Culture

A San Francisco High School Is Losing A Historic Mural After Backlash Against Imagery And I Shed No Tears

The United States is currently undergoing a significant transformation. The division of political parties, including having a divisive president, is not helping to ease racial tensions. With so much emphasis on trying to right the wrongs of our country’s embroiled history, many are demanding the removal of several historical statues that glorify racist leaders. Though, it’s not just ending at statues. Paintings and murals depicting the cruelty of this country’s minority population are now being reevaluated with a 21st-century mindset. However, the issue isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. There are others that say doing away with these historical artifacts goes against freedom of speech. That’s the debate roiling at a San Francisco high school.

Last week, a school board in San Francisco voted to paint over a 1936 mural inside a high school that shows the mistreatment of African slaves and Native people.

Credit: artdecoca / Instagram

The fresco, titled “Life of Washington” is inside the walls of the diverse George Washington High School in San Francisco and it shows the early presidential years of our nation’s first president. But according to those offended by the mural, they say that it glorifies “racism, genocide, Manifest Destiny, colonization, and white supremacy,” according to the National Review.

The 13-panel mural was painted by Russian-American painter Victor Arnautoff who studied and worked under Diego Rivera.

Credit: Public Domain

Arnautoff painted several murals in the city (as did Rivera), but Arnautoff’s pieces are much controversial. As one critic noted, Arnautoff’s painting “depicts the father of our country as also being the father of a genocide later claimed by the victors as Manifest Destiny. It is a position so contrary to the national mythology of the time that I have often wondered how the artist got away with such criticism in a public space.” It seems that time has run out.

The removal of the painting will cost $600,000 to paint over it, but people who are offended by it say taking it down is worth it, regardless of the bill.

“Think of all the families, the children who have walked through there,” Joely Proudfit, professor of American Indian Studies at California State University, San Marcos, told The SF Chronicle.”What images do they see? Dead Indians to the left and African Americans to the right in bondage.”

Historic preservationists say that removing it these works of art is a violation of free speech.

Credit: @katwalkssf / Twitter

“We don’t burn great art. It is unconscionable,” Richard Walker, director of the Living New Deal Project, that is currently which is documenting art from Works Progress Administration, told The SF Chronicle.  “It’s something reactionaries do, fascists, it’s something the Nazis did, something we learned from history is not acceptable.”

The school board felt that students of color should not have to subject themselves to that kind of art.

Credit: @chatandcutt / Twitter

“Painting it over represents not only a symbolic fresh start but a real fresh start,” Mark Sanchez, vice president of the school board and a third-grade teacher, told CBS News.

However, just because they voted to remove the painting, doesn’t mean it will happen any time soon. The SF Chronicle reports that the vote to remove the mural has brought forth more trouble and will be under litigation.

San Francisco is undergoing a massive and poignant overhaul in the city that is rectifying the audacities of the past and honoring beloved artists of color.

Credit: @thehill / Twitter

Just last year, the SF Board of Supervisors voted to remove a street named after James D. Phelan, a racist 19th-century mayor and renamed it Frida Kahlo Way. California Mayor Gavin Newsom held a special event in which he apologized the Native American community for the state’s part in their population’s genocide.

“It’s called a genocide,” Newsom said, according to the Sacramento Bee. “No other way to describe it… I’m sorry on behalf of the state of California.” He added, “We can never undo the wrongs inflicted on the peoples who have lived on this land that we now call California since time immemorial, but we can work together to build bridges, tell the truth about our past and begin to heal deep wounds.”

READ: While D.C. Debates Reparations, California Governor Issues The Long Overdue Apology Indigenous People Have Long Awaited

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If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Culture

If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Bettman Archives / Getty Images

So many of us have been moved the art of the late Frida Kahlo. Even in death she’s gone on to inspire entire generations with her Surrealist self-portraits, lush depictions of plant and animal life, and magical realist tableaux. Not to mention her incredible life story.

She also inspired future generations of artists, many of whom are alive today creating beautiful works of art. These are just a few of the artists who have similar techniques, subjects, and styles to Frida Kahlo that you’ll definitely love if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo.

Maria Fragoso – Mexico City

Credit: Teach Me Sweet Things / Theirry Goldberg Gallery

Influenced by the style and narratives of Mexican surrealists and muralists, Maria Fragoso creates work that celebrates her Mexican culture, while also addressing notions of gender expression and queer identity. Her brightly colored canvases offer voyeuristic glimpses into intimate moments, with subjects engaging in acts that seem at once seductive and mischievous—often while gazing directly out at the viewer.

