Culture

Jessica Sabogal Is A Colombian Muralist Adding Empowering And Strong Messages To The Bay Area One Mural At A Time

Jessica Sabogal is a Colombian muralist adding her unique beauty to walls from the Bay Area to Canada to nationally distributed posters. Sabogal begins each project by researching the neighborhood her work will be showcased. Then, she decides what la gente need to see to disrupt their daily lives. Her work has commemorated trans lives lost, showcased queer women taking up space, and exalted immigrants as “greatness.”

Primero, meet Jessica Sabogal.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal was born and raised in San Francisco, born to Colombian immigrants who narrowly escaped Pablo Escobar’s pervasive violence and terror in their community. They came for education and they gave their daughter a college education.

Sabogal graduated from UC San Diego in 2009.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She became politically active during her undergraduate career and majored in Political Science. By the time she graduated, however, she couldn’t imagine putting on a suit and tie and working in politics. So she put on a gas mask and got some spray paint instead.

 Sabogal started with stencil spray painting.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She wanted to make political statements on a larger scale, and, shockingly, the mere mirroring of Latinx culture is a political statement. Soon, her stencil art started to go viral.

This image of Chicana writer and theorist, Cherríe Moraga, is one of her first viral works.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Since then, she’s started the “Women are Perfect” campaign, which depicted different portraits of her feminist icons. Some critics have claimed that this campaign sets an impossible standard for women, and that women don’t have to be perfect.

Sabogal’s message is that women already possess perfection, without having to try.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

She aims to portray real women in her lives. Indigenous women from her homeland in Colombia. Her intern. Her neighbors, educators and other activists in the community. These women make up “Women are Perfect.”

Soon, she started being commissioned to paint entire walls.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

She’s making sure that White America can see Brown and Black America. That White America doesn’t forget their privilege, and the power that comes with it to dismantle white supremacy.

Sabogal’s art is la lucha against gentrification.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

This mural went up in Salt Lake City as part of the city’s mural project. In an interview with Slug Magazine, Sabogal explained her goal for this specific work of art:

“My work always has two intentions. If you see it and you get it, it’s for you. I hope it’s validating and grounding for you. For the folks that feel anything else, if they feel uncomfortable or [question] why it’s in Spanish, or don’t immediately understand its importance, it’s for [them] too. My goal is to make you curious about your apprehension to the work, to sit in it and have the uncomfortable conversations about it.

Sabogal has continued her family’s legacy of prioritizing education first.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

Her work has moved her parents. Her mother, Regina Otero-Sabogal has described Jessica as someone who doesn’t ever give up, and it shows.

She has committed herself to raising awareness and combatting violence against the trans community.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Chyna Gibson was a black trans woman murdered in Sacramento earlier this year.

Caption: “The death of Chyna Gibson, the death of Stephon Clark, the deaths of the countless names we hear every day on the news, were not isolated incidents. As the artists responsible for memorializing Chyna Gibson’s legacy, we could not do so without pushing the viewer to draw connections to broader structural issues of oppression and violence. We can not talk about racism without taking about whiteness. We can not talk about Black lives matter without talking about Black Trans Lives. We can not look at problems at the individual level when they affect our families and communities as a whole. So we urge you that stand here today, to ask yourselves the question, what will you do to protect our trans community?”

Her campaign has garnered the attention of powerhouses like Laverne Cox.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Because women are perfect, and Jessica Sabogal is one of them. She’s currently actively seeking queer, trans, women of color in the Bay Area for her next project. If that’s you, slide into her DM’s, it’s all welcome.

Showcasing lesbians and queer folks has proven controversial.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

The above mural was created in Montreal during the annual Decolonizing Street Art Convergence, and critics have spoken out about it. In an interview with Xpress Magazine, Sabogal said, “Why is it a big deal for me to produce a big lesbian mural in Canada? I am discovering it is a big deal because it is still not being talked about.”

Though she has received wide, positive reception, even commissioning the walls of Facebook headquarters.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

“Muralism for me is the beginning of a creation of my own political system—my own way of bringing about the most change I possibly can,” she told Slug Magazine. “In a way, they are small “advertisements” created in the name of my own people instead of trying to target us to buy something. They bring validation instead of trying to take something from us.”

Her murals say what we all want to, and it cannot be ignored.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal makes a huge effort to put indigenous people at the center of her work. No white person can argue with that statement, and it’s too true for so many in our community.

Her murals have been so powerful that some people have defaced the work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

Sabogal, joined with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and Melinda James, together called When Women Disrupt, traveled the country creating murals on college campuses. This one was defaced in Los Angeles, at USC. It was restored.

“I will not mourn the decline of whiteness in my America.”

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

“Liberation is not white,” “White supremacy is killing me,” “America is Black,” and other statements have captured the attention of so many, and of course given some white folks some strong opinions.

