- Editorial Introduction
I have come to look forward to writing the introductions to our journal issues. The process of reflection entailed in this kind of writing forces the fast-paced tempo of journal work to slow down a bit. It is also a rewarding stage of production because it signals that the articles, art, and poetry that the authors, artists, peer reviewers, and editorial team have worked with over a long period of time are finally ready to be put into circulation and will find their way into classrooms, conference presentations, bibliographies and feminist conversation. From cover to cover, this issue of Feminist Formations is filled with articles that take fresh approaches to important problems, poetry that is at once fierce and loving and that speaks to the ever-present effects of settler colonialism in the United States, and a cluster of articles called “Crossing Boundaries: A Tribute to Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy.” Across the material in this issue, many generative connections can be made, including that between the indigenous-language-preservation projects of Kennedy and our featured poet, Natalie Diaz.
On the cover of this issue, we continue our new practice of featuring politically charged feminist artwork. “Ghetto Frida” is the stunning, irreverent work of Rio Yañez, a Chicano artist and curator born and raised in the San Francisco Mission District.1 He is the son of the renowned Chicana/o artists Yolanda Lopez and Rene Yañez, and his art is driven and enlivened by a politicized Chicano engagement with the popular culture of his childhood:
My primary interest, as an artist, is in combining icons and mythologies. As a child growing up Chicano I was often frustrated that Chicano art and iconography rarely intersected with my personal mythologies of comic books, pro-wrestling, music, and Godzilla movies. My images bring together my heroes, friends, and childhood fantasies with Chicano aesthetics, traditional images, and politics. They are a fulfillment of my childhood yearnings and an exploration of my relationship to the worlds I walk between.(Yañez 2008)
“Ghetto Frida” propels Frida Kahlo squarely into the present-day Mission District and vibrantly transforms her into a tough chola, complete with tear-drop tattoo. And that is not all. “Ghetto Frida” is part of a larger series with the same title that includes brilliant interviews between Yañez (2006, in the voice of “El Rio”) and the persona Ghetto Frida. Explaining that the series began as “an exercise in adapting an exhausted icon into a modern context,” Yañez (2009) gives Kahlo a voice—a chola voice—and allows her to express fatigue with, among other things, the commodification of her image, or in “her” words (2006): [End Page vii]
Look, I know it looks like I’m commin’ down hard on artists but let me ask you, who has my back out there? I’m the second most used image in Latino art, the first is the Virgen de Guadalupe. She can’t collect no royalties every time her ass gets printed on a cholo’s tank top. Ain’t no helping her; but Ghetto Frida? I’m fresh in the flesh. You use my image and I gotta get paid, that’s how it’s going down.
The Mission District is more than a backdrop in Yañez’s “Ghetto Frida” series. Like the Chicana poet Cathy Arellano, whose work will be featured in the next issue of Feminist Formations, Yañez is especially invested in rendering the district from the point of view of a homegrown resident who has witnessed firsthand how gentrification has radically altered his neighborhood. Yañez’s work can be found in Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo (Jacoby 2009), and in his illustrated guide to San Francisco’s Mission District, My Mission (2010).
The strong sense of place that shapes Yañez’s artistic sensibility can also be acutely felt in the work of our featured poet, Natalie Diaz, author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012), which was honored as a Lannan Literary Selection. Diaz’s poetry reflects her life experiences on the Fort Mojave Reservation where she was born and raised, and where she now...