Recently featured in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in the “Art and Style” category, the 25-year-old artist is quickly rising to prominence. Born and raised in Mexico City, Fragoso moved to Baltimore in 2015 to pursue her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While in school, Fragoso was the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship at the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Since graduating, she has completed residencies at Palazzo Monti and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Nadia Waheed – Austin, Texas

Credit: Message from Janus / Mindy Solomon Gallery

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Austin, Texas–based artist Nadia Waheed explores notions of relocation, displacement, and vulnerability in her work. Her life-size figurative paintings are both allegorical and autobiographical—the female figures represent her own lived experiences, as well as the multifaceted identities of all women.

Rodeo Tapaya – Philippines

Credit: Nowhere Man / A3 Art Agency

Rodel Tapaya paints dreamlike, narrative works based on myths and folklore from his native Philippines. Drawing parallels between age-old fables and current events, Tapaya reimagines mythical tales by incorporating fragments of the present. “In some way, I realize that old stories are not just metaphors. I can find connections with contemporary time,” Tapaya said in a 2017 interview with the National Gallery of Australia. “It’s like the myths are poetic narrations of the present.”

While the content of Tapaya’s work is inspired by Filipino culture, his style and literary-based practice is heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Surrealist painters such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. Often working at a large scale, Tapaya has been commissioned to create several site-specific murals, including one for Art Fair Philippines in February 2020.

Leonor Fini – Buenos Aires

Credit: Les Aveugles / Weinstein Gallery

Long overlooked in favor of male Surrealists, Leonor Fini, a contemporary of Kahlo, was a pioneering 20th-century force. Known for having lived boldly, Fini is recognized for her unconventional lifestyle, theatrical personality, and avant-garde fashion sense. Born in Buenos Aires in 1907, Fini was raised by her mother in Trieste, Italy. She taught herself to paint and first exhibited her work at the age of 17.

Fini had one of her first solo exhibitions at age 25 with a Parisian gallery directed by Christian Dior. Her work was then included in the groundbreaking exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” at MoMA in 1936, while at the same time she had her first New York exhibition with Julien Levy Gallery. Today, Fini’s work is represented in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Ramon Alejandro – Miami

Credit: Eternal Life / Latino Art Core

José Ramón Díaz Alejandro, better known as Ramon Alejandro, paints idyllic still lifes of tropical fruits set in ethereal landscapes. The surrealistic compositions have a similar spirit to Kahlo’s less iconic but equally masterful still-life works

Coming from a long lineage of artists, Alejandro grew up with the artworks of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle adorning the walls of his childhood home. After growing up in Havana, Alejandro was sent to live in Argentina in 1960 amidst political turmoil in Cuba, and has continued to live in exile since then.

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

BUDA MENDES / GETTY IMAGES

There’s no denying the fact that the female form, and it’s bits, in particular, have inspired artwork the world over. Tarsila do Amaral was inspired by it. Frida Kahlo and artists like Zilia Sánchez and Marta Minujín too. Women’s bodies are inspired and so they inspire. Still, a recent unveiling of vulva artwork has become so controversial and made people so besides themselves that it seems many have forgotten these truths about our bodies.

Over the weekend, Brazilian visual artist Juliana Notari revealed her latest sculptureDiva, on a hillside at Usina del Arte. The art park is located in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and is described by Notari as “a massive vulva / wound excavation.”

The massive sculpture created on the hillside located in northeastern Brazil features a bright pink vulva and has fueled what is being described as a cultural war.

Notari created Diva, a colorful 108-foot concrete and resin sculpture on the site of a former sugar mill. The mill was converted into an open-air museum in Pernambuco state. Last week, when Notari debuted the installation she revealed it was meant to depict both a vulva and a wound while questioning the relationship between nature and culture in a “phallocentric and anthropocentric society.”

“These issues have become increasingly urgent today,” Notari wrote in a post shared to her Facebook page which was shared alongside a series of photos of the sculpture. According to NBC, it took a team of 20 artisans 11 months to build the entire concept.

No surprise, the piece of art sparked a wave of controversy on social media, with critics and supports debating its message and significance.

Over 25,000 users have commented on Notari’s Facebook post so far including leftists and conservatives. On the far-right, supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro have also been vocal about their views of the product.

“With all due respect, I did not like it. Imagine me walking with my young daughters in this park and them asking … Daddy, what is this? What will I answer?” one user wrote in the Facebook section of the post.

“With all due respect, you can teach your daughters not to be ashamed of their own genitals,” a woman replied.

Olavo de Carvalho, an advisor to Bolsonaro, vulgarly criticized the piece on Twitter.

Notari, whose previous work has been displayed at various galleries explained on her Facebook page that she created the piece to comment on gender issues in general.

“In Diva, I use art to dialogue with…gender issues from a female perspective combined with a cosmopocentric and anthropocentric western society,” Notari shared on her post to Facebook. “Currently these issues have become increasingly urgent. After all, it is by changing perspective of our relationship between humans and nonhuman, that will allow us to live longer on that planet and in a less unequal and catastrophic society.”

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