Tag: Art


Saving a Piece of the Fair

Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition, Lee Bruno (Cameron + Company, 191pp, $29.95) and San Franciscos Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, Laura A. Ackley (Heyday, 352pp, $40.00)

A critical appreciation

by Elizabeth Logan

SFRAcover_web800px2-200x270Why does the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition still captivate Californians? The centenary of the fair, which celebrated the construction of the Panama Canal, and showcased San Francisco’s reemergence after the 1906 earthquake and fires, has been greeted with much fanfare in the city including press coverage, museum exhibitions, a dramatic lighting of the Ferry Building, and several new books to mark the occasion. Two of those books, Lee Bruno’s Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition and Laura A. Ackley’s San Franciscos Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, offer a kaleidoscope of possible explanations for this enduring interest.

The root of the authors’ fascination is simple to pinpoint. Lee Bruno’s Grandma Ruby piqued his interest early through the stories she shared about her father, Reuben Brooks Hale, a prominent San Francisco businessman and one of the exposition’s masterminds. For Laura Ackley, the draw was less familial; the exposition caught her attention as an undergraduate at Berkeley, where she attended a series of lectures on the Beaux-Arts built environment. Both authors highlight that the fair celebrated innovation, shifting geopolitical power, and commercial opportunity, and that it brought the world together just as it was being ripped apart by World War I.

The draw for Californians more broadly, may be in observing a recognizable past in California’s present. But perhaps collective interest in the fair’s centenary is also symptomatic of an increasingly complicated relationship with the ephemeral.

Panorama_Jacket_JULY23_frontcoveronly-1-300x234We live in an age in which we constantly encounter the paradoxical longevity of digital media. When we send an email, tweet, or post something on the Internet, our actions, comments, and photographic achievements endure in a virtual yet permanent space largely available for the world to explore. Even rapidly “vanishing” selfies on Snapchat can be stored forever. With Bay Area and Silicon Beach companies leading the charge toward greater and greater e-innovation, are Californians in the middle of the redefinition of what is considered ephemeral and ephemera? Does some of the fascination with a 100-year-old exposition stem from our own interest in the temporary and the fair’s momentary and fantastical qualities?

Panorama and San Franciscos Jewel City both approach the exposition’s fleeting nature as well as the details of its day-to-day fanfare through photographs, postcards, tickets, pamphlets, and the written words of planners, visitors, and scholars.

Bruno’s Panorama consists of thirteen sections celebrating the 100-year-old narrative of a reemergent San Francisco and capturing short biographies of the exposition’s visionaries. The exposition springs to life through the story of “Big Alma” Spreckels, who arranged for five Rodin sculptures to travel by sea to San Francisco, and through the stories of builders, such as Bernard Maybeck, and visitors ranging from Helen Keller to Charlie Chaplin. Bruno painstakingly curated the images and created a visually attractive souvenir of the centennial. Panorama personalizes the exposition in a mesmerizing way, and the design and graphics impress.

San Franciscos Jewel City, published in a partnership between Heyday and the California Historical Society, offers a detailed account of the fair, perhaps bested only in its breadth of coverage by Frank Morton Todd’s official five-volume history printed around the time of the exposition. Inserted within Ackley’s nineteen substantive chapters are vignettes set aside in gold and images of printed material fair-goers in 1915 could have hardly imagined would have survived 100 years. Ackley uses narrative to tell the history of the exposition, addressing even the darker “evils of the era” from eugenics to gender and labor battles. Ackley’s discussion of the important role that light played is particularly captivating, as when she describes the colorful light shows projected onto the fog by the Scintillator and the electric kaleidoscope—ephemeral illustrations of the modernity of the entire venture. For those seeking a comprehensive memento of the fair, San Francisco’s Jewel City provides a detailed and compelling account.

By printing some of the exposition’s ephemera and plotting the details of the exposition in print, these two works alter its very ephemeral nature. Just as bits of paper served as physical reminders of the exposition, the two books serve as souvenirs of its centennial. They help change the fair into something more durable that might attract more readers, tourists, anthropologists, historians, visual studies scholars, and collectors not just to these two books, but to the archives that house its sometimes dusty remnants. Expansions in digitization promise increased access to those who might reimagine the event from its remaining pieces. In today’s digital age, it makes a historian smile to see books continue to play such a vital role in this process.

If you wander San Francisco this weekend in search of remnants of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition or any of the many citywide centennial celebrations, your guidebook or iPhone might lead you to the Palace of Fine Arts, the remaining architectural gem from the 1915 exposition—but just start your search there. Keep going. Panorama, San Franciscos Jewel City, and the city’s archives and libraries dare us to go a little further as we contemplate the ephemeral.



Elizabeth Logan is a historian and assistant editor of Boom. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

Photograph at top courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library.


East of East

by Wendy Cheng

The global cosmopolitans of suburban LA

From Boom Spring 2015, Vol 5, No 1

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of Wendy Cheng’s essay “East of East” from our Spring 2015 issue. 

Welcome to the San Gabriel Valley—America’s first “suburban Chinatown.”1 A typical-looking twentieth-century suburbia a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley—or SGV, as residents call it—has been transformed in recent decades by ethnic Chinese investment and settlement from both sides of the Pacific.2 In some parts of the valley—places such as Monterey Park and Rowland Heights—more than half of the population is Asian, and English is often a secondary—or tertiary—language in the plentiful strip malls that line the main thoroughfares. It’s a regional and global hub for Asians from all over Southern California and the world. Then there’s the restaurant scene, which is how many Angelenos have come to know the valley. You will find some of the best Chinese food in the world in the San Gabriel Valley.

But while true in many respects, the well-known image of the SGV as a global Asian suburb obscures a vital fact: the valley is a vibrant, sprawling, mixed-up multiethnic community with a complex, layered past.3 In those majority-Asian cities, almost one-third of the population is Latino, making the valley as a whole more than 80 percent Asian and Latino now. In other SGV cities, such as El Monte and South El Monte, the balance flips: Latinos constituting the majority and Asians the next largest group. It is that mix that makes the San Gabriel Valley a revealing place for seeing the Pacific world as an Asian-Pacific-Latino world.

Consider this: A comedy hip-hop group called the Fung Brothers sings about the SGV, “Let me tell you about a place out east / Just fifteen minutes from the LA streets / Hollywood doesn’t even know we exist / Like it’s a mystical land, filled with immigrants.”

And this: A small, local, street-wear brand based in Monterey Park called SGV has produced a T-shirt with a design that blended the elements of the flags of the People’s Republic of China, Mexico, and the United States. The brand’s website states: “The SGV is a region of America where a lot of Chinese and Mexicans have learned to live together, most of the time in harmony. Welcome to Chimexica.”4

Or this: Other SGV brand designs have featured repurposed logos for Sriracha, a well-known hot sauce created in Rosemead by an ethnically Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant, as well as Tres Flores, a hair cream popular with working-class Chicano youth, and woven sandals popular with older Asian immigrant men.

And this: Another T-shirt features curse words in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Tagalog.5

This diversity is not always harmonious. As the SGV brand creator Paul Chan, a child of immigrants from Hong Kong who moved to Alhambra as a young child in the 1980s, told a reporter, “I…learned quickly that in the SGV you play your position and don’t over step your boundaries. I’ve always had a huge appreciation for that. The way those unwritten rules work….It was part of survival to know about all the different cultures so I don’t end up disrespecting people and getting my ass kicked.”6

Yes, you’ve got to have a clue, but for the most part these playful pop culture expressions of cosmopolitanism embrace living together, coexisting, with mutual respect for difference, without denial or exclusion. The SGV is a great place to experience the emergence of this new global cosmopolitanism.

Paul Gilroy, a cultural studies scholar who has studied the multiethnic dynamism that came out of the reach and subsequent collapse of the British empire around the world, has publicly wondered about how such an everyday cosmopolitanism “from below” could be magnified and given greater purpose: “The challenge of being in the same present, of synchronizing difference and articulating cosmopolitan hope upward from below rather that imposing it downward from on high provides some help in seeing how we might invent conceptions of humanity that allow for the presumption of equal value and go beyond the issue of tolerance into a more active engagement with the irreducible value of diversity within sameness.”7

This is a cosmopolitanism that does not look to states or nations for the realization of its hopes, but “glories in the ordinary virtues and ironies—listening, looking, discretion, friendship—that can be cultivated when mundane encounters with difference become rewarding,” Gilroy writes,8 It is a “radical openness,”9 a “planetary consciousness”10 made even more real and important by its awareness of the harms done by racism and inequality. Ideally, it does not stop at awareness but rejects xenophobia and violence, and “culminates in a new way of being at home in the world through an active hostility toward national solidarity, national culture, and their privileging over other, more open affiliations.”11

Gilroy, whose work has largely focused on cosmopolitanism and diaspora across the Atlantic,12 could come to the SGV to see similar patterns playing out around the Pacific Rim. In the SGV today, I found a similar sense of cosmopolitanism among many residents while working on my book The Changs Next Door to the Díazes. It is also increasingly apparent among artists, writers, poets, scholars, and activists who are beginning to express their own visions of the valley and in the process creating a collective, imaginative vision and language that may well have the power to alter what it means to be American. Their vision is of a suburban, cosmopolitan ethos that will be increasingly relevant to broader swaths of the United States, and it challenges long-held associations of whiteness, middle-class, and suburban as normative ideals that were tightly bound together. At its best, this is an explicitly antiracist cosmopolitanism that does not gloss over differences between cultures or violent histories to create a false universalism, but instead reckons with formative histories and still-present realities of racism and colonialism.13

