accused of not being Hispanic. It was declared that I was starting a new religion and promoting Satanism. Members of our own Board of Regents called me and demanded that I go immediately into the gallery and remove the piece. One Regent also told me that my decision to include the piece was one of the greatest misjudgments since that of Helen of Troy.
Although supporters always outnumbered those calling the “Bikini” Virgin blasphemous, one would have never known it from the unbalanced and polarizing media coverage (I can say that now that many members of the Press have since apologized to me). A newspaper editorial came out saying that the curator of the exhibition should have been more sensitive. Of course those who know me laughed, as I am more often than not too sensitive about everything. After reading that editorial I must have cried for two weeks. Dozens of articles and political cartoons followed. Some of the more difficult things that were said included words to the effect that because I was educated I had lost touch with my community and that I was a thinker-- and not a believer. My integrity, my scholarship, and my identity were all challenged, and for most of last year, I was vilified in the local press. Because of my unique family name the rumor also spread that I was the head of a secret Vietnamese lesbian sisterhood. This by the way was news to my husband who in turn was told he was sleeping with the devil.
On April 4, 2001, during the first of two museum-sponsored public meetings on the issue, both Alma López and I were effectively silenced by the protestors and kept from ever giving our statements or telling our points of view to the public.
I’d like to read to you two brief excerpts from the prepared statement I wrote for that meeting.
I am one of a handful of Hispanic / Latina / o curators working in mainstream institutions in the United States--in my case, the Museum of International Folk Art. And, I am the only one in the Museum of New Mexico system. As such I have a tremendous responsibility. I am charged with the challenging task of interpreting and representing our diverse and wonderfully multi-layered culture and community. I have worked very hard to get this position in order to provide Hispanic and Latino leadership and interpretation within the Museum of New Mexico. In this position of course I must be sensitive to Catholic Hispanics of Northern New Mexico, but I must be equally sensitive to the large number of Presbyterian Hispanics, the Sephardim, recently-arrived immigrant populations, the Mexican and Central American populations, Newyoricans, Cubanos, PuertoriqueĖos, Latinos and non-Latinos, gays and lesbians, artists and non-artists, Nuevomexicanos and yes—even people from California.
My statement continued:
I do empathize with the parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and others who feel the piece “blasphemous” and I commend them on their tireless crusade against “Our Lady,” but I never would have selected the piece for Cyber Arte if I did not strongly feel that it had an important and timely message about Hispanic culture and especially about Hispanas and Latinas. It certainly has created an important dialog within our community and state.
These words were never publicly spoken until November 2001, when I testified in front of the State Legislative Finance Committee who was threatening to pull the Museum’s funding. This occurred seven months later than I had hoped and one month after museum administration closed the Cyber Arte exhibition early in the spirit of reconciliation.
As mentioned, my statement was originally written for that first April 4th public meeting. Alma and I were both scheduled to speak at that meeting but were prevented from doing so. Law enforcement authorities because of the extremely intimidating, emotionally charged and possibly violent atmosphere canceled it. Upon news of the cancellation, Alma and I were immediately surrounded by people shouting “burn her, burn them.” We were escorted away by security staff and U.S. Marshals who helped us get back to the museum in a get-a-way car and motorcade.
Things got worse before they got better. Death and bomb threats continued--so much so that the FBI was enlisted to bug and monitor our phone system. Museum administration wrote a letter of apology to the archbishop. The Committee on Sensitive Materials, which previously only dealt with NAGPRA, issues met and considered whether “Our Lady” was a ritual object. The Archbishop and many priests sermonized from the pulpit against the museum and the artists. The ACLU threatened to bring forth a lawsuit against the museum. My “Danger Educated Chicana t-shirt” purchased at NACCS (National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies) made the six o’clock news. Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), the same group that is trying to rid Brazil of the Samba held a national rosary rally and prayer vigil on museum grounds. The exhibition closed early against the wishes of the four artists and the curator. Nevertheless public hearings continued and lawsuits were filed. The New Mexico State Legislature threatened to pull our funding citing no separation of church and state in New Mexico. A couple of state senators and representatives also sponsored a memorial to investigate my qualifications and to issue a censure of my behavior. Things did not begin to quiet down until almost a year to the day of the exhibition opening when a state district court judge issued a ruling stating that the curator was not liable for not holding a public hearing about including Our Lady before the exhibition went up. The ruling went out on the national Associated Press wire service.