When Women Rebel have defended their work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

On its website, the feminist collective wrote, “By confronting communities in the public space with art that uplifts the voices and sacredness of people whom history has often rendered invisible and less than human, WWD’s intention is to provoke greater discussion and thinking about the institutionalized and everyday systems of power and representation that reinforce racism, patriarchy, and inequity.”

In a medium that is male dominated, just by creating her work, Sabogal is breaking glass ceilings.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

You might have recognized much of her work as part of Shepard Fairley’s “We The People” Public Art Campaign. I’m shocked if you haven’t screenshotted any of these images to your IG story.

You can buy her prints on her website.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

JessicaSabogal.com is home to all of her work, in highest resolution, along with a shop of her available work. Want to support a queer Colombiana while making your home modern and welcoming AF? Here’s you chance.

And bring your truth to life all around you.

CREDIT: @Buzzfeed / Twitter

Here we are, in all our glory. Her latest campaign is called “Our Existence Will No Longer Be Silenced.” It goes onto say that “we require no explanations, apologies, or approvals.”

Whatever you do, follow her work.

CREDIT: @jessicasabogal / Instagram

You can follower her on Instagram @jessicasabogal, support her artistry at JessicaSabogal.com or just go right ahead and add her work to your IG story already. She lifts us all up. Vamos a dar lo mismo.


READ: You’re About To Want All Boricua Elizabeth Barreto’s Illustrations Tattooed On Your Body

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Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

This Nude Painting Of Mexican Icon Emiliano Zapata Has Gone Viral But It’s Actually Not Even New

Culture

This Nude Painting Of Mexican Icon Emiliano Zapata Has Gone Viral But It’s Actually Not Even New

Secretaria de Cultura / Fabian Chairez

La Revolución by Chiapas artist Fabian Cháirez depicts Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata riding a white horse. Zapata has his eyes closed as if he was lost in reverie, he’s totally nude, wearing high heels, and a shimmering pink hat — and the horse has a massive erection. 

The painting isn’t new, it is one of 141 works included in the exhibit Zapata Después de Zapata to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the revolutionary’s death. When the Mexican Secretariat of Culture shared the image on Facebook, many users had a polarizing response. Cháirez believes the negative responses are rooted in sexist and homophobic attitudes. 

Zapata’s grandson says he is taking legal action against the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature. 

“We are not going to allow that. That’s why they’re going to take legal action”. Zapata´s grandson said in a statement. “We came here to exhibit the nonsense they did… to exhibit a photograph of our general (Emiliano Zapata) in Bellas Artes”

One would think the issue a critic would have with the image is that there might be an implication of bestiality. No, according to Zapata’s grandson, Jorge Zapata who held a press conference in Cuernavaca  says the problem is that Cháirez painted him as “gay.” 

“What could we call him? An unknown painter, who I think wants fame… he portrays general Zapata as, gay. So I believe that as a family, as a people, where we are clearly Zapatistas, we are not going to allow that,” Jorge said according to the Yucatan Times

Does Jorge think being gay means two men love each other or that a man and a horse love each other? Jorge appears to be more repulsed by the thought of his grandfather possibly liking another man, more so than him being attracted to a horse. 

“Now we’ve done what’s right, we are going to sue them, and we´ll have demonstrations and hold press conferences. We are going to sue both the painter and the person in charge of Bellas Artes.” Jorge said at the conference. 

Art is subjective and isn’t always meant to be literally interpreted, Cháirez appears to be trying to evoke a feeling and a response from the viewer about what the image might mean rather than creating something intended to be taken at face value. 

Many people on social media were also offended by the painting.

“I truly think that the image is offensive for the Mexican leader and hero. I’m not at all against homosexuality . . . but Zapata deserves respect. He was a leader who fought for land rights and freedom. I will never accept the denigration of his image in this way,” Jonathan Gómez Rios wrote on Facebook.

However, others defended Cháirez’s painting, commending the artist for being able to stir controversy as it was clearly intended. 

“I love that a simple painting causes so much controversy. People argue and seethe because of a painting, A PAINTING! Well done to the Secretariat of Culture and whoever’s behind this post. Congratulations!” said another user on Facebook.

Cháirez speaks out in defense of his work of art. 

“The feminine [form of Zapata] is what causes contempt . . . We’re in a super sexist society. There are some people who are bothered by bodies that don’t obey the norms. [But] in this case, where’s the offense? Are they offended because he’s feminized?” he told El Universal.

Cháirez says portraits of Zapata usually glorify his masculinity, while his own works intend to do just the opposite. According to the Yucatan Times, the Chiapas painter is part of the Neomexicanism movement and his works typically portray bodies in ways that challenge traditional stereotypes about masculinity and social mores about sexual orientation. 

“His piece, ‘The Revolution’ questions the macho stereotypes that make up the national identity and makes visible the movements of sexual diversity,” the Yucatan Times writes. “The image has caused great offense among those who defend the memory of General Emiliano Zapata the ‘Caudillo del Sur’ and reject the idea of portraying him as a homosexual.”