The South El Monte Arts Posse, an arts collective led by historian Romeo Guzmán and artist Caribbean Fragoza, is one organization playing with the possibilities of an emergent SGV identity, one that they refer to as “east of east.” The “east” to which the collective known as SEMAP identifies itself as “east of” is East Los Angeles, long the symbolic and political core of Chicano Los Angeles. Reflecting on this geographical adjacency, iconic Chicana writer Cherríe Moraga, who grew up in the SGV, has written of that state of being near, but separated from, the Chicano Movement in East LA, “just ten minutes from my tree-lined working class neighborhood in San Gabriel.”14

Similarly, SEMAP sees itself as adjacent to, but distinct from, the urban core sensibilities of East LA. “East of east” is “everything that exists outside the reach of the city of Los Angeles,” Fragoza told me when I spent the afternoon recently with her and her partner Guzmán to explore the role of artists, writers, and activists in this emerging SGV cosmopolitanism.15

“East of east” sounds as if it could be a description of this new cosmopolitanism emerging on the West Coast, on the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean, east of East Asia. But the phrase also has a defiant local edge. This interpolation of the global and the local is a characteristic of these new cosmopolitans. Guzmán grew up visiting relatives in South El Monte from his home in Pomona, even further east. He and Fragoza remember starting to use the phrase when they were both undergraduates taking Chicano Studies classes at University of California, Los Angeles, in the early 2000s. As Fragoza told me, in “Chicano rhetoric, everything would happen in East LA.” There were “a lot of people that I met there who were from East LA and that were very proud of it,” she added. “And then they were like, ‘Well, where are you from?'” When Fragoza responded that she was from El Monte, she would be met with derision. She would then respond emphatically, “‘Dude, we’re so down, we’re east of East LA!’…So I think that’s at least how I started using it.”16

Guzmán added that they would “sort of get annoyed….It’s like, to make culture you have to go to East LA. But why? Why do we all have to go there? Why can’t we do stuff where we’re from?”17

SEMAP’s home terrain, the cities of El Monte and South El Monte, have emerged as key nodes in the burgeoning SGV arts and culture scene. “People from El Monte are really into El Monte,” Guzmán told me.

“Yeah, we are,” Fragoza laughed. “But I still feel like we’re SGV, we’re part of the SGV.”

In the past fifteen years, street wear brands, literary novels and short stories, a mystery set in the world of Asian American parachute kids, and comedic rap songs have all emerged from the SGV.18 This past fall, a play about Toypurina, the Gabrielino woman who led a failed revolt against the Spanish at the San Gabriel Mission, was mounted at the Mission Playhouse, and a feature film set in El Monte is in the works.19 These developments signify the coming of age of a multiracial, majority-nonwhite, place-specific culture, on its own terms. As a region apart from central Los Angeles, large portions of the SGV have been able to retain their class heterogeneity and multiracial, majority-nonwhite populations for multiple generations now, without suffering the degree of gentrification and displacement to which central city neighborhoods are vulnerable.

Like the members of SEMAP, writer Michael Jaime-Becerra, who grew up in El Monte and still lives there now, balances multiple sensibilities at once. His outlook is deeply local and connected to a specific place, but he also has an expansive openness to the complexities of the SGV in the world. His world is El Monte, but it isn’t only El Monte. In his two books set in and around the city—Every Night is Ladies’ Night (2004) and This Time Tomorrow (2010)—Jaime-Becerra renders the mundane landscapes of the SGV with tremendous love, name-checking places and streets without commentary throughout his narratives, as though to assert to readers that they should know these places. While his characters are primarily working-class Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans—truck drivers, mechanics, forklift operators, fast food workers—they are always also Goth teens, former prisoners, brothers, sisters, uncles, lovers, and dreamers.

While earlier generations of Chicano writers were writing with justifiable urgency about “field labor, immigration, our parents’ struggles to feed the family,”20 growing up in El Monte as the son of a union meat-cutter and an elementary school clerk, Jaime-Becerra realized that he could “hang with low riders and skateboarders, groove to Juan Gabriel and Siouxsie and the Banshees.”21 Like so many Latinos and Asian Americans in the SGV, he was able to carve out an ethnic identity apart from dominant ideas about race: “Everybody around me, they were either Mexican or Mexican American or Vietnamese,” he has said. “I didn’t really identify in terms of race in LA.”22

There is freedom in the ambiguity that comes with loosened cultural boundaries, where old stereotypes aren’t used to keep people in place, and where people are comfortable crossing cultural lines to find their place in a community. The place where they feel they belong, not where they are told that they do. This is the “east of east” ideal, in which working- and lower-middle-class people of color are able to simply be—and be seen by the wider community—in their full and complex personhood.23 This is what Jaime-Becerra described as his coming-of-age experience and is apparent in the world he creates for his readers.

El Monte writer Salvador Plascencia also riffed on this theme in his 2005 novel The People of Paper, set in the author’s hometown. His “meta-fiction” was intended “partly as a parody of traditional immigration narratives”—or as one reviewer put it, is “part memoir, part lies.”24 This is how Plascencia introduces the locale: “The town was called El Monte, after the hills it did not have.”25 A page later, he elaborates: “El Monte was one thousand four hundred forty-eight miles north of Las Tortugas and an even fifteen hundred miles from the city of Guadalajara, and while there were no cockfights or wrestling arenas, the curanderos’ botanica shops, the menudo stands, and the bell towers of the Catholic churches had also pushed north, settling among the flower and sprinkler systems.”26

The transnational migrants settled among the suburban “flower and sprinkler systems,” but they made the landscape their own. Throughout the book—which also playfully busts genre conventions with scribbled-out words, blocked text, blank pages, and graffiti—an assortment of vivid characters including migrant lettuce pickers and gang members battle against the godlike Saturn, who is gradually revealed to be the author, Salvador Plascencia. Saturn/Plascencia loses control of his characters and the narrative because he is languishing over a break-up with his girlfriend, who has left him for a white guy. Plascencia’s El Monte is both grounded and surreal, his portrayal of its denizens heartfelt and absurd. “In a way,” Plascencia has said, both he and Jaime-Becerra “are trying to talk about an El Monte that’s not the news copter, watching a cop kick a gangster in the head.”27 That is El Monte as a place grounded in its true range of subjectivities, experiences, and imaginative possibilities, not constrained by externally imposed stereotypes and power hierarchies.

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Details from El Monte Legion Stadium Nocturne and In the Meadow courtesy of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

1. See Timothy Fong, The First Suburban Chinatown: The Remaking of Monterey Park, California (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), and Wei Li, Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009).

2. See Min Zhou, Yen-Fen Tseng, and Rebecca Kim, “Rethinking Residential Assimilation: The Case of a Chinese Ethnoburb in the San Gabriel Valley, California,” Amerasia Journal 34: no. 3 (1 January 2008): 53–83); among others.

3. This dates back hundreds of years to indigenous Gabrielino/Tongva settlement in the area and travels through Spanish colonization, the Mexican period, and US conquest, each of these with its concomitant, racialized regimes of land dispossession, and labor exploitation.

4. Former SGV brand website, http://www.sgvforlife.com, accessed July 2012. To see the SGV brand’s current website, go to http://sgvforlife.bigcartel.com/ (accessed 24 November 2014).

5. Ibid.

6. Daniela Gerson, “SGV for Life?” Alhambra Source, 30 November 2011; http://www.alhambrasource.org/stories/sgv-life.

7. Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 67.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., xv.

10. Ibid., 75.

11. Ibid., 68.

12. See Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).

13. Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia. Also see Michelle A. McKinley, “Conviviality, Cosmopolitan Citizenship, and Hospitality,” Harvard Unbound 5: no. 1 (1 March 2009): 55–87.

14. Cherríe Moraga, “Queer Aztlán: the Re-formation of Chicano Tribe,” The Last Generation (Boston: South End Press, 1993), 146.

15. Interview with Carribean Fragoza and Romeo Guzmán, El Monte, California, 12 October 2014.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. These include: Alex Espinoza, Still Water Saints (New York: Random House, 2007); Michael Jaime-Becerra, Every Night Is Ladies’ Night (New York, NY: Rayo/HarperCollins Publishers, 2004); Michael Jaime-Becerra, This Time Tomorrow (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2010); Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper (Orlando: Harcourt, 2006); Denise Hamilton, The Jasmine Trade (New York: Scribner, 2001). Also see Daniela Gerson, “SGV for Life?” Alhambra Source, 30 November 2011; http://www.alhambrasource.org/stories/sgv-life, accessed 15 October 2014; and the Fung Brothers website, http://fungbrothers.com, accessed 15 October 2014.

19. Mission Playhouse website, http://www.missionplayhouse.org/event/toypurina, accessed 15 October 2014; and “Varsity Punks” website, http://varsitypunks.com/, accessed 15 October 2014.

20. Vickie Vértiz, “El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra,” 6 December 2014, Tropics of Meta, http://tropicsofmeta.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/el-monte-forever-a-brief-history-of-michael-jaime-becerra/, accessed 10 October 2014.

21. Reed Johnson, “Writers Salvador Plascencia and Michael Jaime-Becerra share a city and common inspiration: El Monte,” 25 April 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/25/entertainment/la-ca-el-monte-20100425, accessed October 10, 2014.