On October 30, 2002, almost a year to the day that Our Lady was removed and the Cuber Arte Exhibition came down, a televised gubernatorial debate was held. New Mexico’s three candidates for governor, John Sanchez (Republican), David Bacon (Green Party) and Bill Richardson (Democrat) were asked to respond to the following question: “How would you have handled the Our Lady controversy last year, when many Catholics protested an artwork on display at the state Museum of International Folk Art that depicted the Virgin clad only in flowers?” The candidates responded in the following manor: Sanchez “I would have worked hard to bring the two sides together but this is also a first amendment rights issue. Bacon: “It is a 1st amendments rights issue and I would have asked the museum to open an exhibition showing the history and importance of Guadalupe in Hispanic and Native American culture.” Richardson, former Secretary of Energy and UN Ambassador, replied: ”I was personally offended by the “statue” and I support the archbishop for intervening in this situation.”
Copyright © 2003 Smithsonian Institution
Aesthetics Beauty: Transcript of Discussion Session
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Zamudio-Taylor and it's my pleasure to ask some few questions, string in a tensile-like fashion hopefully some of the issues dealt with, and open up the floor for discussion of these most interesting, sharp, provocative presentations.
And this panel as the other panel I think is also very indicative of our new generation of scholars and curators and professionals. And it's very important that this conference is taking place and it's emblematic of the state of the field insofar as we no longer need to legitimize our field of study and our professional preparation.
And I think that for future conferences it would be very interesting to have nonLatino colleagues from both the community base as well as major institutions participate in the panels as discussants or as presenters so that we can take this moment on to the next step, which has to do with a dialogue and intervention in wider professional constructs.
The title of the panel was developed by the organizers, "Esthetics and Beauty," and, like our like our usage of "mestizaje" and of issues having to do with slavery, these are terms that are completely loaded intellectually and with a lineage that I think is important for us to deal with.
And all the panelists dealt with esthetics and beauty by means of their focused and critical sharp object analysis of their experience or the artists they are working with. All of them at one point or another did utilize the term "esthetics" or formal issues or conceptual issues.
So I think it's very important for us to think about how we can challenge and differentiate ourselves from that baggage which goes from Aristotle's "Poetics" on to its medieval versions either in the Iberian Peninsula or in what is now Europe to the Renaissance and Baroque rereading of the Greek classics and all the esthetic debates at that time and on to our modern era, which is actually the body of knowledge that most informs us, which has to do with enlightenment, that is to say, Kant's concepts of beauty and esthetics on to Hegel on to Marx and on to 20th century post- modernism so that it's very important for us to define and defy that tradition as we are utilizing that terminology.
Another thread I think through the presentations has to do with issues about professional, artistic, and curatorial agency that involves issues about self- representation, choice of the object or subject matter that we are dealing with, and issues of subjective agency and practice and its repercussion in wider fields.
And by that I mean it's very interesting for us to see how indexical the materials that the panelists chose to work with relate to the role of the Latino and Latina intellectual, the role of the Latino and Latina curator, and how we relate to our larger and wider communities as well as to those communities that in many respects historically have marginalized us as communities.
