Libros No Bombas – Books Not Bombs

Libros No Bombas (Books Not Bombs). Mark Vallen ©. 6" x 11" inch postcard reproduction of an original oil painting.
“Libros No Bombas – Books Not Bombs.”  Mark Vallen © 6″ x 11″ inch postcard.

My painting, Libros No Bombas (Books Not Bombs), was one of two canvases I premiered at the exhibition, ¡ADELANTE! Mexican American Artists: 1960s and Beyond, which took place at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale, California from September 9, 2011 through January 1, 2012. The painting is available as a 6″ x 11″ inch full-color postcard reproduction (pictured above); the same card sold in the museum gift shop throughout the duration of the exhibit.

At first glance Libros No Bombas seems only a simple portrait of a teenage girl, but the background story of the artwork and how I invite viewers to consider it, is what gives the painting its socio-political significance. Witnessing thousands of youthful antiwar activists at the 2010 Chicano Moratorium protest in East Los Angeles inspired me to paint this portrait of a young Mexican-American student toting a backpack. I wanted my canvas to give a picture of the idealism of youth striving for decent education in these times of economic collapse and endless war.

“Books Not Bombs!” was a slogan written on placards and chanted during LA’s 2010 Chicano Moratorium protest, however the catchphrase belongs to people everywhere who work for an end of illiteracy and under-education as suffered in underprivileged working class communities. My artwork reminds viewers that ill-equipped schools, shrinking education resources, and austerity budgets are the social costs of an economic system tied to empire and war.

At the time of this posting, a US sailor became the 3,000th US-led “international coalition” soldier to have died in the Afghanistan war since 2001. During that same period the National Priorities Project estimates the US has spent over $532,475,000,000 on the Afghan war. As Detroit city officials literally begin to turn off nearly half of the city’s streetlights for lack of cash, the Obama administration talks of a “partial withdrawal” from Afghanistan by 2014. It is time for the wars to end, the soldiers to come home… and for America to turn the lights back on.

 "Libros No Bombas" (Detail). Mark Vallen ©
“Libros No Bombas – Books Not Bombs” (Detail) Mark Vallen ©

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