22. Ibid.

23. On complex personhood, see Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997).

24. Johnson, “Writers Salvador Plascencia and Michael Jaime-Becerra.”

25. Plascencia, The People of Paper, 33.

26. Ibid., 34.

27. Johnson, “Writers Salvador Plascencia and Michael Jaime-Becerra.”


The Pacific in California

by Suzanne Fischer

Objects from a collection

From Boom Spring 2015, Vol 5, No 1

“Facing West from California’s shores, / Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound, / I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar, / Look off the shore of my Western Sea—the circle almost circled…”

Walt Whitman’s searching verses on the Pacific gaze were made concrete at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The words, inscribed on a piece of monumental didactic sculpture, the Arch of the Setting Sun, in the spectacular Court of the Universe, in the fantastic sudden city, proclaimed that San Francisco, and America, had risen, and was rising.

Bilum (string bag) from late nineteenth century Papua New Guinea. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase, Dr. John Rabe D.D.S. Collection.

“Pacific” was the key term in the exposition’s name. The fair presented a vision of an increasingly unified Pacific region under the control of American economic and political power.

“We may see in [Whitman’s] lines,” wrote a guide to the fair’s inscriptions, “the poet speaking as the personification and representative of the Aryan race—the race which, having its origin in Asia, has, by virtue of the spirit of conquest, the desire to be forever ‘seeking what is yet unfound,’ finally reached the Western edge of the American continent, whence ‘facing West from California’s shores,’ Aryan civilization looks ‘toward the house of maternity, the land of migrations’ from which it originally sprung.”1 “The circle almost circled” was the new frontier of American conquest. Of course, San Francisco’s Pacific connections didn’t begin in 1915. California had been part of a coherent Pacific region for hundreds of years, as a place that facilitated exchanges between indigenous people of the coasts and Pacific Islanders, a launching point for trade with Asia, a link in the global chain of whaling and sealing, and, increasingly throughout the nineteenth century, a magnet for migrants from the Pacific Islands and Asia.

For fair organizers, “Pacific” mostly meant Asian. (The conceptual erasing of the Pacific Islands in the rush to get to Asia has been described by historian Bruce Cumings as “rimspeak.”) They saw China and Japan as critically important to America’s prosperous Pacific future—and to the success of the fair. Because the fair was mostly locally funded, organizers personally invested in its success. They campaigned against California’s anti-Japanese Alien Land Law, worried that it would stop Japan and China from participating in the fair. Although the law passed in 1913, both countries still participated in the fair in great numbers. Japan and China not only created official pavilions encouraging trade, but also encouraged merchants to exhibit their wares in the main palaces. San Francisco’s Chinese American communities enthusiastically joined in the festivities; the fair was such a heterogeneous, multivalent, expansive space that despite its imperial tone, they found room to celebrate their cultures and argue for inclusion as equals in the grand narrative of global destiny.

Despite the Asian emphasis, other peoples of the Pacific attended the fair. “Pacific” could also mean Latin America, especially with the fair’s focus on the Panama Canal. Argentina’s pavilion, for instance, highlighted the nation’s modernity and growing political power.2

America’s new oceanic colonies—Hawaii, the Mariana Islands, and the Philippines—were also on display. Strategically valuable to the United States both for their own natural resources and as waystations for ships crossing to Asia, they also served as emblems of the country’s new role in the world as an empire with overseas territories. These colonies had been recently acquired: in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and, in the case of Hawaii, through a cabal of American businessmen and politicians that overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani.

The cultures of these oceanic colonies were displayed in frankly exploitative contexts. For example, Hawaiian culture appeared in three different places at the fair: the official territorial pavilion, a cafe and music venue in the Palace of Horticulture, and a concession on “the Zone,” the fair’s midway. Like other world’s fairs, the Panama-Pacific included “ethnographic village” exhibits, which included a Hawaiian Village as well as a Samoan Village and an Australasian (Maori) Village. (Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of the New Zealand Building: “We saw the ugly native islanders that used to be the cannibal tribes in Australia and New Zealand.”3) The territorial government objected to the Hawaiian Village Zone concession. Territorial officials worried that its emphasis on the primitiveness of Hawaiian culture, and especially its highly sexualized version of the hula, undermined the official territorial government’s goals of promoting tourism and establishing Hawaiian culture as assimilable, romantic, and nonthreatening.4 The third venue, the pineapple-company-sponsored Hawaiian Gardens, featured Hawaiian music and helped start a national craze for the ukulele. These venues, although focused on promoting specific messages about Native Hawaiians and about white American imperial power, nevertheless also gave dancers, musicians, and artisans space to preserve and celebrate traditional aspects of their cultures. They also gave many fairgoers their first personal exposure to Pacific cultures.

Maori artisans from the Rotorua area made this patu paraoa (whalebone club) for exhibition at the New Zealand pavilion at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase.


Facing the Pacific was a key orientation for both the fair’s organizers and visitors. The fair was a pivot—not a point at which everything changed, but a point at which longstanding, evolving messages and relationships crystallized for a world audience. This centennial vantage point is a golden opportunity to evaluate the consequences of “the circle almost circled” for Californians and our Pacific neighbors.

This Marquesan porpoise tooth peue ‘ei (headdress) was made around 1885. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase, Dr. John Rabe D.D.S. Collection.


Waseisei whaletooth necklace, probably from Fiji, late nineteenth century. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase, Dr. John Rabe D.D.S. Collection.


Model canoe from Samoa, around 1900. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Mrs. Howard L. Osgood.


This kava bowl was made in Samoa in the late nineteenth century. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Museum Purchase, Dr. John Rabe D.D.S. Collection.


Fishhook and cordage from Pulusuk Island, Micronesia, 1910s. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Cdr. Kearney.


A shell trumpet from Manus, Papua New Guinea, early twentieth century. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Lt. Cmdr. C. T. Budney.



1. Porter Gamett, The Inscriptions at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco: The San Francisco News Company, 1915), 10–11.

2. Abigail Markwyn, Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 52.

3. Laura Ingalls Wilder, October 14, 1915, West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco 1915 (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 105.

4. Markwyn, 58–59.

California Coast

by Tom Killion

From Boom Winter 2014, Vol 4, No 4

Editor’s note: It is no surprise that printmaker Tom Killion’s four decades of work on the wild edge of California were inspired by poetry. As he explains in the introduction to his new book, California’s Wild Edge, it was the “revelatory beauty” that he saw in a Lime Kiln Press edition of Robinson Jeffers’s coastal poetry handset in metal type that drew him to what he now calls the “poets’ coast.” The continent’s end has inspired poets, artists, and travelers for centuries, but the jagged lines of the central coast, its stormy skies, and dynamic seas seem particularly well-suited to the lines Killion cuts in linoleum and wood. Where the collision of land and sea is less dramatic, south of Point Conception, light and color bring his scenes to life.

Killion writes of Gary Snyder, his collaborator in the new book, that his poetry “is the touchstone of what poetry and art can be: grounded in the real world, accessible, thought-provoking and entertaining, and above-all beautiful in its apparently effortless ‘inevitability’ of phrasing, rhythm and purpose.”

We think the same goes for Tom Killion’s prints. It’s a pleasure and an honor to publish some of his new prints for the first time in Boom. California’s Wild Edge: The Coast in Prints, Poetry, and History will be published by Heyday in the summer of 2015.

Seaweed (1979) by Tom Killion.

Santa Monica Mountains from Palisades Park (1985) by Tom Killion.

Santa Barbara Coast (1983) by Tom Killion.

Timber Top, Big Sur (2005) by Tom Killion.

Purse Seine (1984) by Tom Killion.


Genius Loci

by Jonah Raskin

The strange alchemy of California’s literary shrines

From Boom Winter 2014, Vol 4, No 4

As the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, California poet and essayist Dana Gioia was an evangelist for California literature. Now he’s taking a different approach to spread the good word about the state’s rich, though often underappreciated, literary heritage.

“We need literary shrines as much as, if not more than, any other place,” he told me. “They can provide tangible evidence of the literary past that’s eroding and serve as institutional storehouses for the collective national memory of our writers, their lives, and their work. Tourist bureaus in California underestimate the power of the imagination. They don’t do all they could do to preserve our cultural heritage.”

The best literary shrines do more than honor literary heroes of previous generations. They’re also places where their work can find new life, new relevance, and new readers. They can speak to the present and even the future as much as the past. They can also work a strange sort of magic when the spirit of a book and readers from around the world come together in a place once enlivened by an author. In the process, readers, books, and places rejuvenate one another and combine to form new wholes.

Visiting shrines is an occupational hazard I’ve long accepted and even embraced as a writer. I haunt dead writers, visit their graves, walk the neighborhoods they once inhabited, poke around their homes, and peer into their offices. For an afternoon or an evening, I feel that I have communed with the poets, playwrights, and experimental fiction writers who intrigue me. I also tangle with the spirit of books that keep me up late at night, turning the pages of noir novels, adventure stories, and California epics. Everywhere I turn in California, I find a literary landscape: in the town of Twain Harte—named for Mark Twain and Bret Harte—near Yosemite; in the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur; and in Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House not far from Danville where the playwright and his wife Carlotta lived in the 1930s and where he wrote many of his best dramas.

Detail from Bikes to Books, by Nicole Gluckstern and Burrito Justice.