I'll begin with a couple of points that I think are very important that Rocio dealt with and that has to do with the contextualization of art and particularly art of Latino and persons of color in the States within the larger context of visual culture, particularly aspects dealing with style, with passion, and with urban culture, and how these artists are redefining that field. So while they are partaking of the same materials and signs and symbols as their counterparts like Jeff Kuhns and Cindy Sherman and Nan Golden, who Rocio mentioned, there is also an operation that's very similar to what Tere pointed out with the calendars, that is to say, the usage of similar imagery or ambiance or semiotic systems but for different purposes.
That I think is a very important aspect of that presentation. And a point that also needs to be addressed is how do we work with Latino artists who don't want to be in Latino exhibitions? So that, for example, the work of Luis Gespert, who is a Cuban-American and actually trained at Yale, is I think very suitable and very important for Rocio's proposal at the same time that artists shies away from being essentialized within Latino constructs. So I think that's a really important issue, which is how the curator and the professional and the researcher negotiate these shifts of identities, Latino/Latina, Chicano/Chicana, post-Chicano/post-Chicana, post-Latino, Latin American, et cetera.
With respect to Ondine's presentation what I found extremely important is the relationship between art as a form of knowledge and as a practice of knowledge and its relationship to the broader material and visual culture that in this case is politicized within the context of Los Angeles.
And I thought that his relationships were extremely sharp and poignant about those relationships and about how one can read with an art historical background and an interdisciplinary background these seemingly disconnected issues and themes.
But like Luis Gespert in Rocio's proposal Ruben Ortiz is also interesting. One can also define him as a Chicanoized Mexican. One can also think of Enrique Chamoya and Guillermo ÄÄÄÄ and, to be sure, the diaspora and the hybrid in the border is redefining our concept but at the same time there is a border and many times Latinos and Chicanos have issues with Mexicans and Latin Americans because the politics of power imbalances still exist in terms of art market and in terms of exhibitions and in terms of context. So I found that extremely invigorating presentation in terms of the agenda.
Judith's presentation I thought was most fascinating because it shifted the attention away from the object and from more exhibition-based proposals or analysis of objects to pedagogical and more conceptual conformative aspects of knowledge and how that also informs a concept of esthetics or beauty when the process and the site and the learning that takes place is in fact a category of that esthetics or of that beauty.
Tey's work also touched on those aspects of beauty and esthetics insofar as how new technologies within new forms of agency, namely, Hispana and Chicana and Latina use of these media, creates images that defy and define paradigms and in this case are particularly interesting and important for us because it touches on subject matter that is taboo and sacred from the communities we represent.
And so how do we negotiate as curators these widening forms of technology and agency and media when they're dealing with such loaded subject matter? And it was I think a very important presentation for us today.
And lastly Tere's presentation, which dealt also with issues about esthetics and self-representation and tradition but how that use of the calendars becomes a hybrid use of a tradition and an imagery when it's decontextualized and placed in another politic, in another context, particularly for a reading of how the myth is reimagined and how it conforms art for the Chicano and Chicana's social imaginary.
So I think that these issues of what are the aspects of beauty and aesthetics and how that relates to broader issues that we have and aspects that have to do with how we name ourselves and how we conceive ourselves and how we negotiate our research and professional duties I think is a good way to begin.
MS. ARANDA-ALVARADO: I actually have a question for Tey. Raquel Salinas, the model for the Vergine de Guadalupe, is a performance artist and you mentioned several times her past experiences of trauma, violence against women. Yet she is a performance artist who writes her own scripts, assumes multiple roles, gets in front of people up on stages, and performs a kind of self-healing, is defining a voice and making a presence and telling her story about victimization, brutalization, but also self-empowerment. That's the focus of her work.
And those stories, her performances, what happens outside of the actual representation of the Vergine de Guadalupe by Alma Lopez, what happens outside, is directly connected to that image. So how was that broader social context of Raquel as model of Vergine communicated to the museum audience?
DR. NUNN: At first it wasn't communicated to the museum audience. It started getting communicated through some media interviews because she was in Los Angeles and the exhibit was in New Mexico.
