Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New art exhibit: “A Ribbon Around A Bomb” by Suhaly Bautista, The Earth Warrior

“A Ribbon Around A Bomb” by Suhaly Bautista, The Earth Warrior
Opening date: Friday July, 11, 6:30pm
Exhibit dates: Friday, July 11 - Sunday, September 28, 2014

Selected photographs are from the remarkably ambitious project inspired by the life and work of Frida Kahlo, and mirrors them against womyn featured in the work as political revolutionary and feminist. The series contains 21 color portraits and the accompanying written reflections of womyn who Bautista considers vivacious, unapologetic, passionate and courageous –all qualities shared with the legendary Kahlo. It is an ode to the femininity and grace Frida embodied, coupled with the strength, pain, aggression and revolution, which were unvarying constants in her life. 

Photograph by Suhaly Bautista

Artist statement:

In 1938 André Breton, surrealist movement founder, described Frida Kahlo's art as reminiscentof "a ribbon around a bomb," a label which would later inspire the title of the 1992documentary about the Mexican artist, political revolutionary and feminist. Today, Breton’s description serves as the motivation behind this photographic document / portraiture series,which examines the myriad of dualities featured in Frida Kahlo’s life and work and mirrors them against womyn in my own life. The series contains 21 digital color portraits and the accompanying written reflections of womyn who I consider vivacious, unapologetic, passionate and courageous – all qualities shared with the legendary Kahlo.

Having lived through the Mexican Revolution, Frida’s life and art was inspired not only by the context of her violent environment but also by the tragedies, pain and struggles of her personal life. This series is an ode to the femininity and grace Frida embodied, coupled with the strength,pain, aggression and revolution, which were unvarying constants in her lifestyle and art. Ribbons,which Frida often inventively wove into her hair, symbolize sensitivity and elegance, while bombs represent violence through explosion and outburst –of which Frida is known to have had her fair share. The imagery of a bomb laced with a ribbon speaks to the contrasts Kahlo experienced and inhabited. The finesse, femininity and grace of a ribbon matched with the vigor, aggressiveness and threat (not necessarily negative) of the way Frida lived her life, inspired her paintings, but also reminds me of the way my 21 muses live their own lives – in a way that is simultaneously Feminine and Fearless.

Frida focused her work mainly on herself and her reality. Her physical, as well as her
psychological wounds were manifested on canvas. As a result, her art is hugely centered on self reflection,which inspired the storytelling aspect of this series. In “A Ribbon Around A Bomb,” asked muses to reflect on one characteristic that makes them powerful, to tell me what makes them a “bomb,” and to complete the phrase; “I am strong because I am….” In this way, I am able to acknowledge the self-meditation that was such a critical and powerful aspect of Kahlo’s masterpieces. What’s more, these statements give us, as an audience, insight into the qualities we personify, value, rely on and embody as womyn and girls – our cores, our foundations, the weapons we wield to overcome life’s obstacles with confidence and finesse.

Power and womanhood can and do co-exist. I hope this series inspires womyn and girls to identify,define and embrace whatever it is that gives them strength.

Like Kahlo, the muses in “A Ribbon Around A Bomb” are an artistic portrayal of the matrimony between femininity and force, between grace and guts and most importantly, they are my reminders that dreams are realities too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hidden gems: Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Casteñeda

Happy Tuesday everyone! 
Welcome to another edition of Hidden Gems. This week we will be reading another great story, Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Casteñeda, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez.

There is a special bond that often draws grandchildren to their grandparents. In Abuela’s Weave, we see that bond between Esperanza and her grandmother. Esperanza’s grandmother has taught young Esperanza the art of weaving, which is growing ever more rare in the age of factories and machines. For weeks they weave pieces to sell at the big Fiesta de Pueblos in Guate, but will the pieces they make be able to stand out among the many that are made in the factories? This story is touching and demonstrates how a special skill is not only something that can be passed from one generation to the next but is a gift that is to be treasured.

Being an admirer of folkloric artistry, this story also served to show the love bestowed on these pieces by their makers and makes me appreciate the individuality that each demonstrates. If you ever see pieces like these make sure to ask the stories behind them, as I am sure they won’t disappoint. 

