Saturday, December 29, 2007

Feliz Ano Nuevo

Night and Day Guadalupe
Sabrina Zarco
As the calendar year comes to a close I am busy working on several small gifts. Some quilted art others are collage works. I will take some pictures and post later.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tamalada Tradition

Carmen Lomas Garza

With Christmas season comes tradition and family. Whether its blood family or your created family it’s a time for sharing stories, learning lessons, doing some community organizing, teaching, bonding and most definitely lots of fun. For me and my family it means gather to make TAMALES! From many people I hear about Christmas turkey or ham but for me its tamales all the way; its not Christmas season for me with out them; so once again we gathered to make the tamales.

The tradition runs deep in the Latino collective memory since tamales predate most of western “civilization”. Tamales can be traced back as early as 5000 BC. They were served as a nutritious and portable food for Aztec, Mayan, and Incan warriors. It is understood that the Aztecs greeted their incoming conquerors with the tightly wrapped festival food. Mexicans and Americans of Mexican descent celebrate by sharing this tradition of generosity and good will by making and then giving out tamales as gifts.

If you have never done it it’s quite a process. Soak the leaves, dry them, and sort them. Manteca and your hands in the messy masa to get just the right consistency, it’s an art in itself. Then make the filling, whatever you wish. Tradition for some says de vendado as a friend reminded me and then started the debate about border town puerco and red sauce and is it true that pina and cinnamon are now called nouvelle/fusion/ pochada tamales? All I know was that it was messy, creative, and lots of fun! I felt like I was home.

When we figured out the right consistency, we were ready to spread the masa, add the filling, roll, tie in a bundle, and steam. We each shared memories of making them and tried to remember the tips from elders about each step. Thanks to ancestors our tamalada gave us several dozen to share among us. As the TexMex music continued to play in the background and the kitchen was filled with leaves, masa, and the smell of garlic and fresh steamed tamales; we sat back and smiled. We realized we had done a good job; it had been our turn to keep the tradition alive.

Happy holidays to you and yours….and I wish you peace, love, and TAMALES!

Here's a book filled with a culturally relevant story and great art to share with young ones as you pass on the tradition of making tamales. Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Guad We Trust

December 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day

Mexicans and those of Mexican ancestry everywhere celebrated La Virgen Morena or La Virgen de Guadalupe, aka Tonatzin, Mother of all Gods, who appeared before an indigenous man the Spanish named Juan Diego on the Cerro de Tepeyac one December day in 1531. Her image was forever imprinted on the cloth tilma he was wearing as proof of her visit.

Tepeyac Garden

Tilma image

Whether or not you're a believer, one thing is clear the weight of Guadalupe in Mexican culture. She is omnipresent not only in the spiritual sense but in the concrete sense. Her image graces nearly every home altar, taqueria, and tienda; anywhere her people are, you will find Guadalupe. She is seen as the leader of the oppressed and hope where there is none. Children dress in traditional clothing and reenact the scene and many artists celebrate her in their work.

Circuit Board Art Marion Martinez

Guadalupe series Yolanda Lopez

Home garden altar

Guad Art Car

Saturday, December 08, 2007

50/50 Arkansas Art Center Exhibit

Women on Juarez the 2004 Arkansas Art Center Delta Grand Award Winner on display at the 50/50 exhibit at the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock.

Attended the opening of the show which celebrated 50 years with 50 past winners, it was a good time seeing old friends and celebrating art!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

dia de los muertos artquilts

Sugar skulls because our memories are sweet!

Remembering loved ones doing things they did in this life.

