Lalo Alcaraz’s I Stand with Emma” – American Art Moments

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  • CLAUDIA ZAPATA: “I Stand with Emma” is a digital image created in 2018 by Los Angeles-based artist Lalo Alcaraz. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning. He’s most well-known for his syndicated cartoon strip “La Cucaracha.” Lalo Alcaraz has this history of reacting to major news events.

    On February 14th, 2018, seventeen people were murdered at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And then, on February 17th, Emma Gonzalez gives the impassioned “We Call BS” speech. The following day, Lalo Alcaraz shares the “I Stand with Emma” image to all of his social media platforms and his personal website, because he wanted to support the cause immediately. Originally, it did not exist in an object form, so Lalo Alcaraz created this using digital tablets and image editing software.

    The Never Again movement is a student-led organization that was created by the survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, and they’re really a large group of people. And I think he chose Emma Gonzales because she does have a very iconic look. You see her from afar because of her shaved head. She does stand out. Even though she has this very unique style, she is really more of a symbol of a youth movement.

    There’s this connotation of Generation Z, or Gen Z, being very active, and that’s true, but there’s also a legacy of teenage activists going back to, for example, 1955, with Claudette Colvin. She was someone who was challenging the bus segregation laws. Or, in 1968, the east LA Chicano walkouts, or the blowouts, were part of this student movement for better education in the public schools.

    Emma is a legacy of student activists, someone who knows that oppression is ageless. No matter what age you are, legislation can affect you, and you can also react and demand a change to that. And even within the “We Call BS” speech, Emma Gonzalez mentions high school classes; she calls herself a kid and other people who are survivors kids, so that’s why the hashtag is “#standwiththekids,” because it’s very much about showing her age, but also showing the maturity despite her age. So, usually you see hashtags affixed to captions, for example, on social media. What’s interesting about Lalo affixing this to the actual composition is that it really showcases creating a community or a digital allyship.

    The red and black really reminded me of the United Farm Workers movement color palettes. It’s definitely this connotation with, like, labor activism. It’s meant to be very bold and striking and to catch your attention so that you can affix yourself to Emma Gonzalez and her advocacy when you’re wielding this poster in a protest.

    “I Stand with Emma” is part of a legacy of portraiture that Chicano artists constantly come back to, because they’re often reclaiming the image of someone within their community, or oftentimes, someone they want to make sure is remembered, quite simply. So, Lalo Alcaraz is really interesting because he doesn’t put Emma’s full name, he just puts “I Stand with Emma.” And it reminds me, very similarly, of Barbara Carrasco’s “Dolores” screen print from 1999, where she just puts “Dolores” in hopes that this person should be renowned enough and remembered enough to where you know them by their first name. So, “I Stand with Emma” really thrust her into this historiography of changemakers.

    What’s interesting is that instead of a man or a heteronormative family, a woman, a queer woman, is this symbol for change. It’s a young woman that’s going to guide us to a better tomorrow.

    Artist Lalo Alcaraz created the striking digital portrait I Stand with Emma of Emma González after watching the high school senior advocate for stronger gun control in an impassioned speech days after surviving the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    Join Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant for Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a closer look. Learn how "I Stand with Emma," an artwork that was created and distributed within the digital sphere, honors the traditions of Chicanx artists while also embracing new digital landscapes for printmaking and celebrating a new generation of activists, "guiding us towards a better tomorrow."

    This video is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's ongoing series "American Art Moments." Join a SAAM expert and go beyond the artwork label to discover the untold stories and rich connections represented in some of the museum's most iconic artworks.

    Image: "L.A. Stands With Emma, Too"
    February 19, 2018
    Photograph by Robb Wilson
    Robb Wilson Flickr 
    CC BY-SA 2.0

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