Things That Matter

An Art Project Portraying Immigrants As ‘Aliens’ Is Stirring Up Discussion About Who Can Make Art About POC

Immigration is an intensely sensitive subject. Though people migrate from all over the world, it’s one that seems to touch communities of color more often than white communities because of the prejudices our society holds against brown and Black people. One look at the border wall discussion exposes just how narrow-minded some people can be concerning migration. The use of words like “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” further expose how ugly people can be towards migrants. 

Considering all this, it’s not surprising that people who are uneducated about the subject of immigration seem to be the ones who talk the most about it. 

Take, for example, this offensive art project that Twitter recently exposed for its shocking commentary on immigration.

Twitter / @itsapobitch

On Tuesday of this week, Twitter user @itsapobitch ⁠— who goes by Coyolxauhqui on the social media site ⁠— shared an image of a classmate’s art project. The painting originates from the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. According to the post, the art class’ assignment was to depict something with the theme of extraterrestrial or subterranean. For some reason, the person who created this offensive picture decided to depict a child wearing a Mexican sombrero and a serape while trick-or-treating. The painting is captioned “I’m an alien.”

Naturally, Twitter didn’t react kindly to this outrageously insensitive art project. 

Twitter / @neoputa

Twitter quickly labeled the panting as racist. This response wondered how “white people manage to be racist with every little thing.” Many comments asked Coyolxauhqui to share the artist’s name and location so they could talk to her (aka drag her) about her interpretation of the theme. Ultimately, the comments all suggested that they were upset by the outright racism of the painting but sadly weren’t surprised because of the constant state of bigotry people of color experience. 

In a strange twist to this story, the artist herself came to the Twitter thread to defend her intent and the painting’s meaning.

Instagram / @juliettecollet_

The artist, Juliette Collet, shared an explanation of the art project in a statement. She first apologized for the piece before diving in to defend her intention. According to Collet, the idea behind the painting came from a conversation with her boyfriend last year around Halloween. Her boyfriend is allegedly Mexican and came to the United States from Mexico City. Collet explains that her boyfriend was shocked to see people dressing in sombreros and serapes as Halloween costumes and appropriating his culture during the Fall holiday. 

Collet says in her statement that her boyfriend’s father was deported that same year. Due to these experiences, she felt that the theme of this project was a good opportunity to expose “how the American white gaze has stereotyped an entire people with the xenophobic notion of being an ‘alien.'”

The artist also acknowledged that her intention missed the mark and she would take the piece down and replace it with one that more positively reflected the project’s theme. Collet even shared her email address and invited people to contact her to continue the conversation. 

Though she issued the apology, many still had a problem with how oblivious this piece seemed to be about the topic of immigration. 

Twitter / @a_new_hopee

Comments responding to Collet’s explanation and apology pointed out that her instinct to depict a child in Mexican dress when the theme was essentially about aliens was a strange stretch. Twitter questioned her intention to provide societal commentary with a painting that so obviously was problematic at best. 

Despite her supposedly having a Mexican boyfriend, Collet isn’t part of the Latinx community. As Twitter user @a_new_hopee suggested, “It’s always the one’s who aren’t even a part of the community that have the most to say. In other words, outsiders to our spaces would do better to listen than attempt to speak on an issue that doesn’t directly involve them. 

The original poster of the art project, Coyolxauhqui, had some final thoughts to add to the conversation following Collet’s excuse.

Twitter / @itsapobitch

Twitter user @itsapobitch confirmed that Collet removed the painting from public view. Still, despite the artist’s apology, Coyolxauhqui explained that she let it be known when it was first displayed that the painting was dehumanizing and anti-immigrant. She also explained that the piece encouraged the misconception that all immigrants come from Mexico and this thinking can be especially harmful. 

In conclusion, Coyolxauhqui echoed the same sentiment that many on Twitter shared. As she wrote, “Point blank, never try to make artwork with experiences that don’t belong to you, especially if you’re white.” Hopefully, this will serve as a warning to any would-be artists in the future. Instead of inserting yourself into a conversation that doesn’t concern you, lift up the voices of the community. When given the opportunity, we can tell our own stories.

‘Frida—Stroke Of Passion’ Is A Play That Explores Frida Kahlo’s Queerness, Her Love Affairs And Ultimately, Her Mysterious Death

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‘Frida—Stroke Of Passion’ Is A Play That Explores Frida Kahlo’s Queerness, Her Love Affairs And Ultimately, Her Mysterious Death

fridakahlo / Instagram

Frida Kahlo’s Death Has Long Been The Subject Of Debate —This Play Unpacks The Painter’s Last Week Of Life 

This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

This Play Explores The Last Week Of Frida Kahlo’s Life —And The Mystery Will Have You On The Edge Of Your Seat

There have been many movies, television dramas and stage productions based on the life and works of Mexico’s most famous artist Frida Kahlo, but none of these stories had ever explored the woman’s last week of life. As it turns out, her death has been an open-ended and unanswered question mark. Many believe there was a cover up, and this play dives deep into the mystery. 

The award-winning playwright and actress, Odalys Nanin explores the mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of Frida Kahlo’s life in her latest play.

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‘Frida: Stroke of Passion’ peels away the secret cover up of the painter’s death and reveals what or who killed Frida Kahlo.

Until recently, Nanin, managed and produced at the MACHA Theatre in West Hollywood, CA, a company she founded years ago.

After writing and producing nearly a dozen plays, Nanin presented her last production at the MACHA last fall. The play was another original she wrote, this time about Mexico’s most controversial artist, and one of the world’s most famous painters, Frida Kahlo. 

Frida: Stroke of Passion, enjoyed a three-month long run last fall and received rave reviews and awards.