Think this is a great book? Make sure to keep an eye for it and other great finds in our children’s section.

- Galia, Schools Program Coordinator

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hidden gems: Papagayo, The Mischief Maker by Gerald McDermont

Feliz día everyone! 
Enjoying what is sure to be a great summer, we at La Casa AzulBookstore are always reading exciting new books. After all, school might be ending soon but that doesn’t mean we should forget to read. This week we have come across an interesting book, Papagayo, The Mischief Maker by Gerald McDermont.

Have you ever had neighbors that are rather noisy? Papagayo is just such a neighbor, always making loud noises and getting into mischief in the jungle. Night animals trying to sleep aren’t as amused as Papagayo is by all the racket and are always upset with him. However, when a new danger comes into the forest, it is up to Papagayo to save the day. The illustrations by McDermont remind me of Eric Carle, with his use of collages to create images. In Papagayo, we see a combination of bright colors that together evoke the richness of the jungle and make it a treat to see. 
Add that to the story which demonstrates the ability to turn something that many see to be a nuisance into something powerful that saves the day and you have a story that will not only entertain but give its audience a fresh perspective. This book is definitely on our list to read this summer.

Think this is a great book? Make sure to keep an eye for it and other great finds in our children’s section.

- Galia, Schools Program Coordinator

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cuentos...discovering the Person Behind the Story

June Spotlight: Sonia Manzano

This month we are featuring Sonia Manzano, better known to many as Maria on Sesame Street. Apart from acting on Sesame Street and being a presence on Public Television since the 1970’s, Sonia has been a writer for both Sesame Street and Little Bill. She has written two children’s picture books, A Box Full of Kittens and No Dogs Allowed! and most recently released a young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano.

Sonia, of the books you have written, which do you reflect the most on? Why?
I have to say I mostly reflect on my first picture book, No Dogs Allowed!  It's really a tribute to my family, though I did suffer chaotically hilarious trips to Lake Welch in New Jersey when I was a little girl!  Each time I read it I think both about the relatives in it, and not in it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Here's what I'd tell myself. "Shut up and listen! You already know what you know.  If you listen, you'll learn something new!"

What three children’s books, other than your own, would you name as must reads? Why?
Hard to limit my "must read" list to "three" and just children's books at that so I'll throw in one adult novel as well.  The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant is a lovely picture book published in the late 1980's. I read When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago whenever I need a jolt of inspiration, and whenever I entertain pre-schoolers I pick up Sesame Street classic, The Monster at The End of This Book by Jon Stone.

What places you would suggest children/families visit when in your hometown?
My hometown is The Bronx and the greater NY area.  I would suggest visiting the Tenement Museum in lower Manhattan. I love it  because I fantasize my parents living in similar places when they came to New York from Puerto Rico in the late 1940's. 
Also -  I'm lending a hand in helping create a children's museum in the Bronx.  When that museum becomes a reality it'll become a destination for children and families from all over. 

Sonia Mazano’s young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is the very first book of the One Book, One Barrio project. 

One Book, One Barrio is La Casa Azul Bookstore’s community-wide reading campaign to promote literacy and foster community through literature in East Harlem. 
Learn about how to be a part of
One Book, One Barrio on the bookstore website.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hidden Gems: Papá and Me by Arthur Dorros

Happy Thursday everyone! 
For today's blog post, I read Papá and Me by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez.

There is nothing as special as a child’s bond to his or her parents. In his story, Dorros explores the bond between a father and his son. We see the love between them as they get ready for the day and the many activities they have planned. The simplicity of the text and the seamless inclusion of Spanish words invokes memories of time spent with my family, where Spanish and English gently flowed and intertwined. Add the illustrations, which not only explode with vibrant colors but have soft, curved edges that bring forth a sense of encircling and you have a book that is as comforting as a father’s embrace. This is a book that should be given to anyone that shares a bond with their father and would definitely make a great Father’s Day gift this June 15th.

Think this is a great book? Make sure to keep an eye for it and other great finds in our children’s section.

- Galia, Schools Program Coordinator