The museum is looking at some point at holding a conference about the Our Lady controversy and having Raquel come and do her performance. We wanted her to do it then but for many reasons we decided that it wasn't a good idea. The passion in all of this was so great that it was not safe for a very long time for her to be there.
Without going into a lot of details but just to give you an example, Sandra Cisneros came to support us and to read her piece, which Our Lady is inspired after, Guadalupe as Sex Status from the original Guadalupe collection edited by Ana Castillo. In looking at this and looking at all the dynamics, and Sandra donated her time and her reading, we ended up having the reading in Albuquerque and not in Santa Fe. That's how heated it was.
So we talked to Raquel a number of times to bring her in but it was a mutual decision on everybody's part that it wasn't the right time. But when we do the conference we will have her.
QUESTION: I was going to ask Tey to also talk about perhaps during that same time there was an appropriation of that whole situation by some artists in Santa Fe. Paula Lopez had an exhibit by other artists who pulled out some of their stuff that they felt that they weren't able to necessarily publicly exhibit and Goldie Garcia also was able to do a performance piece so that was sort of an immediate response by some artists in Santa Fe that was very interesting, I think.
DR. NUNN: Yes. It was called Las Malcrianas (?) and it was held in a private gallery.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: Yasmin.
MS. RAMIREZ: Well, it's interesting that I actually gave a talk around the time of this protest called "Sacrilege" discussing this and also the virgin that was protested in the Sensation show. And I was just wondering, actually, the Sensation show did proceed this and whether you think that in fact what was happening in New York might have played a role in people's hypersensitivity to this?
Because what I have explained to the audience was that in fact a curator can't really anticipate because sometimes they blame the curator and say well, didn't you know that this would happen and it's, like, you can't anticipate necessarily which image is going to cause controversy. And I was particularly surprised because of the historical recreations within Chicano culture of the Vergine that that particular image would be necessarily controversial.
And, number two, because it was on this book cover and there was nothing necessarily protested about it being on the book cover you would imagine as a curator that it's a green light to go ahead and put it in your show. So I just want to know a little bit more about the context in which you made the decision, okay, this is a good piece versus not?
DR. NUNN: I'll answer this really briefly so we can get to some other questions. When I was considering the piece for the show I was really worried about the breasts on the angel holding up Our Lady, concerned enough to meet with the education department.
I wasn't worried about the Our Lady image, the image of Raquel as Our Lady. But I really was worried about the breasts because we do have a lot of school groups going through.
But the education department, we all met, we talked about it, and we have a lot of nude folk art. We have a lot of male nudity and a lot of female nudity. And so that's the part that I was worried about. I was not worried about Our Lady.
Among the many things that happened and, as I said, this is very complex and northern New Mexico is at times a very unique place, which is one of the reasons why this got so heated, the bikini. A male reporter used the term "Bikini Virgin." "Bikini Virgin" became a flashpoint just like "Dung Virgin" and became a major flash point.
And all people needed to hear was there's a Virgin of Guadalupe in a bikini or sometimes the angel and the Virgin got melded together and it was a naked Virgin without seeing the image. So it just created a lot of emotion. That was a very key point in all of that.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: I think that from these experiences no doubt there are, totems and taboos and sacred terrains that curatorially I think we do now have to take into account. For example, when they exhibited Paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico there were guards specifically sen out in the galleries so that people don't begin to bring offerings and burn candles in the museum. It's that powerful.
Any questions or comments, please, preferably questions for the presenters? Yes.
QUESTION: I just wanted to begin with an acknowledgement to the panelists. I think you individually but yet collectively in a voice have stumbled upon a very important kind of methodological tool which I recall from political economy. At least in the social sciences that's what we call it. Each of you in a very different way have engaged the political economy of art practice, of curating the production of art, and I think that's the way in which Chicano/ Latino scholars should look at art or else they run the danger of missing exactly what's going on. I wanted to commend that activity.
