I was walking to the subway after coming from an art show. Just before I reached the train station, I came across this new mural. It consisted of various women in a colorful, exaggerated, stylized representation of the urban street culture. That is putting it very nicely in artistic terms.
In my terms, it was a HAM (a Hot Ass Mess). To me it looked like a very bad cross between Dr. Seuss and an acid-tripping graffiti artist. These women (obviously of color) were “’hood”; as in from the kind of inner-city neighborhood, most people try to stay out of after dark. I knew immediately anything that huge was commissioned to be there.
Of all the artwork out there representing women for possible display in Times Square “the crossroads of the world” this is the art that what was chosen? Seriously? I thought perhaps I was being overly sensitive, and seeing things that were not there, but maybe not…
“It is felt by a great many woman that this mural is an affront to hardworking Black and Latino women everywhere. It depicts them as hoes, sluts, and street walking prostitutes. Not one business or professional woman is represented in the mural for balance”
…states Community Advocate Anthony “Tony” Herbert.
Natasha D on literanista.net said..
“Many people are disgusted by the mural being displayed by Sofia Maldanado. It is a negative depiction of black and Latina women. Artists should have some social consciousness and be responsible and she is completely clueless. How dare she cause this affront to women of color. I am utterly disgusted, as well as many other women.”
In fairness here is a statement from the Artist, Sofia Maldonado
“The 92-feet long mural illustrates strong New York City women as a tribute to the Caribbean experience in America. Inspired by my heritage, it illustrates a female aesthetic that is not usually represented in media or fashion advertising in Times Square. It recognizes the beauty of underground cultures such as reggaeton, hip-hop and dancehall and incorporates trends such as nail art and Latina fashion. Green organic forms represent the imaginary land that third generation immigrants create in their minds about their countries of origin. I represent the characters and happenings that tourists usually do not see in Times Square, even though it could be a frequent scene in the other boroughs of New York City. These women are strong single mothers or wives who enjoy life and have overcome tough experiences living in and immigrating from a third world country.”
I know art is subjective, but in the street vernacular “I’m not feeling this” at all.
I don’t see that either. Artsy doublespeak, Sofia? In fact, I noticed a rather unfortunate irony in her name. I do not speak Spanish, but speak enough Italian to want to confirm my suspicions on her name meaning. Here’s what I found-
Maldonado Name Meaning and History
1. nickname for an ugly or stupid person, from Spanish mal donado ‘ill-favored’. The phrase is a compound of mal ‘badly’ + donado ‘given’, ‘endowed’, past participle of donare ‘to give’, ‘to bestow’.
So now we’ve been badly endowed., too, for a double irony whammy.
Regardless of what I think of the art, which indeed does not seem to compliment its subjects, I wish to comment on the name Maldonado. As far as those Maldonados who are from Mexico are concerned, it’s known that there were many Irish settlers in Mexico about 150 years ago. Several Irish names were Hispanicized, among them O’Leary (Alire) and O’Brien (Obregon, as in Ciudad Obregon, a suburb of Mexico City). With that in mind, it’s possible that Maldonado is originally a corruption of M(a)cDonald.
Both interesting things to note Q and Bob. The surname may very well be a Latin twist of an Irish one. It doesn’t change the subtle undertone of its current interpretation. However, this post is not about the artist and especially not the origins of her family name. It is about this specific piece of art and whether one feels it is a) complimentary representation of Black and Latino women in general and/or b) of women of the underground cultures being depicted specifically.
I was going to say I’m sorry I haven’t seen this mural yet … but I’m not sorry at all. I’m disturbed by both the mural and Maldonado’s explanation/defense of it. She states, “I represent the characters and happenings that tourists usually do not see in Times Square, even though it could be a frequent scene in the other boroughs of New York City.” Ok, maybe … or maybe this is exactly the representation that visitors to Times Square have come to expect to see of black and latina women. Isn’t this who they see in raunchy music videos, on the covers of urban fiction, in the movies? This seems to be exploiting the popularity of degrading images. In a word, feh.