Courtesy of Sandy Rodriguez Guadalupe Rodriguez, Autorretrato en el Panteón, 2003, 2020
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A black and white photo of Skylar Herbert clipped to a marigold hangs from a woody vine. Her ear to ear smile shows a little girl full of happiness. 

“The Roots of Our Resistance,” a piece by Consuelo Flores, displays, according to Flores, photos of those most impacted by COVID-19; the Latino and the black community. At the forefront of her piece is the photo of Skylar Herbert. Skylar was five years old when she contracted COVID-19 from her parents. Her mother, LaVondria Herbert, a dedicated police officer, and her father, Ebbie Herbert, a veteran firefighter, contracted the virus then unknowingly passed it to their daughter. Unfortunately, less than a month later, Skylar would lose her battle to COVID-19.

‘Self Help Graphics & Art’s Ofrenda’s 2020’ is a virtual exhibit that shows not only traditional Mexican altars dedicated to Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) —traditional altars consists of three layers representing heaven, earth, and the underworld— but also shows a contemporary interpretation of altars across multiple mediums including photos, greenery, and sculptures. 

Besides Skylar’s picture, the second most eye-catching part of this piece is the coyote vertebrates twisted into the woody vines of Flores’ artwork. As part of a powerful and creative statement, Flores integrates such bones to show the importance of essential workers. People like Skylar’s parents.

“Coyotes are an animal native to this country that got pushed out and killed off because of development,” said Flores. “That’s how I feel about essential workers. They are getting pushed out because of development and are being considered disposable. They represent the backbone of our country and our society that we are taking for granted. These people should be given the honor, respect, and care they need to make our society move forward.”

A less traditional altar, but equally as powerful, is that of artist Devon Tsuno. Tsuno’s piece, “Kiyoko Shimabukuro (Shikata ga Nai),” opens a window into the lives of Japanese Americans affected by American concentration camps from 1946 to 1948. Hand-written letters written by high school students in the camps adds a more personal and melancholy feeling to the piece. The audience can read their thoughts and feelings about what they were experiencing during those difficult times.

“This ofrenda is in solidarity with the families currently and wrongfully incarcerated by the United States,” Tsuno said in a statement to Self Help Graphics & Art.

Curator Sandy Rodriguez hopes students will view the exhibition and see the talent exhibited by the various Los Angeles based artists.

“There are a number of very potent and powerful themes throughout this exhibition and there are many ways of interpreting this event as there are people in Los Angeles,” said Rodriguez.  

In a city like Los Angeles filled with an array of talent and culture, Tsuno urges students to visit the exhibit for inspiration and encouragement.

“I think it’s so important that college students see this work,” said Tsuno. “It’s a great example to show that their stories are really important and their families are really important. When you’re in college trying to become an artist, you try to reach for these examples of people in history books or museums. These people have done such powerful things within the community and that’s our history and that’s what is important. I would encourage college students to make work about themselves and see that their lives and the people around them are so valuable.”

In a time where virtual museum walkthroughs are the norm, ‘Ofrenda’s 2020’ is a must-visit. A laptop does not do the exhibit justice since it cannot show the beauty of each piece. The audience cannot see each brushstroke, each meticulous detail, or feel the magnitude of each artist’s setup, but the heart and soul of each piece are still there. To better understand the artwork I highly suggest downloading the virtual book to read the personal statements given by the artist. 

‘The Self Graphics & Art Ofrenda’s 2020’ exhibit will run from Oct. 13 through Nov. 27. Guests can visit the virtual gallery through their website or visit their Instagram page, @shg1970 for photos.

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