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.