Gioia is spot-on when he insists that California can and should do more to honor its literary genius loci—the home of The Land of Little Rain author Mary Austin, in Independence, cries out for visitors—but we’re doing pretty good already. A cottage industry in literary maps of San Francisco and Los Angeles has sprung up, each one expanding the list of minor shrines and the number of potential pilgrims. We have our major shrines, too. All year long, locals and travelers from far away descend on Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, and the Beat Museum in San Francisco.

Literary tourism in California has a history that stretches back more than a century. In 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson published her wildly popular novel Ramona, and fans came to Southern California from far and wide to soak up the romanticized atmosphere they found in the book. Towns fought over which one had truly inspired the author—the better to lure tourists—while others created shrines at her heroine’s imagined birthplace, wedding site, and burial plot. For decades, it was as if the whole region became a literary shrine to California’s imagined past.

Literary shrines to American authors first became popular in New England a decade after the first wave of Ramona-fever. Theodore F. Wolfe described the fabled world of Thoreau, Emerson, and Margaret Fuller in Literary Shrines: The Haunts of Some Famous American Authors in 1895. California shrines in that restrained New England mold began to appear on the tourist trail not long afterward. In the inaugural issue of California Magazine published in January 1915, the editor, E.J. Wickson, emphasized the Golden State’s fledgling cult of the author. Everywhere he looked, Wickson saw “numerous artistic and literary shrines,” though he complained, “the searcher is called upon to make a pilgrimage down some half-hidden by-path, or to go delving into the musty archives of the past.”

Things have changed greatly since 1915, although it’s still possible to make pilgrimages down half-hidden paths at Jack London State Historic Park in rural Glen Ellen, which draws literary tourists from around the world. The ruins of Wolf House, built for the Londons but destroyed by fire before they moved in, are still the main draw, although the museum at the House of Happy Walls, as well as the author’s grave, see a steady stream of visitors, too. While generations of American schoolchildren know London best for his adventure stories, the politics that infused so much of his work have garnered him many fans in translation abroad, particularly in Russia. If visitor numbers and sheer enthusiasm are anything to go by, that second kind of reader seems to have developed a much deeper, keener connection to London.

“There’s an international Jack London cult,” Jeff Falconer, who grew up a devoted London fan in the East Bay and is now a devoted docent, told me on a recent visit to the park. Eugene Birger, a native-born Russian and now a Sonoma County resident speaks perfect Russian to the tourists from Moscow and Kiev who make the pilgrimage to Glen Ellen. He’s almost always on hand.

Falconer and Birger regale visitors with the story of a Soviet diplomat who arrived in a chauffeur-driven limousine one night in the 1960s, toured the grounds under cover of darkness, handed out caviar to show his appreciation, and then returned to San Francisco undetected by authorities. To fulfill the dream of a lifetime, Alexander Solzhenitsyn made a pilgrimage to the park in 1976, one hundred years after London’s birth. Two decades later, Dr. Vil Bykov—the twentieth-century’s foremost Soviet authority on London—spent a week there. “Paradise,” he called it in his memoir, In the Steps of Jack London. At the annual banquet sponsored by the London Foundation, he told the crowd: “Jack London is an integral part of Russian culture.”

A Romanian visitor recently pointed to London’s 1908 dystopian novel, The Iron Heel, as though it offered the latest news of her own country. A dignified traveler from India, a turban wrapped around his head, explained to a docent that he’d grown up in Kolkata reading London’s books. After visiting the House of the Happy Walls, he took the hand of his guide and kissed it.

Almost all of the docents describe the exuberant Russians who walk to the small plot of ground where London’s ashes are buried, bow their heads reverentially and shed tears. The power of the London shrine, however, does not work on all visitors equally. Falconer told me, “I remember a group of Russian and American tourists that provided a study in contrasts. Two young Muscovites took turns filming at Jack’s grave. They might have been gangsters. They certainly dressed the part. One of them looked down at the ground then up at the camera and shouted, ‘I’m right here where the greatest American writer is buried.’ The Americans watched flabbergasted. I’ve never seen a single US tourist do anything like it.”

Russians brag about their devotion to London and sneer at Americans who fail to appreciate the one and only god of California literature. In part, the Russians who come to Sonoma are carrying on the adoration that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents expressed for London. Perhaps it’s this deep, multigenerational wellspring of feeling that makes the Sonoma shrine so powerful to its Russian visitors.

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, which opened its doors to the public in 1998, draws a much different crowd. The center has tried and failed to attract tourists from Russia. Japan, more than any nation in the world, save the United States, sends waves of reverential readers who stray now and then from familiar roadside attractions to pay their respects to the author of TheRed Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, first published in 1939 and translated into Japanese after World War II.

Susan Shillinglaw knows much of The Grapes of Wrath by heart. A Steinbeck expert at San Jose State University and the author most recently of On Reading Grapes of Wrath, she views Tom Joad, the Oklahoma ex-con turned California visionary, as the quintessential twentieth-century American literary rebel. Tom Joad could be an inspiration for the world’s “square people,” says Shillinglaw. Indeed, she sees him as an icon and a hero for the crowds in Beijing, Cairo, Istanbul, and Hong Kong, who gather in city squares to confront illegitimate authority. So far, however, the “square people” have not showed up en masse at the Steinbeck Center.

Phillip Saldana, who grew up in Bakersfield and who read John Steinbeck’s novels as a young man, keeps all the relevant data on visitors. They do not come from China, Egypt, Turkey, or Russia, he tells me, although you’d think perhaps Salinas might attract visitors from Moscow, Kiev and Volgograd (then called Stalingrad), cities that Steinbeck visited and wrote about in A Russian Journal in 1948. Steinbeck avoided much of the clichéd Cold War thinking that enveloped American writing about the Soviet Union, but he also supported the Vietnam War, and that may have cost him his Russian readers.

Colleen Bailey, the director of the National Steinbeck Center, sees Steinbeck’s appeal closer to home in Salinas and Monterey, rather than Moscow. As a young girl, she read Of Mice and Men. Then in high school she acted in a stage adaptation of East of Eden. In the pages of Steinbeck’s fiction, she found defiant characters who encouraged her own rebelliousness. In 2014, to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath, she and the staff at the center went on the road and retraced the Joad family’s odyssey. A videographer filmed the journey that began in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and ended in Bakersfield. Along the way, Bailey interviewed farmers, housewives, businessmen, and students, and she learned that Steinbeck’s words can still wound readers in the places where he wrote and that he wrote about.

The Texas-born, San Francisco-based, award-winning playwright Octavio Solis joined Bailey on the trip from Oklahoma and found himself transformed by the journey, communing with the ribbon of Steinbeck’s literary shrine that runs for fifteen hundred miles. On the road, Solis read a few pages of The Grapes of Wrath each night until he finished the book. The journey led him backward and forward in time and in space and inspired him to write a play called “On the Mother Road.” He’s at work on another drama in which a descendant of Tom Joad returns to Oklahoma and in the era of global climate change finds signs of yet another Dust Bowl. “Does he become his own worst boss?” Solis asks. “Is he a good grower or is he cruel to his workers? And what is life like in Eastern Oklahoma?” As a dramatist, he finds powerful theatrical elements in nearly all of Steinbeck’s work as well as characters who speak to him as though they’re alive today.

“I had long thought of Mexican farm workers as today’s Okies,” Solis told me. “But that idea didn’t hit home until I met a dark-skinned man in Weedpatch, California, who had worked in the fields, read The Grapes of Wrath, and saw himself as the reincarnation of Tom Joad.” One of the poorest towns in all of California, Weedpatch was perhaps the perfect location for Solis to find Steinbeck’s novel as vital as it had been when it was first published. Indeed, in Weedpatch, California, the seventy-five-year-old book came to life again.

Solis’s literary allegiances stretch beyond Steinbeck. Born in 1956, the same year that Ginsberg’s Howl was published and a year before Kerouac’s On the Road appeared in print, he feels linked to the Beat Generation writers. You might find him at City Lights Bookstore or at Vesuvio’s or Tosca’s in North Beach. “City Lights is a major shrine and so is Tosca’s,” Solis said. “I’ve always felt an affinity with Kerouac because he was a wild spirit influenced by jazz and because he wanted to break down boundaries.”

Jerry Cimino, the founder of the Beat Museum in North Beach, and a former executive at IBM and American Express, was inspired by the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. He remembers lunch with Kim Greer, the center’s CEO, who told him, “A Beat Museum ought to be big. You’ve got multiple greats: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso. You’ve got jazz, rock n’ roll, the sixties, and nonconformists through the ages. It could be huge.” Greer’s prediction has come true.

Cimino runs the Beat Museum out of a spacious two-story building that looks out on a cityscape with cultural capital. While almost all of the visitors to the Steinbeck Center come from northern California, the Beat Museum draws an international crowd that has learned about the Beats from recent films such as Howl (2010), On the Road (2012), Big Sur (2013), and Kill Your Darlings (2013). According to Cimino, twenty- and thirty-year-olds come to the museum from all across the United States and from Vietnam, Ukraine, New Zealand, China, and Germany. “I’ve learned from them that the Beats are timeless, that they exemplify youth, and that they’ve helped to foment rebellion around the world,” Cimino told me.

In 2014, he hired Noemi Sornet, a twenty-one-year-old French videographer, to document the cultural diversity of the visitors to the Beat Museum. Born and raised on the west coast of France, Sornet read Sur la Route at sixteen. She first came to Cimino’s attention when she stormed a screening of Walter Salles’s cinematic version of On the Road at the Cannes Film Festival, and later when she launched a website that collected reflections from Kerouac readers around the world. It was a global valentine to the author.