When I look in the mirror I see my ancestors

for Quilting Arts Magazine

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

I tell it to you as it was told to me, there are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function, the second is when the body is returned to nature as we are all a part of the Earth. And the third and final death is when there is no one left to remember you. So each year we cheat the final death by remembering and honoring those who have crossed to the other side. Skeletons represent the eternalness of our souls so they are smiling as we remember them. The concept of death is just another stage of life. In death just as at the time of a birth people gather to witness and comfort those who are moving on or arriving. Its a time for celebration.
I spent the day yesterday having great fun doing presentations about the tradition of building altars to honor loved ones for about 210 high school students. It was refreshing to see the authentic discussion, questions, and willingness to accept something new. I created an altar honoring some of my family, and Latino musicians and Civil Rights leaders. I shared with them that history is created with people and some of the best stories are found outside of the books. I asked them to add the names and tell the stories of people and pets important in their lives. We discussed traditional and contemporary ways to build a place of remembrance. We talked about the importance of recognizing that we each have a story in this journey and it is our responsibility to pass on the stories we have experienced. There is value in each life that crosses our path and to remember them and the lessons learned can be life changing. Celebrate a loved one, someone special who added to your life story today.
Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sharing the entire story

Well its almost that time of year again, dia de los muertos or day of the dead one of my favorites! I get to share with local schools and communities about the traditional and contemporary ways we honor those who have crossed over. Its a visual storytelling, a way to share not only personal stories but history we don't often hear or see in books. Its a way to remember with sweetness the memories by using favorite foods, personal items, books, and traditional symbols to represent them and the work they did. Its a way to shed light on and appreciate the challenges, celebrate the successes, and share about the unsung heroes and sheroes of the community. Mas later, I am off to gather my goodies for an upcoming presentation.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Environment and Blog Action Day

Arkansas autumn.. stop and take a minute to remember that we are all apart of nature. We sometimes get lost in the thougth that we are spearate from nature or even superior. It only takes a moment to savor the view and realize that we are just a part of a much bigger picture.

Harvesting Poison reminds us that as we disrespect nature in the name of profit we not only damage the environment for the generations that follow but all who are a part of it today.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day is an internationally observed civil awareness day for coming out and having discussions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer and questioning GLBTQ (GLTBQ)issues. It is observed on October 11 by members of the community and their allies because October is LGBTQ History Month in the US. Knowing history of heros and sheros in any civil rights movement gives a place to connect, to stand in solidarity.

Its important for members of any community to be recognized for all of who they are and to be treated with respect. Don't let fear that someone might believe different from you get in the way of getting to know someone, you just might find a treasure.There are many LGBTQ people who feel they have to watch pronouns in conversations and don't feel comfortable discussing what happened over the weekend, something many people take for granted. Fear of rejection, and as history has shown danger, and death can be a real reaction to telling the truth. Its a difficult and personal decision one makes. Many of us have lost family, friends, jobs, housing, health care, and so on just for sharing all of who we are and who we share our life with... If you have come out today, congrats and welcome to a life of being all of who you are where ever you are... for those of us celebrating....hold hands with your loved one and know that your relationships are valued no matter what others may try to tell you. Love is solidarity

Monday, October 01, 2007

entourage and my creative process

I started this work with a different focus. The woman image was intended to be the center of another work with an entirely different message. During the process "she" kept telling me there were actually two works not one. So I followed the process and the images as they appeared to me. They changed as I worked. It lead me to this, my entourage. I've been having visions of some of my entourage lately, the ancestors and family members on the other side that help guide my path. As Dia de los Muertos approaches I spend more time being aware of the energy of those that came before me and reflecting on the lessons learned and what I will pass on. I am now working on the other piece and being open to hear the work. Letting spirit, intuition and the creative dance lead me. It has taken me many years as an artist to trust the process and simply get out of the way so that the work will come through me. Its usually surprising to me as I step back to see what might fall from my hands.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Gloria My Shero!

