Artifacts being a pithy-type column, we had no choice this week but to give very short shrift to the very talented artist / activist / philosopher Laura Salazar, and we didn’t even print a photo of the damn Obama art car we were talking about.
THEN, after spending an hour and a half writing an expanded blog post about our new fandom of all things Laura Salazar (with photos!), our blogging program ate it somehow.
…It’s like Laura Salazar’s some mega-awesome underground secret superstar who is somehow impervious to all media! (Also maybe we should’ve composed the post in Word.)
YET WE ARE UNDETERRED!
Some very interesting things about Laura Salazar that didn’t make it into this week’s print version of Artifacts:
* Laura dropped out of the tenth grade after reading Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn, who is, among other things, a former belly dancer (“that’s sort of beside the point, though,” laughs Laura.) So while her school friends were “complaining about their math tests,” Laura was teaching herself art history, anatomy, sewing, and how to run a small business, in addition to the guerrilla-resurrectionist rose gardening techniques mentioned in the print article. “I was never into regular teenager stuff, anyway,” she reflects.
* Laura’s biggest concern as an arts educator in Texas is the current practice of “teaching to the [standardized] test,” she says. In the art workshops she teaches, Laura often encounters kids made physically ill by test anxiety. “They’re so nervous about messing up on the exam, they’re throwing up,” Laura says. She also worries about the lack of hands-on art practice in the public school curriculum. One of the advantages of creative arts as an educational tool, she asserts, is that they teach students how to deal with “making mistakes, learning from them, and adapting!”
* Laura didn’t learn to drive a car until well into her twenties, partially out of her devotion to bike-riding...and book-reading (she cites a lottery winner who refused to buy a car with his winnings because he likes to read on the bus as “a hero”), but also because she harbored misgivings about car culture, in general. However, Laura’s love of visiting out-of-the-way state parks in search of swimming holes, where she endeavored to shed her fear of the water after a near-drowning years ago, convinced her to obtain a driver’s license, and the 2000 Nissan Sentra you see pictured here. “I didn’t want my daughter to be afraid of anything because of my example,” she says.
* Due to Laura’s idiosyncratic diction, her friend, fellow artist and now ex-husband Jacinto Guevara, upon meeting her, believed she may have originated “from some faraway, exotic country.” Perhaps, he jokes, “somewhere in Asia.”
Laura contends they said the same thing about in her in Houston.
* Jacinto Guevara, is from the exotic, far-off land of California. His family came from Mexico by way of Chile, though, near Valparaiso, which is not far from the Pampas region of Argentina, and he may be related to Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
* Laura, Jacinto and Joaquina are staunch advocates of handcrafting and prefer making gifts and re-purposing materials rather than consuming, whenever and wherever possible. Recently 8-year-old Joaquina handmade a doll as a gift for a friend’s birthday.
“The [birthday} girl was mesmerized,” Jacinto says.
“That’s so much better than a BRATZ doll,” we remark.
“I like BRATZ dolls!” Jacinto protests.
“That’s why I divorced you,” Laura says, dryly.
(Laughter on tape.)
* The Obama-rama Nissan Sentra was painted once before, as the grand finale to an art-themed birthday party for Joaquina, but had no political theme the first time. The paint job lasted “about 8 months,” Laura says.
* The Obama art car has received the most positive reactions in Austin, and in downtown San Antonio “where there are a lot of out-of-towners,” Laura says. The place where it’s met with the most hostility? Westside San Anto. When asked why working people of color would be so resistant to Obama, Jacinto muses that “it has nothing to do with political philosophy or policy. It’s about wanting to pick a winner, like it’s a sporting event. They don’t believe Obama could win, and they don’t wanna feel stupid.”
“They’re hedging their bets?” we ask.
“Right,” he agrees.
Laura says that she tends not to react when somebody yells something at her. “Back when I was riding a bike everywhere, I was more confrontational. When a guy would yell ‘hey, baby,’ or something like that, I would stop pedaling. I would turn around to them and say, ’I don’t like that.’ I’m a big girl, and I can take care of myself. Now, with a car, I feel like talking back to them would be too aggressive, too intimidating. It backs the guy into a corner, he might get violent, or take the car.”
(Note: Laura stands about six feet tall.)
*Another place the Obama car gets a warm reception in on the Eastside where, Laura tells me, “African-American prostitutes spot it and say “yeah, baby. That’s my car!’”
*A couple of years back, Laura made individualized doll portraits of several Eastside street sex workers for an art show.
*In addition to teaching, parenting, and art-car-making, Laura’s the president of the Alamo City Craft Union, “a group of independent artisans who have united to support the entrepreneurial spirit of crafting. We strive to cultivate a stronger arts and crafts movement in San Antonio, Texas, through education and outreach.
JOIN THE REVOLUTION! Buy Local…Buy Handmade!”
And check out their myspace page at:
artcar by Laura Salazar, et. al.
Double portrait of Obama/Biden by Jacinto Guevara
photos by Gilbert Garcia