Block Prints, Block Heads and Artist’s Block

There have been a series of difficult and tense situations in the Casa in the last couple of weeks. Mike blamed goblins, but I think that explanation, unfortunately, dismisses the very human agency behind the violence and malice at play here. I can’t really get into details for reasons of security and confidentiality, but I’m impressed by how we’ve responded as a community in the face of adversity. (One of the incidents involved on of our refugee guests getting falsely arrested, beaten, and detained for approximately ten days on what appears to be nothing more than the basis of being a black African man. His treatment by police and other government officials is appalling. We’re now trying to see how to take action to seek justice for his case. This person is now rethinking whether Mexico is truly a viable option for him as a refugee fleeing violence. The reality is that racism is a real threat to vulnerable populations such as black refugees and greatly impacts their ability to live a safe, stable life here.)

For a daily dose of female empowerment, and to counterbalance the ills of society, I’ve been working tirelessly on a piece to submit with a women’s printmaking collective for an exhibition in Juárez in July. The deadline is fast-approaching, and I’m still in brainstorming and sketching mode. The piece is about gender violence, but must reflect a positive, as opposed to a victimizing message about women. Juárez is a symbolically important place for the festival/exhibition to take place, as it is scarred by the feminicides which reached a horrific rate in the early 2000′s. Although there are less murders now, the rates of violence against women remain devastating. Juárez is also located in the state of Chihuahua, and on the Mexico-U.S. border, which makes it a cross-roads for migrants going into Texas, as well as a city within a state with high levels of violence related to organized crime, corruption and impunity.

My linocut print is going to reflect a more local context, that of the neighborhood surrounding the Casa in Colonia Tabacalera; more specifically the few blocks of Puente de Alvarado between Metro Revolución and Metro Hidalgo. The idea behind the piece is that one day women will be able to walk in the street alone without being afraid of gender violence. The route I take home from the art collective requires walking along this strip which is territory of a prominent prostitution ring. Many of the women are transgender, and recently there was a story uncovered about the PRI party of Mexico City (which is located right along this same strip) and its employment of sex workers within their political party offices. So there’s a loaded discourse on this territory about the rights of sex workers, but also the question of how sex work falls into the domain of patriarchy, gender violence and the State. If anything so far, this project is an amazing experience in the collective process of making art with a message of social justice. Still, as always, it’s been difficult to pin down an idea and make it come to life with the message I want it to send. I’ve spent several hours over the last week staring at blank paper or spacing out thinking about how to best represent the image in words, and vice versa. (One of the requirements is the print must contain a phrase.) I’ve never participated in something like this before so it’s REALLY exciting but also slightly nerve-wracking (hence the creative paralysis) but the greatest part is to be working in the company of women who are helping one another through the process.