The question is drawing on Judith's work, which I was very inspired by, for the other panelists how do you draw that out in practice? For half of you it's in the museum and the other half of you it's in your teaching.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: Good question.
MS. ROMO: I'll start first. I think for me one of the things that I've been interested in as a curator is looking at specifically Chicano art but then obviously you have to look at the linkages with Mexican art because not all but a lot of the influences and I think at one point in one of Tomas' readings he talked about nutrient sources and it certainly is because in some ways a lot of the art that you saw obviously it's filtered through the fact that Chicanos have either grown up, born here in the United States, or like myself came when I was very, very young. So in a sense you can't avoid those influences so in a sense trying to look at these different sources and then take them and then in my case either through writing or ideally through exhibitions being able to pull all these images together.
And this is an exhibition I really do want to do because I think it would be really great to not only see the original paintings because some of these, I mean, just visually they're stunning not only in terms of the images but also the sizes.
Some of these paintings, like the one called Sochi (?), it's, like, about 10 feet by 8 feet. I mean, just visually it has this great impact. To be able to take that and then explore more that whole concept of how Chicanos took those images and reworked them and also get more into why they were gravitating towards those images and what kinds of things they wanted to do with them and, of course, I consider myself a product of the Chicano movement so I am going to look at the social implications, the political implications, and what somebody talked about, the power relations and looking at all of those things because I think that there's no such thing as art in a vacuum.
I mean, I don't care what anybody tells you about artists. He grew up in a society, grew up with a certain idea of esthetics, and whether they're trying to refute them or not they're still a product of their own upbringing and what they were exposed to. So in a sense that's what has informed my work as a scholar and as a curator. So I'm going to continue to look at those different angles and try to put exhibitions that look at these waves in a totally different way and, like I said you can look at the calendars nostalgically and say they do represent a certain time period and a very romantic time period and appreciate them for that. But then, like I said, if you keep digging deeper you've got to know where those artists came from that actually produced them and then what they bring along with them that's reflected in that art.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: Tomas.
QUESTION: Well, I want to follow the commendations that have already started but I want everybody here to recognize what a historic moment this is; that is, we started out with Gary Keller, who is a longtime activist, and his two books are really important, University of Arizona Press.
But I want to talk about the question of lineage because starting with the very first speaker yesterday I hope that we're all beginning to feel that there's a tradition and a lineage of scholarship and of knowledge that is being passed on and I'd like to tell a story about me.
When I came to Stanford the tradition there is when you go for tenure when you're given tenure after a lot of struggle you get to invite somebody to speak about the field. And I asked Don Fernando Alegria, who is a great Chilean scholar of Latin American literature, to speak. And what he spoke about was this tradition and this lineage. He said when I came to Stanford 30 years ago there was only Spanish literature, Peninsular Spanish literature, and all of us, we came from Chile, we came from wherever that was our tradition and I struggled very, very hard, and this is Fernando Alegria saying, to open up a space and to open up a genealogy and to open up a trajectory and to open up the fact that we also had a mind, we Latin Americans.
And I am very happy that tonight, we continue this tradition by having a young scholar, 35 years ago, me, when I have hair, who is continuing the tradition by now being a professor of Chicano literature. So I think that more than anything what this conference I hope makes all of us feel is that there is a lineage, and there is a tradition and, as everybody has said, you represent the next level. It's a really terrific day.
MS. ARANDA-ALVARADO: Since Tomas shared a story I want to share one, too. I remember the first time I saw the Diego Rivera exhibition, the retrospective, and I went to that exhibition and I stood in the first two galleries, where the cubist work was and I cried because I felt so angry that in an entire class on cubism at the graduate level that man's name was not mentioned once and I think part of our duty is to correct those things. And Tomas is leading all of us right now in that direction and that's what I try to do every day of my life.