“Reading On the Road was a freeing experience,” Sornet told me. “At sixteen, when I finished the novel, I wanted to write and also to come to America. Working at the Beat Museum has been a dream come true. I’ve met sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds from Brooklyn, Montreal, and San Paolo. We all belong to the Kerouac cult.”

Did she feel that French responses to the Beats differed from American responses? “I don’t want to speak for everyone,” she said. “But I think the French are less puritanical than many Americans, less shocked by the Beat use of drugs, and less judgmental about their sexuality, though in San Francisco almost everything goes. Yes, there are differences, but I think that On the Road expresses the universal feelings of youth.”

Ea Oerum, a Danish journalist, toured literary San Francisco in the winter of 2014, but she didn’t catch fire until she arrived in Los Angeles. For three weeks, she wandered from Beverly Hills to Bunker Hill, taking notes, interviewing residents, and writing about LA for her readers in Denmark. She went home, unpacked, repacked, and returned to her newly adopted haunts. On her second visit to California, she stayed nine weeks.

Detail from the Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles by Paul Rogers. http://www.herblester.com

More than any other LA writer—more than James M. Cain, John Fante, and Raymond Chandler—it was Charles Bukowski who fascinated Oerum. Bukowski’s streets became her shrine, although their seediness seemed anathema to the very notion of a literary shrine. Born in Germany in 1924 and brought to the United States as a child, Bukowski published more than one hundred books that have long been appreciated more in Europe than in the United States, at least until recently. Oerum made a pilgrimage to Bukowski’s grave at Green Hills Memorial Park and with friends observed the anniversary of his death at King Eddy Saloon, the self-proclaimed “finest watering hole on Skid Row.”

Richard Schave, the founder of Esotouric—which offers literary tours billed as “adventures into the heart of LA”—brought Oerum into Bukowski’s world of drunks, derelicts, college professors, and intellectuals in the City of Angels. A perfect guide to the world of Bukowski, Cain, Chandler, and Fante, Schave is a native Angeleno. He eats, sleeps, drinks, and thinks like a character in a noir film circa 1945, or perhaps more like a noir director, say Billy Wilder. Schave’s literary map of LA is recognizable to readers who have been raised on Bukowski, Baudelaire, and Brecht, German expressionists and French film critics, who gave the word “noir” to Hollywood’s downward-spiraling narratives about criminals, grifters, insurance salesmen, and waitresses who commit murder for love and money.

And in the end what can a pilgrimage do to the pilgrim?

It has turned a Danish woman into an Angelena. “I love Bukowski’s LA,” Oerum told me. “I love the way that he gives humanity to people in the gutter. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to meet him in person. I wish I might have met more of the kinds of Americans that he writes about in Ham on Rye,” my favorite Bukowski book.

And it has made an Angeleno something else entirely. “I haven’t adopted a European view of the city per se,” Schave told me. “But I share with European artists and writers a peculiar view of LA that’s not exactly American and not entirely European, either.”


After Hours

by David Butow

Exploring California in the dark.

From Boom Winter 2014, Vol 4, No 4

There’s something about walking the streets in the quiet stillness of night. When darkness falls and businesses shut down, the strange colors from artificial lighting become more noticeable. Spaces take on a look and a feel for which they are not designed. The office workers, day laborers, shoppers, and diners have left, and there is a new energy in this absence, a substance in the void. There are no crowds, elevator music, or cell phone conversations to tune out. Instead, we can tune in.

As a professional photojournalist, my pictures have almost always included people. But a couple years ago a friend told me to get outside of my comfort zone. “Try shooting pictures that have no people.” This comment encouraged me to be more observant of visual mood when my plan would have been simply going from point A to point B. It added a photographic agenda to the journey. The final destination became point C, and point B became all the places in-between where I might pause, take in the energy of vacancy, and lift my camera to my eye. Many of the pictures that follow were taken in Oakland and San Francisco, when I was walking home from somewhere.

To have a photographic agenda is to have an excuse to be present in places you’d have no business being in otherwise, places like natural disasters or strangers’ weddings. It is also an excuse to be present in your daily life. There is being there physically, and then there is the more profound way of taking in places and moments with heightened awareness. This is a challenge and it is also a gift, because you might pay attention and have an experience when you otherwise would not. The agenda encourages me to grab the camera and record the scene, giving pleasure to a moment that previously would have gone unappreciated.




“Some Version of the Same River”

by Troy Jollimore with photos by Byron Wolfe

From Boom Fall 2014, Vol 4, No 3

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of Troy Jollimore’s essay ”Some Version of the Same River” from our Fall 2014 issue. 

In September 2012, photographer Byron Wolfe backpacked into Deer Creek, in northern California, carrying a heavy load of photographic gear. Accompanying him were myself, my girlfriend Heather Altfeld, Dave Nopel, a local historian and naturalist, and Dave’s dog, Mindy. We were looking for a particular spot on the creek, where Ishi, the so-called “last wild Indian in America,” had spent much time before his emergence from the woods; the spot where he had been photographed in 1914 when, after three years of living in the Bay Area, Ishi was convinced to return by the anthropologists who had become his friends.

Alfred Kroeber, Saxton Pope, and the other scientists and academics who accompanied Ishi back to this spot in 1914 wanted pictures of him in his “natural” setting, doing the things he once did as a matter of daily life: fishing with a spear, hunting with a bow, making fire—an Indian in the wild, being a wild Indian, as it were.

Byron wanted to find the exact sites where the original photographs were taken, and take new, contemporary photographs of those places. This, as it turned out, was not easy, partly because the 1914 photographs did not contain a great deal of useful geographical information: they tended to fill up as much of the frame as they could with the figure of Ishi himself, so that very little of the background was included. The person or persons behind the camera showed little interest in drawing back to take a picture that set Ishi in the context of a larger landscape. This, as Byron pointed out, is both interesting and odd, given how arduous reaching the site was and how difficult it was to convince Ishi to undertake the trip in the first place. Why bother making such a difficult trip if you weren’t going to photograph the landscape too? The 1914 pictures could have been taken almost anywhere; there were surely sites on the UC Berkeley campus, within an easy walk of Ishi’s new home, that could have served as well.

Several of the 1914 photographs were published not long after Ishi’s death, in an article about his archery techniques. The author of that article, Saxton Pope, was a San Francisco doctor and archery enthusiast who provided Ishi with medical care, became his student in the art of bow hunting, and grew to be his close friend. Some of the pictures were also included in Theodora Kroeber’s popular account of Ishi’s life, Ishi in Two Worlds, first published in 1961. Run the name “Ishi” through an Internet search engine and immediately some of these photographs will come up: snapshots of Ishi dressed in a loincloth, swimming in the creek, or crouching before a boulder. (The loincloth was worn at the insistence of the anthropologists, who wanted the pictures to look authentically primitive or, rather, wanted Ishi to look authentically primitive in the pictures. During most of the trip, when Ishi was not being photographed, he was dressed in his Bay Area street clothes.)

After some searching, Byron managed to find the spots where the 1914 photographs had been taken. Although a century had passed, the larger rocks and many of the trees were still there. The water was still there, but the creek itself had moved and its banks were considerably lower, meaning that some of the rephotographs could not be taken from precisely the same place as the originals. As Rebecca Solnit has written, “you can’t make the same photograph twice, though you can return to some version of the same river”—a claim that turned out to be more or less literally true in this case.¹

Byron, however, had no desire to “make the same photograph twice.” Although he wanted to find the exact sites and retake the photographs at the same time of day, he also wanted his photographs to include the landscape that surrounded the original scenes, thus providing considerably more information than the original photographs had. (One of the resulting images is a very wide panorama of Deer Creek itself, into which Byron has inserted several 1914 images of Ishi fishing and swimming.) Byron was interested in showing what had changed in the decades that had intervened between the two acts of photography, and also in posing questions about the original photographers’ intentions and choices, what they thought they were gaining in choosing to make their pictures at these particular sites, whether and in what sense they took the results to be “authentic” portraits of Ishi’s pre-1911 life, and what they wanted people to find in, and take away from, the pictures they took.

Watching Byron work—as he searched for the precise original vantage from which a particular shot had been made, tried to get the camera angle precisely right, and waited for the sun to reach the appropriate point in the sky—got me thinking about patience and art, and about the relation between photography and time. A certain consciousness of time is deeply programmed into his artistic process. The right time of year, the right time of day, the right light, the right tone: all these things are necessary to the creation of the work, and they all come around again if you wait long enough. Perhaps thinking of time in this way is one way of getting a little closer to Ishi’s own worldview, since the tendency to see time as linear and progressive is largely an artifact of the industrialized West. Native Americans, and indigenous people in general, have often expressed conceptions of time in terms of repeating cycles rather than as continuous forward motion.

One of Ishi’s most precious possessions in his later years was a watch, which he wore regularly but did not keep wound. It didn’t seem to matter to Ishi, that is, that the watch told the correct time, that it was connected with temporal reality. He didn’t seem to care whether it fulfilled the function that we think of as the very reason for which a watch exists. For whatever reason—because it represented his new life in the modern world, because it was a gift from a friend, or simply because it was beautiful—he apparently liked having it on his wrist.

Returning to “some version of the same river” means one thing when the river is a river. It means something different, perhaps, when the subject of the original photographs was not a landscape but a person. It means something still different, and poignant, when that person is made to represent a supposed historical vanishing point, the narrow final tip of a long historical shadow cast by an entire people who are conceived to be disappearing.