Frida Kahlo died July 13, 1954. Her death certificate alleges cause of death: “pulmunary embolism” but no autopsy was allowed and she was immediately cremated. The play explores her mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of her life – exposing her love affair with famous Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Maria Felix, Josephine Baker, Tina Moddoti, Leon Trotsky, a Cuban spy and her complex passionate love for Diego. 

Back by popular demand and with a grant from LA County Arts, DAC and CAC, “Frida: Strokes of Passion” premieres February 7 in Boyle Heights for six shows.

https://twitter.com/wehocity/status/913886405264330753?s=21

In Nanin’s tale, Kahlo’s bout with bronchopneumonia and the loss of her right leg left her frail and numb, “Her right leg had been amputated from the knee down so she is either in her wheel chair or bed ridden.  She was under a lot of pain killers and alcohol in order to numb her pain. So she was between a daze of sleep and awakening.”

“Espero que la salida sea gozosa, y espero nunca mas volver.”

https://twitter.com/laravalverde_99/status/1027297278032334848?s=21

In a diary entry written just days before her death, she wrote, “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” For these reasons, Nanin believes the artist took her own life.

In the play, Nanin delves deeper into Frida’s sexuality.

https://twitter.com/womensart1/status/1147401383706017792?s=21

“What initiated the spark of passion in me to write about Frida Kahlo was because as a lesbian Latinx I relate to her courage and fearless determination to stand up to injustice and to be the voice of the voiceless through her art and political activities.” 

The main players in the story are Kahlo’s tormented husband, Diego Rivera, the love of her life, but there were other lovers.

https://twitter.com/miss_rosen/status/1218909891991044096?s=21

Her passion didn’t just start or end with Rivera, there were several women in-between and one other man who also captured her heart, and during her final days, they all came visiting– taunting and haunting her with the memories they each represented. Women like Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Mexican movie star Maria Felix, cabaret singer and dancer Josephine Baker, famous model and photographer Tina Modotti, and Cuban revolutionist/spy Teresa Provenza. There was also the ghost of Leon Trotsky, a man she admired and loved and whose murder haunted Kahlo for the rest of her days.

The production has also been released in the form of a book. 

Nanin has written a book capturing her play in print– the story goes far beyond Kahlo’s Mexican and European Surrealism, and her indigenous Mexican culture influence. Frida Kahlo hated societal rules and traditions at every level, and she felt shackled as a woman. In the book, Nanin explores her frustrations, her love affairs, her queerness and overall, her passion for art. 

“Frida – A Stroke of Passion” runs February 7–9 and 14–16 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Casa 0101 Theatre in Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, click here.

After More Than 70 Years, The Cannes Film Festival Will Finally Have A Black President And It’s Going To Be Spike Lee

Entertainment

After More Than 70 Years, The Cannes Film Festival Will Finally Have A Black President And It’s Going To Be Spike Lee

James Gourley / Flickr

Spike Lee is returning to the 73rd Cannes Film Festival a couple of years after BlacKkKlansman debuted there, this time as the jury president. In over seven decades, the prestigious film festival has never had a black president overseeing the artists who decide which films will win an award. 

“In this life I have lived, my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere. When I got the call that I was offered the opportunity to be president of Cannes jury for 2020, I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time,” Lee said in a statement.

The 62-year-old director won Cannes’ Grand Prix for BlacKkKlansman which also earned Lee his first Academy Award. Prior to his recent release, Lee hadn’t participated in Cannes in 22 years despite having seven of his most beloved films like, She’s Gotta Have ItDo The Right Thing and Summer Of Sam, playing there. 

Lee releases a heartfelt statement about becoming the jury president.

Lee said this particular film festival is the most important in the world and that it significantly impacted his career.

“It started way back in 1986 – my first feature film She’s Gotta Have It, which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight. The next joint was in 1989 – Do The Right Thing, an Official Selection in Competition. And I don’t have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later,” Lee said in a statement. 

Do The Right Thing might be Lee’s most well-known project. The film which uses building racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood as an exploration of violence as activism was solidified as a part of history when it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry and Libray of Congress. 

“Then Jungle Fever 1991 – Official Selection in Competition, Girl 6 1996 – Official Selection out of Competition, Summer Of Sam1999 – Director’s Fortnight, Ten Minutes Older 2002 – Official Selection in Un Certain Regard and then BlacKkKlansman 2018 – Official Selection in Competition where it won the Grand Prix, which became the launching pad for the world theatrical release which led to my Academy Award for screenplay,” he continued. 

Many have felt that Lee has not gotten the respect he deserves as a filmmaker — at least not until fairly recently.

Despite being nominated four times across three decades, Lee wasn’t awarded an Academy Award until 2019 for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of president of the jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!” Cannes President Pierre Lescure and festival head Thierry Frémaux said in a statement.

In the New York Times profile leading up to his Oscar win, the paper examined the ways in which Lee has been relegated to the fringes of prestigious filmmaking: throughout his career, he has earned less money and received less funding than his white counterparts, and has had difficulty getting projects off the ground. 

Lee’s inclusion might be Cannes’ first big step in correcting its diversity issues.

“That’s the dilemma of a talented black artist in any field,” collaborator and author James McBride told the NY Times. “You have to recreate the genre, otherwise you don’t survive. Stevie Wonder is not a pop musician; Stevie Wonder is a genre. Michael Jackson is a genre to himself. Spike Lee has moved into that territory. Spike Lee is not short on talent. What Spike Lee is short on is friends in the industry, and the kind of space to fail. He has no room to fail.” 

While Cannes has struggled with diversity around black and women directors, Lee as a jury president could be a healthy step in allowing other perspectives in. 

“I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named president of the Cannes jury and of a main film festival. The Lee family sincerely thanks the Festival de Cannes, Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship,” Lee said.