Eviction, Garage Sale, A Sense of Place

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We walked by Galería de la Raza this morning and there was Artist Yolanda Lopez writing out signs for the garage sale that is underway to help Lopez and her son, Rio Yañez pay for their move from a duplex on San Jose Avenue.

They, along with the former Galería director, René Yañez  are being evicted after living there for more than 30 years.

Earlier in the week, Lopez talked about her political and art work at 518 Valencia, specifically mentioning her Virgin de Guadalupe series.   At a  show at the Mission Cultural Center that closed in mid-April,  Lopez and Adriana Camarena collaborated with an installation piece, “Eviction Scene Investigation.”

The Garage Sale this weekend, wrote Camarena in an e-mail, was deliberately carried out in an art gallery as a art and political statement.

“Probably the most valuable piece in the Garage Sale,” Camarena wrote,  “is the price sticker that reminds people that this is the eviction of two lifelong Mission artists: ‘Yolanda López and Río Yañez’s – Eviction Garage Sale [$price]'”

It’s hard to think of the Mission losing Lopez, Yañez and others. When I wrote a series of pieces sitting in on a class in what is now Buena Vista Horace Mann, the Virgin series by Lopez was key to the discussions the students had about identity.

The Galería has figured large in the Yañez family.

This is the art space that Yañez helped found in the early 1970s, the Galería where he first introduced Frida Kahlo to an American audience in the 1970s and a place where he also showed Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, two of the founders of the Mexican Muralist movement and, along with Kahlo,  icons of 20th Century art.

Yañez recently corrected me on a story that I had heard about taking Kahlo’s paintings out to Balmy Alley. In fact, he said, it had been the work of other artists including Rivera and Siqueiros.  The Galería was meant to bring art to the people and when working class Missonites hesitated to come into the gallery, Yañez and others decided to take art to the people.  So they took the works – and for one day in which they guarded them carefully – they hung them in Balmy Alley to let everyone enjoy.

We’ve been working on a print edition of historical pieces and I’ve been thinking a lot about place, our attachments and change.

There is the line in Moby Dick when Ismael describes Queequeg’s hometown and says, “it is not on a map, true places never are..” It is a line that always leaves me feeling better about not being close to my geographical home.  But then this morning there was another line that stopped me in a Times story about the Syrian writer Osama Alomar, who now lives in Chicago and drives a cab.

Given his predicament of writing between jobs, he is incredibly upbeat. “I feel isolated in my cab,” he said. “I like my life here, but to be honest with you, I am homesick, too. I have a lot of memories of every corner, of every stone in Damascus. But this is my new country, and I want to penetrate it.”

Still, what resonates is that thought of having a memory of every corner, every stone in Damascus.

Somehow I couldn’t ask Yolanda Lopez today how she felt.

This article was corrected. An earlier version included René Yañez in the garage sale, but this was a mother and son collaboration between Yolanda Lopez and her son, the artist, Rio Yañez. 

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

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