Gloria Anzaldua helped make visible the literature of women of color. She was a chicana lesbian-feminist, poet, writer and cultural theorist.
Tejana, lesbiana, creative spirit, and dear friend of my beloved. My beloved works on her book and thinks of you often. We remember you, honor you, and celebrate you and the gifts you have left for us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

sometimes its just fun to play

I facilitated a nonprofit meeting where members wanted to get to know one another a bit more. I suggested we make a collage of whatever was on hand. So lots of magazines, glue, tape, music, and laughter later each person came up with a glimpse of who they are in relationship to the activist organization and with one another. Then we made some just for fun showing, "the other side of who we are" Several of us knew each other well so we had fun playing with one another. We "helped" each other by adding some words and images, and they had fun with mine. Magazine clippings all taped together since we ran out of glue. I love the surrender to the process with no sense or right or wrong, it just is ...dont forget to play!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Artists and Donations

I rarely donate work to organizations for auction or sale. I have to be able to get behind what the group is actually doing for the community. As a community activist I am well aware that there are many groups that need financial support. I donate time and artwork as I can but as an artist the requests can sometimes be overwhelming. It can sometimes feel like I am expected to be the fast food of artwork and a quick buck for a cause, I dont mind donating but every now and then I need a donation of my own. So I have become selective about who and how many works. No longer first come first serve and I am learning to say "no, not this time" instead of "no problem".

Then there are the groups that quietly need the support and dont ask. I happened to be in a meeting when someone mentioned the 15th Anniversary of the Arkansas Supportive Housing Network and their fundraiser party and silent auction. Now this is a group I can get behind. They have provided rental assistance and services to individuals and families who are homeless and/or disabled, for 15 years. I know a few people who are a part of the Homeless Coalition and they are working hard for real change and in a way that respects those involved.

So this artwork will be a donation for their silent auction. Frida was a powerful artist, activist and woman with a disability. I hope it brings in some dollars for a good group. For more information about the group check out

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Storytelling through art

Cuentos de fantasmas literally means “ghost stories” in the Latino tradition, and also refers to a kind of Mexican American pulp fiction combining folktales, legend and popular culture. I share with you the cuentos as they were told to me of El Cucui (Bogeyman), El Diablo (devil), and La Lechusa, (owl woman).

In the Southwest El Cucui has been helping mothers keep children in bed and out of trouble for decades. A description is very hard to come by because he keeps to the darkness and the shadows and those who have encountered him cannot take a good look from under the covers.
At any rate he’s not a nice guy, unlike El Diablo. This smooth talking, papi chulo is always well dressed and can dance the night away with the single women who have chosen to go out alone against her families’ wishes. Once on the dance floor she takes a look at his fast moving feet and discovers that her partner has hooves. He vanishes without even asking for her number. She may faint or awaken in the morning with a scorched handprint on her shoulder, and certainly no call from him, all painful reminders to “keep single women home”.

At night in Texas, especially under a full moon, things start moving, and La Lechusa soars silently over the treetops looking for her prey. Sometimes she is half woman, half owl, other times she transforms into the owl at sunset. Some say she is the spirit of a woman betrayed, annoyed by a faithless husband or a widower who has remarried. Men who stay out late drinking may encounter her and those cheating may be visited. This creature of the night can only be called off if you know the remedy. Tie a rope with seven knots in it and say a prayer each time, if you make a mistake in the process, the result is anyone’s guess and listen for the scratching on rooftops.

I have been warned as most children of the Southwest have been so I added a little protection to this work, wax from prayer candles, safety pins keep things in, shredded areas where the spirits have surfaced have been stitched shut, and a carefully tied rope with seven knots holding seven prayers…just in case.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sometimes art makes people uncomfortable

This year the Arkansas Arts Center will be celebrating the 50th year of the Annual Delta Exhibition. This is a regional juried exhibition of all media. The Art Center is organizing a show of as many of the pat 50 winners scheduled for Dec - Jan 2008. As a past winner I am excited to have an opportunity to share once again the story of the missing and murdered women and girls.

When I won this exhibit main stream media did not show pictures of the work as they have for other winners. There was no mention of my name, only the second and third winners with photos. I can only imagine what got in thier way... Was it the fact that it was fabric and not really art? Maybe it was fabric and thats supposed to be soft. One of the many reasons I use textiles is to take a soft approach to tough subjects, the bright colors and images draw in the viewer and then they get hit with the message.