And in answer to Karen's question to keep including things that are continually excluded from a museum. I'm lucky. At the place where I work we have a very long history of being the kind of place where because Jersey City is so diverse we reflect that in our programming even since the early 1970s. So I am very happy to be where I am but I continue to fight that same battle. It's very important.
MS. HUACUJA: I have something I wanted to say about lineage and political economy. The artists that I spoke about are very in touch with Chicano activism and Mexican and Latin American activism. And this idea of pedagogy, this idea of using art as a moment to point to the political economy and to agitate and activate, very much comes out of a Latin American lineage.
These artists of the 1960s and 70s who are now working in the 1990s and the new millennium know about the pedagogy of the oppressed and the pedagogy of hope and this idea of using art that does not point to the lineage saying art is this one discrete object and as exhibitors we put it on display and it emanates directly to you a sense of beauty. Rather, this Latin American lineage says art is the social relationships pertaining around and through the making of the art and as exhibitors we need to always point to those social relationships and as a scholar you certainly got us started 35 years ago so thank you.
DR. NUNN: As you can tell, I am the insensitive curator. I was just going to say that without getting too emotional that what I try and do in my work is always get the artist involved. My project before this, which is an interesting juxtaposition and one of these days I'll do a paper both of them, was called "Sin Hombre, Hispana and Hispano Artists of the New Deal Era," and it was a major recovery project started here at the Smithsonian. It's all Magdalena's fault and Gil's and everybody's and Tomas'.
That took seven years in recovering the voices, the art works, and the stories of the Hispano and Hispana, and I use that because of New Mexico, artists of the WPA because they were completely left out and that was a major community project. And because of that and just because of my experience here at the Smithsonian I just think it's very important not only to include our voices because the artists have such a tough time, and one of the very quick questions I was telling somebody the other day about the opening day of Cyber Arte where we had an artists panel and four artists. It was like a talk show, Oprah Winfrey, and I said, "How do you feel about having your work being in a folk art museum?"
And the artists started answering about folk art and their eloquent answers about I work with Marian Martinez with computer parts, I work with what's around me, and we're finally just so glad to be in the museum.
DR. CHAVOYA: I think the one thing that I can just say briefly is that because of this lineage but also I want to indicate the kind of relationship that the scholars, the generation of Tomas and others, have had with the artists, also, that that has also been a model that's been very important to me.
And I also want to say that as a result of that one of the things that I've been very self-reflective about throughout my whole process of graduate school and then becoming, as someone described, very inscribed in New England and now in his little ivies, right, these incredible places of privilege and teaching in one of the most distinguished undergraduate art history programs in the country now, is that one of the things that I've learned is that I never want to be an art critic.
And that doesn't mean that I don't want to use critical thinking and critical skills and so forth but that I really don't want to expend my time disliking and dissing, right, artists and their work and their contributions. I really do see myself and hope that I will always continue to be an arts advocate and that's something that I have learned very much from this lineage within Chicana and Latino art history.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: So just one closing statement. MS. MIERI: Don't close. What I'd like to say is that I think we need to skip the break and the next session on inter- generational issues I just want to invite everybody to come and not just from the art and beauty esthetics perspective but everybody to participate in this and then we'll break for lunch.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: Well, then what I'll do is I'll close this session and then open up the other session that follows on the intergenerational. And I think that given our contested histories and traditions there's also another very important aspect of this lineage, and that is the valor and courage to recognize the contributions of the prior generations and to also be able to hear the critique of the younger generations coming up and I think that's very, very characteristic of us, this intergenerational relationship and intercritical relationship between generations, and how we're able to come to the table and continue our practices with this complexity and dynamism of different positions involving our different histories and our different advocacies and agendas that relate to our personal and professional lives.
On that note I'd also like to close out this panel and open up the floor.
DR. CHAVOYA: But we're not on the hot seat for this next discussion.
MR. ZAMUDIO-TAYLOR: No, we're not on the hot seat for this next discussion but I think we need a moderator for the next discussion.
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