March On! Texas

Author: Kelly McMichael

Artist Activist Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson Explores the Pain the Mexican-American Community is Feeling in Her Art

Artist Activist Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson Explores the Pain the Mexican-American Community is Feeling in Her Art

I picked up a copy of RESIST!, the women’s rights graphic newspaper released just before the Women’s Day March in January and was captured by Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson’s illustration, “Temo.”  I did a little digging to find out more about the artist and realized that there wasn’t much online because she is sixteen years old and at the beginning of her career.  It took a bit to find an email address, but I was able to establish contact with her and she agreed to an interview.  Here is it in full:

Kelly McMichael (KM):  How old are you and how did you get started making art?

Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson (CVP):  “I am 16 years old, and I’ve been making art throughout my whole life. As a child, I grew up in an environment where my creativity was fostered and encouraged. My art grew from crayon scribbles to pencil fairies to graphite eyes and now digital faces. Most of the art I make nowadays is for my AP Art class in school.”

KM:  What led you to paint “Temo?”

CVP:  “Temo” is my attempt to consolidate all the pain felt by the Mexican-American community over Trump’s election into one image. It’s my rawest and most emotionally potent work of art, because I started working on it the day after the election and channeled as much of my emotional energy into it as possible. The shock and despair on the girl’s face mirrored my own. The Mexican flag and the American flag are side by side as the girl’s tears to show that both identities are equally valid, despite those trying to convince us that they must be mutually exclusive. The flowers represent everything that is beautiful about Mexican culture, but above them I wrote every vile thing Trump has said about Mexicans or Mexican immigrants. Trump and his supporters ignore our rich and vibrant culture and have no regard for the inherent worth and dignity of every person, instead believing shallow and racist lies. I grew up believing in hope and kindness and respect, but waking up to the news of Trump’s victory on November 9th truly made me feel like hatred had won. That is why I needed to create this artwork.”

KM:  Do you consider yourself an artist activist—or is this painting a one-off because of something more personal?

CVP:  “This painting was my first artwork of the kind, but certainly not the last. What brought the painting to life was my incredibly strong emotional reaction to the events going on in the world. I was moved to create, and so I did. I cannot imagine I will never be motivated to make more political art, especially with the way a new horror seems to be unfolding every day. However, I wouldn’t call it activist art. To me, activism demands and creates bigger changes. My art is much more self-reflective, expressing my interpretation of this struggle. By sharing it, I hope I’ve stirred emotions in like-minded people and perhaps even in those who would typically disagree with me, but to call the art in and of itself activism seems too self-important to me. After all, I created “Temo” for myself, to release some of the pain I had been feeling and express what I couldn’t quite say with words; it was only after I looked back on the finished product that I thought, “Hey, you might have something here,” and decided to submit it to publications like Resist. I do think activism is now more important than it has ever been in my lifetime, and I will participate in any way I can.”

KM:  I see that you are donating all of the proceeds from selling your print to border Angels and the ACLU.  Can you tell us why these organizations are important to you?

CVP:  “The ACLU has an incredibly long history of standing up for civil rights in America. They are well known, reliable, and have been behind so much positive legal action and change. Most recently the ACLU has been taking on Trump’s Muslim ban, another issue I feel is horrifically wrong and deeply important to combat.

Border Angels is a smaller organization that aims to protect and empower Mexican migrant workers. These people face so much discrimination, racism, and struggle, and the looming threat of deportation allows employers to manipulate and exploit them even more. Border Angels gives migrants access to education, immigration consultations, and necessities like water that save the lives of those trekking through the desert.”

KM:  What’s next for you?

CVP:  “I will attend all the marches and protests I can, donate to organizations besides ACLU and Border Angels, and stand up for what I believe in. My mentality is this: If I’m going to get so upset about what’s going on, spend so much emotional energy on politics and civil rights, then I better be putting actions to my words. I will not allow myself to be inactive and complacent. And if I find myself moved again, the same way I was when making “Temo,” then I will absolutely make more art.”

You can purchase a print of Ciena Valenzuela-Peterson’s “Temo” from her website http://etcetezine.bigcartel.com/product/temo-art-print

Learn more about artists who are activists on www.howtocopewithtrump.com

Artist Activist Abigail Gray Swartz and Rosie the Riveter in her knitted Pink Pussy Hat

Artist Activist Abigail Gray Swartz and Rosie the Riveter in her knitted Pink Pussy Hat

You may know Abigail Gray Swartz’s work.  She’s been getting a lot of attention lately because of her Rosie the Riveter cover on the New Yorker magazine.  But Rosie is a woman of color, and she’s sporting a knitted pink pussy cap. Swartz says of attending the march and producing the New Yorker cover,
“On the Monday following the (women’s) march, I started thinking about the art I wanted to make in response to my own experience, as well as the collective experience of women nationally and worldwide.