All artwork by Byron Wolfe, digital inkjet prints, various sizes up to 120″ in length. Page 37: Traces of “Ishi drying a fire drill” in Deer Creek Canyon, May 1914 and September 2012; pages 38–39: Perched atop 15 million-year-old “Lovejoy Basalt”; Ishi, demonstrating how to hunt salmon in Deer Creek. Summer 1914 and Autumn 2012; page 41: “Ishi loved his bow as he loved nothing else in his possession.” – his friend, Saxton T. Pope, in an academic journal, 1918. September, 2012; page 43: Ishi’s storage cave, a site of conflict and hardship, isolated and unchanged for a century. September, 2011; page 45: After the shooting demonstration, only 100 meters from their camp, Autumn 2012 and Summer 1914. Inset photographs courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Regents of the University of California.

1 From Rebecca Solnit, from Klett, Solnit, and Wolfe, Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2005), p. 19.



We Out Here

by Rian Dundon

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

Editor’s note: We asked photographer Rian Dundon to put a face on the displacement that is roiling San Francisco. His photo essay focuses on the city, but also on surrounding areas like Oakland, San Jose, and even Santa Cruz because, as he noted: these issues spill out. “Especially if you’re talking about inequality, geographically, you have to look at if people are being kicked out of San Francisco, where are they ending up?” He told us that he approached the assignment not as a journalist but from “a more ambiguous space in photography—to find the power of what can be suggested more than literally described.”

He added: “This idea of ‘what’s the matter with San Francisco’ can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I wanted to touch on some of the major broader themes of housing and transportation, but I wanted to do it in a way that is less direct, while also acknowledging the fact that in some ways nothing is the matter. It’s still a diverse, dynamic, incredibly interesting place to be, to live, to work. For a lot of people, the majority of people, our day to day lives are not infiltrated by Google buses, tech shuttles, or techies. That’s a minor thing in a lot of people’s lives as opposed to how’s it’s blown up in the media.”

“We out here” is a slang term that originated among skateboarders in San Francisco, where it referred to the hard work of constant practice in the cityscape, but it has since evolved and spread. Now it refers more to living in the moment, making the most of what you have and maintaining a sense of solidarity within a community. Whatever we have, whoever we are, we’re all working hard, striving and surviving “out here” at the edge of the new world.

Morning commuters from Sacramento watch the sunrise over the San Joaquin River Delta as they travel towards San Francisco. Outside Concord, 2013.

Young Family at Ocean Beach. San Francisco, 2014.

Portrait of painter RW: formerly of SF, since moved to Oakland. San Francisco, 2011.

James in his SRO apartment shortly before leaving the city. Soma, SF 2013.

Bus Stop Billboard. Tenderloin, SF 2014.

Security at a private, Microsoft sponsored Blake Shelton concert held outside City Hall. Civic Center Plaza, SF 2013.

Oakland rapper Philthy Rich poses for pictures with female fans. Santa Cruz, 2012.

Baseball Parade. Market Street, SF 2010.

Downtown. Oakland, 2013.

SRO Fire Escape. Soma, SF 2010.

All photographs courtesy of Rian Dundon.



Stop the Presses

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

Broadsides from the frontlines of gentrification

Editor’s note: The story of how San Francisco Eviction Times came to be is a San Francisco story, of the kind many fear might soon disappear. Last fall, Art Hazelwood and Patrick Piazza handed out anti-gentrification posters in the Mission at a Day of the Dead exhibition commemorating the life and work of the late Mexican political printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada. There they struck up conversations with other activists and artists, including a DJ at San Francisco’s Mutiny Radio, who invited them to create a show for the radio station. So Hazelwood and Piazza circulated a flyer by Posada that read “Esta hoja volante se publicará cuando los acontecimientos de sensación lo requieran” (“This broadside will be published when sensational events require it”). They sent it to artists they knew in the city, and asked them each to create Posada-inspired posters about the anti-gentrification struggle in the Mission. And the artists delivered. Their work was exhibited at Mutiny Radio this spring. As powerful as the posters are, the creation of the show itself is a testament to what could be lost as the Mission becomes more and more unaffordable. What follows are posters from San Francisco Eviction Times, courtesy of the artists and Patrick Piazza, who photographed them for Boom.

Poster by Art Hazelwood.

Poster by Mobile Arts Platform.

Poster by Jos Sances.

Poster by Patrick Piazza.

Poster by Jos Sances.

Poster by Veronica Solis.


Image at top is a detail from a poster by Jose Cruz.


Serigrafia: A Reflection

by Carlos Francisco Jackson

Posters, art, and the Chicana/o consciousness.

Serigrafia is an exhibition of Chicana/o posters from California that is touring California, and has already been exhibited at the UC Davis Design Museum, Arte Américas in Fresno, and the Pasadena California Museum of Art. I served as one of the cocurators of Serigrafia. Recently, I stepped back from the exhibition and contemplated the significance of this collection of Chicano posters from 1969–2011. In doing so I was reminded of my initial encounter with Chicano social serigraphy (screen printing) through a class I took with Malaquias Montoya, professor emeritus of Chicana/o Studies and Art at UC Davis. Malaquias Montoya was one of the founders of Chicana/o social serigraphy, and his posters are well represented in the exhibition. He developed a Chicana/o community-based art curriculum that included a poster workshop and a mural workshop. Malaquias instituted both of these courses in the newly created Chicano Studies Program at UC Berkeley in 1969. The poster and mural classes are still taught today, where I teach, in Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis, which is a direct result of this curriculum created in 1969. The work on view in Serigrafia charts the work of some of the most prominent printmakers to have emerged from the Chicano Movement and the development of a Chicana/o consciousness. The posters on view are representative of a “space” where Chicana/o identity and consciousness have been explored, expressed, and challenged while simultaneously serving the community through advocacy and engagement. Chicana/o identity has often been framed as an essentialist category for which people are either included or excluded racially. Yet, like the posters on view in Serigrafia, Chicana/o identity has been transforming ever since the initial idea for its framework was written in 1969 in the founding document of Chicana/o Studies, El Plan de Santa Bárbara. The posters, as “spaces,” mirror Chicana scholar, Rosa Linda Fregoso’s framework for Chicana/o identity as she defined it in 1993 stating, “Chicano refers to a space where subjectivity is produced (p.xix).” If the posters on view in Serigrafia are spaces where subjectivity is produced, then Chicana/o consciousness and identity has, since its inception, been overwhelmingly forward-thinking and visionary in representing a more just future for communities that have been historically marginalized and underrepresented.


“Festival de la Raza” mural in Tijuana by Malaquias Montoya, 1986. COURTESY OF MALAQUIAS MONTOYA.

I initially encountered Malaquias Montoya in the fall of 1996 when he came to give an evening presentation to a group of Chicano students at a theme dorm called Casa Cuauhtemoc on the UC Davis campus, where I was a first-year student and resident. Malaquias Montoya had come to Casa Cuauhtemoc to give an hour-long slide presentation on his work. He presented on a mural that he had conducted and completed in Tijuana in 1986 as part of the Festival de la Raza. His slide talk outlined the entire mural process from conception to completion. The swiftness in which he painted the mural is what I recall being the most striking thing about the presentation. The actual painting of the mural took no more than a few days to complete. He spent as much time engaging with the community before he began the scaled drawing as he did working on the actual painting. His prep work included scanning the environment, meeting with residents in the nearby community, talking with community leaders and activists, and entering into dialogue with community educators and cultural workers. Fundamentally, the slide talk—and I didn’t realize this until later—emphasized that the work of a Chicano artist is rooted in community engagement through culture as a means to empower, educate, and foster transformation. Malaquias engaged the community, a community he was a member of, and yet he also challenged that community to reimagine itself through the imagery in this mural. The mural ultimately was a discussion of the historical legacy of colonialism, imperialism, and the struggles that the Mexican, Mexican American, and Latin American diasporic communities had faced through multiple layers of conquest.

It was because of this presentation that I sought out Malaquias the following year. As a nineteen-year-old second-year student, I was active in several Chicano student programs and would spend quite a bit of time in the Chicana/o Studies department. In the fall quarter of 1997, I introduced myself to Malaquias while he was standing in the hallway of the department after a faculty meeting. I asked him if I could enroll in his upper-division course titled Chicana/o Poster Workshop. This course was quite popular with many of the active Chicana/o students. The class was designed to teach students how to create silkscreen posters by requiring them to represent prescient topics in posters, which would ultimately be distributed within the local community or a community-serving organization. Students were widely aware of the importance of this course, which is why the course would fill its enrollment cap within the first few hours of open registration. When I saw Malaquias in the Chicana/o Studies department hallway and walked up to him to ask his permission to enroll in the poster workshop, I did so because enrollment was restricted with a prerequisite that students needed to have taken Survey of Chicana/o Art. If you had not taken that course, you could enroll but you had to seek permission of the instructor first. I introduced myself to Malaquias and quietly asked for his permission to enroll. When Malaquias asked if I had taken the prerequisite, I responded that I had not. Hoping to convince Malaquias that I was worthy of enrollment, I explained that I was a member of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) and active in several Chicano student-serving programs. Malaquias was not swayed and said that if I was to enroll in the poster workshop I would need to take Survey of Chicana/o Art. I walked away defeated, as I had no intention of taking an introductory course on Chicana/o art. I did not understand how Chicano art related to my interests in community-engagement and activism. Clearly, I was naïve and uneducated regarding the history of the movement’s importance. Malaquias’s denial of my request to enroll in his poster workshop turned out to be a gift, one that would transform my life.

