by Montgomery Jones

I don’t have a lick of artistic blood in my body, so I am entranced with my SPARK sister Jazmin Martinez’s art exhibit “The Body Collage Project,” which incorporates heavy topics, cultural celebration, and beautiful creations.  She talks about self- love, feminism, self esteem, Day of the Dead, and community.  Jazmin is one of those rare people who can articulate her meaning through all mediums of her work, whether it’s writing or art. Learn about what what into this interactive presentation, and become inspired to create your own body collage project!  #CVSelflove

This is whole exhibit is breathtaking! Why did you decide to center this on sexualization of women? What’s the correlation between that and Dia de los Muertos ? 

[The exhibit] was for a Day Of The Dead community held event in Coachella, California by an youth led organization called Raices Cultura. They were giving out small grants to local artists who wanted to be a part of their event by making altars. We had to pitch them an idea for an altar [that was] interactive and about an issue community members could learn from.

Now, about my community: I grew up in the Eastern Coachella Valley, in a border town called Mecca…it’s very rural and unincorporated. The population is mostly Latino low-income families. Immigrant agricultural workers are the main labor force. When I say immigrant I mean they migrated here from Mexico or El Salvador, and still migrate during summer seasons because the Coachella Valley is a desert and during the summer there isn’t much work here because it gets unbearably hot, so people move away to like Bakersfield, CA (my parents and I do the same sometimes.)

The reason why I chose to make our altar on the topic of body image and sexualization was because growing up here I always noticed that women like my mother, grandmother, friends, the moms of my friends struggled with self-love, because we/they didn’t fit into the mainstream media idea of what an ideal beautiful women looked like. I also grew up thinking being sexy was a way to get a guy’s attention – not that women feeling sexy is bad, when it’s on their own terms – but reggaeton and rap, which was popular with in my community, taught me that being sexy meant being, dancing, dressing like a video girl …as a prop for men. As I got into feminism I started to learn the language to express my frustrations with what I saw around me in my community, and that’s how I felt comfortable making an altar about such topic and why I thought it was important. The correlation is that the holiday is about the dead and we have lost many of our sisters to anorexia, or under the knife of plastic surgery, or not via death but [because some girls have] lost their spirit, because they’re trying to fit into this fake mold to feel validated…it’s a sort of death also.

[Also] I say “our altar” because my friend Isabel and I both worked on it. I came up with the concepts and art pieces, and she pushed me to make it happen. She told me about the grant in the first place,  but [I didn’t know I got the grant until] a week before the event when I had applied 2 months before. I had given up on the idea, but Isabel really pushed and kept calling our work important. She drove to go cash the check and buy the supplies and we used her car to move the stuff around. The fabric was from her parents furniture factory and she owned most of the posters. It was totally a collective effort between both of us at the end.

You said you don’t consider yourself an artist, but this is an amazing exhibit of art! Have you done pieces like this before or was this your first time?

This was my first time ever. I don’t consider myself an artist mostly because I’ve always considered myself a fan of art,, rather than being on the other side. The things I did for the altar were total co-optations of art pieces I had been invited to participate in or had seen at museums. We also had zines people could take on the altar, and those were just photo copies of zines I had received from other women in my life. The point was for people who encountered our altar to take as much away as possible…literally a piece of candy with a powerful message attached or a photo to remember or a zine to read at home!

“I dream of love” is so powerful, is that a quote from something? What does it mean?

The cloth with “Sueño de amor” engraved is one of the things Isabel contributed to the altar. I am not sure if it’s a quote from something but it totally does summarize the message of the art. We wanted to encourage people to self–actualization and love, but also acknowledge that it’s a processes and that we’re all at different points with it, but it’s the dream to get there and stay there.

In the first paragraph of the description titled “Death and Life of Self-love” you take a stab at the corruptness of capitalism. Why don’t we as the buyers see how manipulative these industries are in their endless pursuit to collect all of our money, confidence, and general happiness?

Yes! It totally was a stab at the corruptness of capitalism. It might have not been very well explained by me in the manifesto, but to be honest I wrote it 30 minutes before the event while listening to Patti Smith and having just re-watched The Story of Stuff video by Annie Leonard. She says in her video “we have become a nation of consumers” and that “the primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated is by how much we consume” and I think it’s true. At least that’s what the media is constantly telling us, to buy all the new things to be cool or “in” even through the music we listen to because musicians themselves endorse products to sell to us. And here in this nation run by capitalism we have seen the very movements that fought these industries be co-opted by the very same industries, like feminism being co-opted to sell empowering tampons or makeup by the beauty industry with “girl power” slogans. It’s always a “you can be this IF you buy THIS from us!” kinda thing, and at the end of it all we still feel crappy about ourselves.

I love how you describe self love as a “journey.” People often make self love sound like you have it or you don’t. What is about self love that keeps us from obtaining it infinitely?

I don’t want to speak for anyone, but at least when Isabel and I were talking about it and when I have discussed it with my feminist mentors, we discuss the constant process of coming to self-love, self-acceptance, and self-actualization. It’s a constant process because we live in a highly mediated culture. Even if you were to throw out your TV and laptop and phone…you still see ads everywhere on buses and billboards and benches, and ads alone are filled with photoshopped, usually sexualized images of already skinny/white/tall/ women. It’s a processes of having to constantly check in with yourself and reminding yourself that those images aren’t realistic and the real world is diverse and that you (we) are all beautiful, and that those ads are just trying to make us feel crappy about ourselves to make us buy unnecessary stuff.

This stuff might also be influencing the people around you negatively and so maybe if your mom or boyfriend or a stranger tells you to “lose weight” or another horrible thing…I’d say, yes those type of people keeps you from self love, but who’s influencing these people to such behavior and judgment? The media! So it comes back to our highly mediated culture.

I think the most powerful part of this “Death and Life of Self-love” is your dedication to our sisters, as you call them, “who we have lost trying to obtain this unrealistic beauty standard and to the lives that continue to fight and resist these capitalistic driven messages that we women must fit into the mold of unrealistic beauty standard in order to feel validated by the world….”

Thank you! It’s still so upsetting to even think about the women we have lost who didn’t think they were enough.

Why was it important for you to include that emotional dedication?

Apart from that message being connected to Day of the Dead, I couldn’t dismiss the fact that these harmful messages about what women should look/act like are a real killing threat in real time. I didn’t want the piece to be lighthearted at all. I wanted to make it clear that this kills. I used the word “sisters” because I wanted community members who came across this to know they had people who saw their pain and were willing to talk about it even if they didn’t speak English (the manifesto was also written in Spanish).