I adored seeing the images flooding in of the sea of women (and men) in pink hats. So much pink! I saw a headline from a newspaper that read “She the People” and I thought, “She The People: The revolution will be handmade.”

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Terrilynn Quick and the Uterus Flag Project:  Crafting Women’s Health Awareness

Terrilynn Quick and the Uterus Flag Project: Crafting Women’s Health Awareness

Thursday the House of Representatives narrowly passed a measure to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and the Huffington Post referred to the proposed bill as a “’Coordinated Attack’ on Women’s Health Care.” While this round of legislation appears particularly harmful to women, the state of women’s health services have been at the mercy of men and a male-dominated medical profession for too long.

Artist activist Terrilynn Quick recognized this problem and began to address it through her work.   She started the Uterus Flag Project in 2010, which is an investigation into the socio-political concerns around women’s health issues, looking specifically at the overuse and misuse of hysterectomies in America. The project serves as a beginning point of conversation for women who are often silent about their health concerns and too trusting of doctors, who may recommend a hysterectomy without considering other options or a woman’s long term health plan.

The project is based on the idea of the sit and stitch, which is grounded in the feminist ideals of “sharing, conversation, consciousness raising, and craft.” It’s a time for women to create but to also engage with each other about their health concerns and other issues that women face in society today. Women have a long history of this type of collaboration but have not engaged in hand-work like this as much in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as in the past. The Uterus Flag Project is just one attempt at bringing this type of collaborative coordination among women back.

Image courtesy of Terrilynn Quick

Like all craftivism, it is yet another way of giving a voice—both visually and through testimonies of participants—to issues of social justice. In this case by bringing awareness to unnecessary hysterectomies, especially for women who are unaware of the options available besides uterus removal. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States and it is the second most common surgery performed on women of childbearing age (cesarean sections are the first.) By the age of 60, more than one third of all women have had some form of a hysterectomy.

While some hysterectomies are necessary, such as with invasive cancer, many are not, and the surgery carries risks that many women are not made aware of, such as damage to other organs such as the urinary tract or bowel, that can cause long-term complications. Additionally, young women who have hysterectomies are at an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and early menopause. The surgeries have also been associated with serious urinary issues, sexual dysfunction, and depression.*

Thoughtful consideration and conversations should be engaged in prior to a woman’s consenting to a hysterectomy. Many are avoidable, especially if the condition is not causing any problematic symptoms. Learn more about the risks and alternatives to hysterectomies at the National Women’s Health Network.

Find more images of the Uterus Flag Project at www.howtocopewithtrump.com

*https://www.nwhn.org/hysterectomy/

Learn more about the Uterus Flag Project here and here.

Check out this video about the uterus flag project.

Volunteers are Crucial to High Voter Turnout

Volunteers are Crucial to High Voter Turnout

This week’s Marching Orders asked people to get out and vote in the local municipal and school elections that end today.   Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This contest is for school boards, local officials, and even a few mayoral positions. In the past, many Texans have not bothered to vote in municipal elections. Most did not find out who was running or even what positions were contested.

But voting in these local elections is the most fundamental aspect of a practicing democracy, and these are where a person’s vote can have the most impact. If you ever believed that your vote didn’t matter—these local elections are where you can see one or two people deciding the fate of a community.

For example in Collin County, voters will approve or reject six bond propositions that will fund street, public safety, and park improvements, as well as monies to build new recreation centers and libraries. One of the bonds will impact local historic preservation. Five cities will cast votes for mayors, a government representative with whom constituents can have almost daily contact.

The good news is that voter apathy appears to be much lower in this year’s municipal elections, in part due to the efforts many volunteers have engaged in for specific candidates. Volunteers, many of whom marched in one of the Women’s Marches in January, have taken that excitement and relayed it into a steady commitment to activism, volunteering their time and money to help progressive candidates, some of whom are running in their first election. Volunteers have manned phone banks and hit the pavement, going door-to-door to talk with potential voters.

These efforts are having a huge impact. The first day of early voting resulted in record-breaking turnouts across the state, exceeded by the second day of voting. Here are some early numbers: In Harris County, 73,542 votes were cast as compared with 51,578 votes in 2012 on the second day. In Travis County, 38,079 votes were cast, as compared with 16,382 votes on day two in 2012.

It’s not too late for you to vote. The only way to turn Texas blue is to vote for progressive candidates. None of the other efforts matter if we do not show up at the polls. Get out there and make your voice heard.

Find out more about what is on the ballot.