When I approached Malaquias, I did not understand why it was important for me to take Survey of Chicana/o Art before enrolling in the poster workshop. At the time, I was interested only in raising my consciousness, political activism and engagement, and enrolling in classes to help me understand the reasons inequality existed back home. To me, these were found in lectures and seminar courses in Chicana/o studies and in departments such as history, political science, and sociology. I was not aware of any value the arts would have on my educational path at the university. But, to ultimately enroll in the poster workshop, which I was anxious to do, I needed to take Survey of Chicana/o Art. So, in the fall of 1998, a little less than a year after I initially asked for permission, I enrolled in Malaquias’s survey course. The only way I can describe the experience of that course is to say that I left it completely transformed—transformed as a person in every way.

The Survey of Chicana/o Art course led students on a path to understanding the influences and context in which the Chicano Art Movement emerged. Malaquias’s students had to read articles about the importance of representation and resistance to the dominant culture that had structured inequality for marginalized communities, and he shared examples of community-engaged art practices such as colectivas and talleres. The class ultimately left students with an appreciation of why the silkscreen poster and community mural were two unique Chicana/o visual art forms and why these practices were still taught within a Chicana/o studies department like that of UC Davis. In this course, Chicano identity was never presented as a race-based category. Rather, in the context of this course, being a Chicana or Chicano was to be a person committed to community engagement, social justice, antiracism, and equality. Had I not been required to take the survey course first, I would not have developed a full appreciation of the significance of the Chicana/o Art Movement and the role of the poster within it. A poster would simply have just remained a poster. For me, I know that the poster would not have developed into what it has become, a space where Chicana/o consciousness is recorded and expressed.


“Constitución del 17″ by Elena Huerta, ca. 1935. Relief print. COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME, SNITE MUSEUM OF ART.

My transformation began during the survey course when Malaquias showed the first set of what would be several sets of slides of Chicana/o artists. I most looked forward to the days when Malaquias showed slides of the artists’ works we were discussing in the readings. The slides that Malaquias showed initially were about the influences to the Chicana/o Movement, which included images of the Mexican Mural Movement, Jose Guadalupe Posada’s broadsides, the Taller de Gráfica Popular, and printmakers from revolutionary Cuba. As the quarter went on. Malaquias showed more and more work by Chicanas and Chicanos. I remember Malaquias sharing drawings and prints by Ester Hernandez and Yolanda Lopez. I was incredibly moved by their work and by the respect with which Malaquias presented it. Malaquias was a towering figure to me and many of the Chicana/o students on campus. It was incredibly powerful to see him humble before the work of Ester and his contemporaries. I now understand that this humility was an expression of respect for those who are engaging culture within the framework of the Movement. I remember looking at the images that were projected out of the slide carousel in our darkened classroom, wondering why I had not seen these images before, wondering why they were not part of my upbringing. Today, as a faculty member in Chicana/o studies, what I most often hear from students who are engaged in our curriculum is, “Why didn’t I know this earlier? Why wasn’t I taught this before I arrived on campus?” The common frustration is one that I experienced as a student. Why did I have to come to UC Davis, 400 miles from home, to learn about who I am? The knowledge and history of who I am and where I come from rightfully belongs to me. There is a feeling of frustration and anger that more people haven’t had the opportunity to learn about this heritage and see these images.


“La Retirada” No. 16 from 1973 XX Aniversario portfolio by Rene Mederos, 1973. COURTESY OF THE CHICANA/O STUDIES DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS.

These images represented my family, my mother, my uncles, cousins, grandparents, and community. The works were not simply mirrors for their likenesses; they were images that transformed their likenesses to represent gods, heroes, leaders, and monuments. Yolanda Lopez’s Margaret F. Stewart: Our Lady of Guadalupe and Ester Hernandez’s Virgen de las Calles presented as people what I saw represented in their work—my family and community. These artists represented who we are. They revealed to me the extent to which I, and my family, had not been properly represented in the dominant culture and even in the daily encounters of the Mexican American experience. I thought to myself, “Where were these images? Where could I find them? How could I make them my own? How can I share them with others?” To discover the answers, I went to the library and looked for books. In 1998, very few library books had reproduced images of Chicana/o art. I found the CARA catalog, checked it out, and carried it with me wherever I went. I found the 1969 edition of El Grito that had a portfolio of images of the newly formed Mexican American Liberation Art Front. One night when I was at LA Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley I found two copies of Malaquias Montoya’s Adeline Kent Award Catalog for sale for $15 each. I bought both copies. I leafed through these catalogs so much that I wore down the edges of the paper and had started to wear down the quality of the reproductions. Words cannot express how important those images were to me.


“Margaret F. Stewart: Our Lady of Guadalupe” by Yolanda Lopez, 1978. COURTESY OF YOLANDA LOPEZ AND THE CHICANO STUDIES RESEARCH CENTER AT UCLA.

Malaquias did not present his own artwork in Survey of Chicana/o Art until the end of the quarter. On the second to last day of class, he showed a full slide carousel of artworks that described his trajectory as an artist, from the earliest Yo Soy Chicano posters created in San Jose and Berkeley between 1967 and 1969 to his most recent series of pastel drawings on paper that commemorate the recent passing of Cesar Chavez. On the last day of class, we discussed and debated Eduardo Galeano’s article, “In Defense of the Word.” I recall, quite vividly, the emotion in our classroom as we attempted to comprehend Galeano’s words: “We are what we do, especially what we do to change who we are: our identity resides in action and in struggle. Therefore, the revelation of what we are implies a denunciation of those who stop us from being what we can become (Galeano, p.190).” I left that day knowing that my identity had the opportunity to be defined not by what I am, but rather by what I do. At the time, I did not have the language to describe what I felt inside or what I knew about myself and what I needed to do. Retrospectively, I can say that at that point I knew I wanted to contribute to this movement of cultural workers. I didn’t know how. I simply knew that in some way my life was going to be dedicated to fostering the expansion of the arts to represent the breadth and weight of the Chicano experience so that the broader community would have access to the arts, not as an activity of leisure but rather as an indispensable part of creating equal representation for a community that has been, too often, rendered invisible.


“La Virgen de las Calles” by Ester Hernandez, 2001. COURTESY OF ESTER HERNANDEZ.

This essay began when, as I was walking through Serigrafia experiencing the posters on view, I recalled feeling the same as I did when I attended an exhibition that was recommended in the Survey of Chicana/o Art syllabus. Malaquias had placed several local and regional Chicana/o art exhibitions in the course syllabus so students could see and experience the artwork being discussed in class. I was able to attend one of the exhibits of Malaquias’s posters at Laney College’s art gallery in Oakland. I drove with a friend to Oakland to view the exhibition. I was not able to attend the exhibition opening, which undoubtedly was a powerful event with historical activists and cultural workers as attendees. Laney was the community college that Malaquias and Manuel Hernandez worked with to support their community art silkscreen centers in East Oakland during the 1970s. I visited Laney during the week on a normal business day. The gallery was empty. My friend and I quietly walked around and experienced the artwork in a very private and quiet manner. On view at Laney were twenty of Malaquias’s most iconic screen prints: his poster addressing Wells Fargo’s support of the dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s, Argentina’s dirty war, and the Bakke decision. All of the posters were framed in simple, natural-colored wood frames with basic mats laid on top to crop out the very outer edges of each poster. The uniform nature of the frames created a consistency among the works that was not present in the diversity of imagery and wide breadth of topics represented in the posters. Malaquias created each of the posters, so he is represented in each poster. But, as a whole, they were diverse as a collection of artwork. The exhibit included posters using oil-based inks and other posters using acrylic inks. Some were created using only an X-Acto knife, creating hard edges throughout the imagery, and some were made using loose drawing techniques and hand-cut lettered stenciling. Posters addressed the inhumane conditions of farmworkers in the Central Valley and valorized the decolonizing efforts of activists in Angola. The works were transnational yet rooted in a Chicano perspective. The posters were largely historical, yet there were contemporary issues confronting the Mexican American community. The work represented Third World solidarity, which spoke to my developing understanding of community.


“Calavera Campesino” by Malaquias Montoya, 1993. Acrylic, pencil, and pastel on paper, 30′′× 22′′. COURTESY OF MALAQUIAS MONTOYA.

As a student in 1998, I sensed a thread, an expression of consciousness among some Chicano students that was highly exclusionary. There were Chicano students, especially those who were politically active, who had very strict notions of what constituted inclusion in the category “Chicano.” Chicana/o community membership among many of my fellow classmates fell along rigid boundaries defined by politic, dress, and language. Malaquias’s work was liberating because it crossed boundaries and borders. What unified his work was a commitment to speak against injustice and make these images and ideas available and accessible to a broad community constituency. The work on view at Laney College affirmed the idea that to be Chicano, or to be a Chicano artist, was to be someone committed to a life of approaching social justice through community collaboration. From the very beginning, the work was about community self-determination and social justice. Cultural nationalism, while sparsely representative through indigenous iconography, was not a force within the works on view at Laney. Cultural nationalism, a very prominent ideological force at the outset of the Chicano Power Movement, would eventually be widely critiqued for its rigid boundaries and essentialist racial framework. Malaquias’s work was only essentialist in that it was essentially antiracist, preferring resistance to injustice. This was something that I tacitly or internally understood while viewing the show at Laney College, but it was not something I had the language skills to fully articulate until now.

