Back in March, I was invited by Stephanie Martin and Melissa West to participate in a project they were organizing called Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43. For this endeavor, they invited printmakers to make a print that commemorated one of the students who was a victim of the Iguala Mass Kidnapping.
Although I intellectually understood the importance of the project, I didn't realize what I had gotten involved in at first. The artists were given a list of names, and I selected Giovanni Galindes Guerrero, for no particular reason. All I knew about him was this short bio, and so, armed with this small amount of information, I began to think about how I could honor him.
My difficulty was that I had more information about how Giovanni died than about his life. I've done portraits before, but usually of people I knew and connected with. But in this case, I knew very little about his personality, his quirks, his individuality. I knew he was studying to be a teacher; I am a teacher. I knew his nickname was El Espáider (the Spider). I knew he was twenty years old at the time of his death. And I knew there had to be so much more that filled his life, that made up his soul.
Somewhere in all these perambulating thoughts, I turned to art history. The prints of Taller Grafica Popular, particularly Leopoldo Mendez, always inspire me, and felt very relevant to my subject matter. This print has always stayed with me, and became my visual guide. The most haunting part of the print is the smoke of the train, evoking the final destination of the Holocaust deportees to the cremation chambers of the concentration camps.
Giovanni's body was also burned after his death. Thinking about that, his nickname, and Leopoldo's print, I started sketching. I decided to include a spiderweb as the first layer as a reference to his nickname (see the print above), but also an allusion to interconnectedness.
The next layer was his portrait, and a layer of smoke.
This was followed by a chain of buses, like the ones the Ayotzinapa 43 were riding when they first clashed with the police.
When I'd been sketching, I'd originally thought this print would be three layers, and that when I reached this point it would be finished. However, once the imagery was printed, it didn't seem complete to me yet. Sometimes a drawing translated into print needs more. I've been a printmaker in some form or another for over fifteen years, and I still learn, again and again, to listen to the process.
So went back to sketching, and asked a few friends for their thoughts. I felt that the smoke in the print made the image unbalanced, so I added another layer.
The bottom still felt empty, it needed just something a little more to send it home. With all that gray, I felt that it needed a moment of color. After some deliberation, I decided to add the number "43" using pochoir. Several of my students this semester have been experimenting with it, so I thought I'd give it a try.
The prints still need to be curated and signed, but I think the image is complete now. I hope it honors the memory of Giovanni Galindes Guerrero well.
It's been a busy spring, with finishing this print, my regular teaching, two residencies, and editioning an artist book. I'm fortunate to be a part of so many things, and trying to remember to pratice self-care during this insanity, rather than putting it off till after. However, moments like these, it's nice to step back and see the work complete.