Juana Alicia mural at Stanford ‘Chicano’ center

Mayan Scribe, detail, by Juana Alicia, at Estanfor

Mayan Scribe, detail, by Juana Alicia, at Estanfor

“El Codex Estanfor” is a new interior mural at Stanford, in the ‘Chicano’ center, near the bookstore, by Bay Area legend muralist Juana Alicia, also known as Juana Alicia Araiza.

I wandered into El Centro Chicano, a student center that primarily serves the Latino community of students, a couple times in recent months and was welcomed by director Dr. Frances Morales and assistant director Elvira Prieto (una alumna de Estanfor y Harvard) on successive visits. I was also noticing, somewhat belatedly, that the exterior mural by Montoya had been reconditioned. Actually, part of the story of Juana Alicia’s codex mural is that a previous installment by her had been damaged in a renovation. Reminds me of the quandry about whether artists should expect control over their work or merely be fighting for the right to create.  Are all works ephemera, like the Tibetan sand painting? I think we should respect and cherish the marvels around us but not fixate on them — and here I am of course making a derivative work of Juana’s genius with my stupid cell phone.

Juana Alicia’s mural, which was feted at a reception last month, reminds me of the Orozco frescoes at the Baker Reserve Corridor at Dartmouth, but also the SF Mission School, including Barry McGee, Mona Caron, Clare Rojas and the late Margaret Kilgallen. I noticed, in the Cantor bookstore, that Juana Alicia is highlighted generously in the book “Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo” by Annice Jacoby, 2009.

Makes me want to take a Juana Alicia tour of San Francsico, or make a tour if nobody has mapped it out succinctly yet (here journalist/blogger bleeds into promoter/activist/busybody con permiso lo siento ay caramba)

Makes me want to visit the Diego Rivera murals at City College or Coit Tower, which I’ve seen but cannot recall distinctly enough for my current sense of the world and operating system.

Maybe we can get a Juana Alicia mural in Palo Alto (along side, so to speak, Chris Johansen, Elizabeth Lada, Kathy Aoki and of course Greg Brown).

The codex can be read as a story, originating in the mind of the Mayan Scribe and proceeding through time, mythological and historical. One scene depicts the arrival to the new world of slaves, some of whom end up in the fields cutting cane and henequin (new to me, used for rope).

SlaveOther scene feature singer-activists and nueva cancion artists Mercedes Sosa (1932-2009) and Violeta Parra (1917-1967), plus Olympic champions and free speech advocates Tommy Smith and John Carlos, the Popul Vuh gemelos (twins) and much much more — a booklet explains the complex work more fully.

I'm guessing this is Carlos not Smith

I’m guessing this is Carlos not Smith

The full title of the work — fact-checking as I go — is “The Spiral Voice: the codex for Estanfor” which refers to the work of the scribe spiraling up to influence the other worldly events depicted in the scene and reiterated for instance in the voice of Mercedes Sosa and the modern day scholar/activist today in 5334 — it also reminds me of the Watson Crick double helix through which our DNA allegedly weaves our destiny.

Okay, mira, if you permit me a typical Plastic Alto digression I want to throw in here, or catch, this capture of Stanford’s Jeff Terrell and the winning reception last week. I have a soft spot for Terrell in that I met his momma at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto in 2011 — there was a reception for Palo Alto International Film Festival that overlapped with a group of the parents and kin of the Stanford players gathering before a home gain. Jeff is from Arizona — I am letting Juana Alicia guide me with a floated pass into the flat: we are all brothers, sisters, co-creators and co-storytellers of this epic tale, the universe, this time, perhaps repeating.

Terrell on the money roses end of a perfect spiral

Terrell on the money roses end of a perfect spiral

(If she can put Tommy Smith in, I can add Jeff Terrell. edit to add, minutes later: okay this is pretty random even by my standards but in fact-checking that it is Smith and not Carlos holding a box with an olive sapling signifying peace I learn that John Carlos’ dad ran literally with Kenny Williams dad; Williams the former Stanford football and baseball star and GM of the White Sox – -count the layers of irony and allusion there. Kenny from Mt. Pleasant. I should really complete the circle and add some sports icons from Monte Alban, perhaps from my fellow Dartmouth alum John Paige. See also the Codex Selden I saw at LACMA).

I did exchange emails with the artist who said I could contact her for more info – I was feeling bolder in that moment. I may end up merely posting here the questions I generated at the time.  I’m no expert just a fan.

edit to add, seven hours later, the sun goes down, dog has eaten and now rests her little blind head by my side: as I live rather nearby the University, I popped in on the gift shop of the museum and tried to pay the Mission mural book I mention above and the clerk, the young one with the feather or arrow tattoo on her arm, informs me that someone had just come in and beat me to it (which is better than beat me with it). She suggests that if I visit SF there is a store near the Precita Murals that carries the book. (which only makes me ponder going to SF to see some murals, and start my Juana Alicia tour, or my Diego tour). I settle for the Peter Selz book I had been eying and pawing: “Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond” and set myself down at cafe to flip thru it. Meanwhile, as is my bent, I start daydreaming about: the Jim Hardy sculpture I saw in Alameda (see below) and my visit to the Robert Arneson George Moscone tribute (see below, detail). I also rang Chris Perez who is an expert on Barry McGee and gave him an update on my quasi-fantasy quasi-reality about getting a commission for Barry to tag the Palo Alto Caltrain station — I had ran this buy an old basketball teammate who now works for CalTrain. Earlier, while in the shower if that is not TMI, I was imagining my interview with Juana Alina and a long digression into “permanence” or “process”: how permanent are art objects and the relative importance of the act of creation itself? Like I was telling somebody (the guard, a stranger next to me on the bus, Frida the blind cockerspaniel who doesn’t actually speak Ingles) that with the Heizer piece at LACMA maybe the piece itself was the act of dragging it to LA, whereas what we see is the residue, or scar or fossile or ghost. So in essence as the Mayan Scribe is creating all reality and a group  of contemporary Stanford students are writing back to her and meeting her in the middle so to speak, I am likewise, post-contact with The Stanford Codex, even as a non-affiliate, adding to the story, si? Con permiso.

Oh, yeah I also made this sketch of the Mayan Scribe, after JAA

Oh, yeah I also made this sketch of the Mayan Scribe, after JAA

The only link between this piece and Juana Alicia is the Peter Selz book, which is political. I want to track down this artist, Jim Hardy and ask if he recalls the name of the Palo Altan soldier and hopefully try to reach him.

Hardy says that he recalled the man being from Cali but not Palo Alto until years later, looking at the photo and noticing the helmet graffito

Hardy says that he recalled the man being from Cali but not Palo Alto until years later, looking at the photo and noticing the helmet graffito


It is a weird segue from Juana Alicia to Arneson or Moscone or a gun so its understandable if she tells me hey hey you you get off of my cloud:


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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