Soldaderas Mural in East Harlem
In the spring of 2008 I pitched an idea for a mural to the East Harlem based organization Art for Change. Unfortunately various events of the next two years resulted in a delay in bringing this project to life. Within this time the concept for the mural grew even more personal and dear to me, more than I can ever fully express. Thankfully over the past few months, through a collaboration between Art for Change, Hope Community, Inc and El Barrio Arts Cluster, the project has finally gotten off the ground.
I began working on “Soldaderas” on Friday, June 3rd, 2011 at the Modesto Flores Community Garden on Lexington Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. To dispel the stereotype that the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities in East Harlem, only battle each other for space, this mural is in tribute to the common struggles that informed the art of the Mexican Revolution and later that of Puerto Rico and the political solidarity between these two communities. Visually, the concept is inspired by Frida Kahlo’s painting, “Las dos Fridas” and photographs of soldaderas, the armed women who participated and fought in the battles of the Mexican Revolution. In my design for “Soldaderas” however, Frida Kahlo does not sit alongside herself, hand in hand, but rather sits holding the hand of fierce Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos.
Both women shared a profound love for their respective homelands of Puerto Rico and Mexico, an appreciation of revolutionary ideals, and a feminist outlook. They suffered similar struggles and worked to overturn injustice. At a time in which their male counter parts men did not delve into personal issues in their work, de Burgos and Kahlo unapologetically made the personal political. Both women were profoundly affected by the loss of their babies through miscarriage and shared their despair though graphic paintings and poems. I view these women not only as contemporaries but as soul sisters, battling the same challenges though hailing from different countries. In a poetic twist Julia de Burgos passed away on Frida Kahlo’s birthday. They died almost exactly one year apart. To mark this historic date in the legacy of these incredible mujeres, we are planning the unveiling event for the evening of July 6 at the garden.
If you are interested in seeing how the project is progressing, Art For Change and Hope Community Inc. will be hosting an “open air studio” event this Friday evening, June 10th from 5-8pm. See the work in progress and bring any questions you might have about Frida Kahlo, Julia de Burgos, and the common struggles and triumphs of Puerto Rico and Mexico. The event will also feature a food sampler by the mural’s neighbor East Harlem Café.
Hope to see you then. Also stay tuned to this Live Journal for more project details, updates and images.