Why was it that only the Latino newspapers covered the fact that a Latina won a juried regional art show?(they even used pictures) Was it because of the topic? Bringing attention to the fact that mostly poor Mexican women and girls have been murdered and missing for years and no one seems to care. Most of them were working in the U.S. owned maquiladoras, factories in poor border towns, when they were abducted.

Or was it the traditional images that my people use to honor and remember the dead that bothered them? Skeletons are symbols that the soul is eternal and the final death takes place when there is no one left to remember you.

What ever thier reason it will be back on exhibit. And for me with or without media coverage once again I will be honored to be able to show the work, stand beside it at the opening, and tell the stories.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Coalition Building

Intense week in DC attending the National Coalition Building Leadership Institute. Lots of work and good times lead to great inspiration! Already have some sketches and ideas floating in my head, can't wait to get back to the studio.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

machine drawing

I dusted off the machine and worked on some drawing. I havent had much time for my art. Things are busy this time of year for me, doing lots of cross cultural workshops around the state and going to VA in a week. I just had to touch some fabric and play a bit. Mas later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I went outside just as I do every morning and for the second day in a row I was greeted by a hummingbird. The first day it hummed as it circled my head and looked me in the eye and then flew off.

Today it came up behind me making a high pitched chirpping sound as if to get my attention. Once I turned around I found that we were once again eye to eye. Then it moved to a nearby tree and landed. It sat for some time and at first I thought to run inside for my camera but I realized that this moment was for me to be still, to stop my humming around and get quiet. We sat looking at one another for some time before the beautiful green and red bird few away. I am always open to the messages and in the midst of my chaos lately I guess I needed a reminder to sit still, that the answers will come and its ok to just be quiet. Thank you sweet bird for the reminders of this and so much more.
There is a legend from Mexico about a Taroscan Indian woman who was taught how to weave beautiful baskets by a grateful hummingbird to whom she had given sugar water during a drought. These baskets are now used in Day of the Dead Festivals.

An Aztec myth tells of a valiant warrior named Huitzil, who led them to a new homeland, then helped them defend it. This famous hero's full name was Huitzilopochtli, which means "hummingbird from the left." The "left" is the deep south, the location of the spirit world. The woman who gave birth to Huitzil was Coatlicul. She conceived him from a ball of feathers that fell from the sky. Huitzil wore a helmet shaped like a giant hummingbird. It is believed that hummingbirds are the warrior angels who travel between worlds with messages for us.

If you have Hummingbird medicine, you adapt easily to whatever situation you may find yourself in, and make the most of your new circumstances. You don't waste time looking back and wishing for "what was" for you are concerned with making the most of "what is". You take great pleasure in spreading joy and love and beauty to all around you, and have the gift of taking that inner joy into new and different surroundings.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Colors of the Earth

I am currently finishing a summer project working with preschoolers who are "lacking in their language scores". Some of them are learning English as a Second Language and struggling with culture shock coming from various Latin American families. I am a consultant to the teachers providing training and I get to do some art with the children. Yesterday we made friendship bracelets and disucssed our various skin colors, colors of the bracelets, and how being different is ok. Its refreshing to work with the children sometimes, reminds of why I do this work.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Preparing the Caldo

I have been busy shedding and cleansing my home and studio. I often do this before I begin making what I call the caldo(soup) for a new project. It helps since once I begin its usually organized chaos and no room in the house is spared. I gather items, pictures, colors that feel like what the work calls for and I place them in a wooden or basket bowl. These items marinate and serve to further the inspiration. Then comes the auditioning of fabrics, paint, and all the embellishments. Sometimes none of them end up on the work, other times everything does. I am not in control, the process leads the choices. Back to letting things simmer as I clean out more stuff...I came across this picture, one of my favorites, reminds me of those that came before me and where I am going.
Here's a bit about the artist: Yolanda M L√≥pez,“The Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe"Her mother supported their family by working at an industrial sewing machine for 30 years. She worked as a community artist in the Mission District, CA with a group called Los Siete de la Raza. She views her work as an artist as a tool for political and social change.