Legacy of Resilience

The 2019-2020 YBCA Public Participation Fellow cohort was originally gathered to collaborate and build on communities-based projects that demonstrated the mobilizing of public participation. However, as the Fellows worked on bringing their work to fruition, the world was hit with COVID-19. The cohort were then challenged to grapple with the question: what is public participation now?

Alex Martinez is a second-generation Queer, Mexican-American, Chicana, raised in Watsonville, California. She began her Arts Education at San Francisco State University, where she fell in love with printmaking and painting processes. She is based in Oakland, California, and is very privileged to spend her days developing and teaching her multi-medium art curriculum in Bay Area schools. 

As a 2019-2020 YBCA Public Participation Fellow, she was asked to investigate how as an artist and educator approaches the essential question, “How do you mobilize and uplift public participation?” In her research, Martinez became motivated to respond to systemic oppression, stark inequities, and disproportionate loss of life and/or disappearance facing the lives of LGBTQI+, migrant people, Native people, BIPOC, unhoused people, people with disabilities, and more. The Census describes these populations as “hard-to-count” populations, begging Martinez to question, “How can we count people if we have never really seen them?” How does systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, and the carceral state exclude these communities and deny their equal participation? 

This inquiry became the impetus for her collaboratively constructed mixed medium portrait series Legacy of Resilience. These large scale acrylic portraits are framed by protest text and feature symbolic patterns in elaborate thread, linoleum block print, and beadwork on unstretched canvas. The work started on these paintings before the Covid-19 pandemic began. As the world pivoted, the collaborators shifted their collaboration to phone meetings, photo updates, and contactless drop-offs. In planning these detailed designs, Martinez chose to focus on the concept, painted acrylic portraits, and applied the beadwork, protest text, and applique. She called on two collaborators to contribute the embroidery and linoleum block printing for each piece, Eli Reyes and Malaya Tulay, respectively. Reyes and Martinez met in 2016 while living in a radical low-income housing cooperative and quickly became friends, connected by their mutual obsession with meticulous handwork and embellishment, as well as Latinx family celebrations. Reyes, a Queer Latinx artist from California’s Central Valley, is a masterful quilter, embroiderer, and handworker. Martinez and Reyes previously collaborated in 2018 on an altar for San Francisco’s Mexican Museum and Martinez was confident that Reyes would be able to bring that added textile dimension to Legacy of Resilience. Martinez has long been an admirer of Queer Pilipinx-American artist Malaya Tulay’s visual magic. Tulay’s print and textile work draws from personal experience, channeling the histories of marginalized communities and works to affirm communities who have not been given space to voice their stories. Martinez was ecstatic to collaborate with Tulay for the first time on the design and printing of the linoleum block prints that border the portraits for the series. 

The public can experience Legacy of Resilience online at Martinez’s personal website, and Instagram. Martinez is holding an online raffle for each painting with all contributions supporting organizations that directly support Trans Asylum Seekers, MMIWG2ST communities and more hard-to-count populations. The raffle is live now for the first work of the series titled They Came Seeking Protection. For more information on how to participate, visit Alex Martinez’s Instagram @hechoporalex.