The Serigrafia exhibition presents a selection of the most iconic, historic, and significant Chicana/o posters created from the outset of the Chicana/o Movement. The significance of this exhibition is not that a diverse collaborative team of cultural workers curated it or that it is one of the few national, traveling exhibits of Chicano posters to be organized. Nor is its primary significance due to the inclusion of several generations of artists, including those who created this cultural form of engagement and emerging artists in their twenties and early thirties who were mentored or inspired by the pioneers of the movement. Although these are unique and highly significant aspects of this traveling exhibit, I believe the most unique aspect of Serigrafia is that it demonstrates the trajectory of the Chicano Art Movement, specifically Chicano social serigraphy as being informed and defined by a productive quality based on antiracism, decolonization, and community self-determination. The Chicano Art Movement and the self-designated category Chicano were not race-based alignments where inclusion or exclusion was based on narrowly defined qualities outside of people’s control. Chicano art and Chicano identity are not simply politicized markers for Mexican Americans or the culture they create. Rather, as Ian Haney Lopez states in his book Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice, Mexican American activists in the 1960s invented the category Chicano. This invention was to represent a “productive quality (Fregoso, p.xix).” Rosa Linda Fregoso, in the introduction to her book The Bronze Screen, states that Chicanos did not “invent” themselves but rather “reinvented (imagined anew) a ‘community’ of Chicanos and Chicanas (p.xix).” For those new to the Chicano Movement and, specifically, the Chicano Art Movement, their first question when encountering this might very well be, Why is it be necessary to create “anew” a group of people who already exist? The answer is readily evident in the posters on view in Serigrafia.

Significant portions of the works represented in Serigrafia were made at the outset of the Chicana/o Movement. The beginning of the Chicana/o Movement in the mid-1960s represents a rupture—the point in history when the Mexican American community began to view inequity and underrepresentation as evidence of a society that had structured inequality along racial lines. The era before this rupture has been described as the “Mexican American Generation.” The Mexican American Generation produced socially oriented organizations such as the GI Forum and LULAC that advocated on behalf of the Mexican American community. Despite this, it was an era that largely sought community self-determination through assimilation into the dominant culture. The assimilationist efforts of the Mexican American Generation were largely built around deficit thinking discourses: the notion that there were shortfalls within Mexican American culture and those shortfalls were the reasons inequity and lack of resources existed.

For Mexican Americans during the post-war period, this framework subsequently necessitated assimilation into the dominant culture as the only path for self-determination. This “deficit thinking” discourse, as Martha Menchaca states in Recovering History/Constructing Race, largely grew out of an effort “to blame Mexican Americans for the social and economic problems generated by Anglo-American racism (p.15).” Menchaca charts how in 1968 Octavio Romano-V, an early anthropologist and Chicano scholar, explained that the dominant culture had “ignored the way in which racism historically had been used by Anglo Americans to obstruct the social, economic, and political mobility of Mexican-origin people,” and he described how “Mexican Americans were studied ahistorically in order to ignore the vestiges of Anglo-American racism—such as segregation, employment discrimination, racist laws, and police violence.” In this case, the term ahistorical describes Mexican Americans as an “immigrant and peasant-like group who had not contributed to the nation’s infrastructure culturally, technologically, or architecturally (Ibid.).” This perspective marked as invisible the Mexican American community’s historical legacy in the Southwest and their contributions to the growth of the nation’s economy and infrastructure.


“Yo Soy Chicano” by Malaquias Montoya, 2013. Screenprint. 30′′× 22′′. Reprint by Jesus Barraza from the 1972 original. COURTESY OF MALAQUIAS MONTOYA.

Ten years after I initially took Malaquias’s survey course, he retired from UC Davis, and I, a recently hired assistant professor in the department, had the privilege of organizing his retirement celebration. In thinking about the construction of the Mexican American community as ahistorical, I now refer back to a profound statement shared on the day of Malaquias’s celebration. Greg Morozumi (long-time activist, organizer, cultural worker, and former student of Malaquias Montoya at UC Berkeley between 1969 and 1971) was the last of many speakers celebrating Malaquias’s impact as an educator and artist. When Greg came to the podium, he said: “When the Third World Solidarity Movement and Chicano Movement began, we didn’t even know who we were. The significance of the cultural movement was to create a new understanding of who we are.” Greg, in his tribute to Malaquias, talked about the significance of Third World cultural movements in the Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Greg’s statement that “we didn’t even know who we were” highlights the degree to which communities that had been historically marginalized had internalized the dominant culture’s ahistorical perspective. The significance of the Chicano Art Movement lies in the productive quality in which a new identity and consciousness was realized and expressed within its activity and cultural production. In this way, each Chicana/o poster historicizes, repairing the damage an ahistorical perspective has wrecked over generations.

Serigrafia presents two types of Chicano posters, both similar but with important distinctions. The first type of poster represented is that which primarily addresses an issue of culture or what I would call an expression of Chicano consciousness. These posters visualize new empowering images of what would represent a new Chicana/o identity. Posters such as Barbara Carrasco’s DOLORES are examples of works that visualize representations of an identity not fixed within a cultural nationalist, racial, or ideological framework. These works are created not necessarily for a specific event, rally, or organization. Rather, they serve as artistic representations of some ethos or cultural figuration that enhances our understanding of how the community is being “imagined anew (Fregoso, p.xxiii).”

The second type of poster represented is more issue driven (politically, socially, economically, etc.). This second type of poster is primarily represented in Serigrafia. These posters address issues affecting a dynamic, ever-expanding, and changing transnational community. Therefore, through posters for a community clinic, boycott, rally, fundraising drive, or political action, the ever-changing and growing understanding of Chicana/o consciousness is revealed. These posters bridge the development of new representations of consciousness with tangible applications. Posters are often categorized as design, propaganda, and/or didactics. They are very rarely categorized as art. Within the Chicana/o Art Movement, there is no distinction between a fine print and a poster. There is no high or low culture: there is simply the invention and subsequent creation of a space where subjectivity is produced, all in the service of community self-determination.



Therefore, the poster can be a tool for social purposes and an ever-changing and developing space for the expression of consciousness. In this respect, the poster itself serves as a metaphor for the category Chicana/o. The category Chicana/o has, since the outset of the Chicana/o civil rights movement, vexed individuals who have tried to define the parameters of its definition. Chicana/o ultimately is a category or identity that is fundamentally self-designated. Chicano has most often and regularly been stated to be another racial classification for Mexican Americans. This is understandable because the term “Chicano” emerged through the Mexican American civil rights movement of the late 1960s. Despite this specificity, the term Chicano from the outset was developed to represent a category of cultural politics that challenged racial constructions. As stated in El Plan de Santa Bárbara, “Chicano, in the past a pejorative and class-bound adjective, has now become the root idea of a new cultural identity for our people [emphasis added].” This document, drafted by students and community activists in 1969, outlines “community self-determination” as the essence of Chicano commitment. In this respect, Chicano is an idea that is informed by a commitment to community. The idea, then, is manifested through various methods. Rosa Linda Fregoso addresses the issue of what constitutes Chicano cultural production by stating: “The quandary in the self-designation Chicano undergirds the cultural category, Chicano cinema, because what to call the people of Mexican origin (“Chicano,” “Latino,” or “Hispanic”), or whom to consider for membership into the Chicano nation, depends on one’s politics and the context of the term’s usage (p.xviii).” I would swap the word “art” for “cinema” within the context of Fregoso’s essay. I would even go so far as to say the words “politics,” “identity,” and “culture” could be swapped for the word “cinema.” Fregoso states that she handles the problem of self-designation or classification of Chicano cinema (culture, art, politics, identity, etc.) by “de-emphasizing the biological claims to authenticity, yet accentuating its productive quality. In this respect, Chicano refers to a space [emphasis added] where subjectivity is produced (xix).” The poster serves as the subjective space described by Fregoso. Within the designated image area of the paper or substrate, you have representations of transnationalism, gender equality, international solidarity, and decolonizing practices where antiracism and social justice serve as the common denominator. Within this space, this subjective space that is the poster, we can see an opening up of access and expanding conceptions of social justice and equality that begin at the onset of the movement and become more prevalent as we move closer to our contemporary context.

In 1999, viewing the exhibition at Laney College was the equivalent to someone telling me where I’ve come from, who I am, and where my community is headed. The great absence of Chicano history, culture, and art from the K–12 educational curriculum and its absence from representation within the dominant culture has, for generations, created alienation. The experience of standing in the empty gallery at Laney was profound. As Gloria Anzaldua states, before something new can be created to truly foster a new way of relating to each other “our mothers, sisters, brothers, the guys who hang out on street corners, the children in the playgrounds, each of us must know our Indian lineage, or afro-mestizaje, our history of resistance (p.86).” The posters at Laney and the posters in Serigrafia demonstrate the internal process Chicano artists have gone through to understand the root idea that forms Chicano identity. Anzaldua explains this by stating that the “struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads (p.87).” Malaquias, Ester Hernandez, Yolanda Lopez, Juan Fuentes, Barbara Carrasco, Rupert Garcia, Ricardo Favela, Jesus Barraza, Melanie Cervantes, Favianna Rodriguez, and Ernesto Yerena are a few of the artists represented in Serigrafia who have taken on that important work of imagining anew our collective experience and its relationship to the tangible issues of the day, be it forty years ago or yesterday. The expression of Chicana/o consciousness and the aspirations of this movement have been imagined and vocalized through the process of printmaking.