|Photo by Rink.
Can art and images heal in times of chaos? Find out at â€śCrisis Apparitions: Idiots, Icons & Idolsâ€ť by Ralfka Gonzalez, a series of paintings on display now through June at Magnet â€“ the Castro hub of health and well being. Gonzalez calls his series â€śa celebration of life - visions that heal in crazy times.â€ť Attendees got to see their own apparitions and meet Gonzalez at the opening reception on June 5.Gonzalez was born in San Antonio, Texas of Mexican parents, and has been going to Oaxaca off and on for years. He has always been openly gay and politically active. His works are mostly about his reflections on life in Oaxaca, a small village that encourages gay men as holy shamans known as Muxes (pronounced â€śMoo-shaysâ€ť) who dress as women. â€śIn hard times, visions appear to people to heal and help them through their crises,â€ť he explained to me. He said even if one is not Catholic, itâ€™s all right to change that perception and use some of the religionâ€™s imagery to heal oneself.
His philosophy is not only â€ślive and let liveâ€ť but also â€śgive joy in love.â€ť He wants to show that Mexico is â€śnot the homophobic, machismo, dangerous place that people assume.â€ť He said no one is allowed to have guns in Mexico, except the drug lords. He said Oaxaca is changing as corn, the main export of the town, is being altered through chemistry and genetics. â€śThis has a devastating effect on Oaxaca,â€ť he said. Also there is a water shortage, because surrounding cities are taking the water for their tourist industry. â€śThere is ancient queer culture there, even before Stonewall,â€ť he said. â€śPeople not only tolerate being gay; they celebrate being gay,â€ť he said. â€śWomen and homosexuals rule there as spiritual leaders of the community.â€ť He said tourists are not being respectful of the Muxes â€“ getting drunk and upsetting spiritual ceremonies of the indigenous, indigent people, â€śmaking them look like idiots.â€ť He said, â€śOaxaca is queer paradise and should be experienced properly.â€ť
His technique is â€śworking with anything I can.â€ť He inserts a lot of Medieval lore and distorted Catholic imagery in his works. He said he is very much against the Pope, and unfortunately his sister became a religious fanatic because he is gay and HIV-positive, and kicked him out of the family.
Gonzalez gave me a tour of the gallery wall, from far left to right. Two paintings, â€śBuddhalupe Orange Sky 1 and 2,â€ť are a combination of the Guadalupe version of Mother Mary combined with Buddha. The Oaxacans took the goddess of compassion and wrath and made her Jesusâ€™ mother. â€śEl Clown Mexicano (for Jerome Caja)â€ť was to depict a friend of his, with whom he shared an exhibition. â€śLas Terroristas del Norteâ€ť are impish, cute devils with hard-ons. â€śPicasso painted assholes; I paint penises,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s just my gay perspective.â€ť His devils are not evil, but are protectors that celebrate sexuality. Note the three anarchy symbols and the American and Israeli flags flying over a nuclear bomb. â€śLetâ€™s live life to the fullest and be loving to everyone, because we might get exploded some day,â€ť he advised.
â€śLa Virgen de Carmenâ€ť is a virgin saint for people who are lost and have no place. â€śShe is very special to the Latinos, especially those in the Caribbean, because she is goddess of the ocean, as can be seen by the people lost in a boat in a huge thunderstorm, but being guided by the virgin). â€śTransgenicâ€ť is a triptych of the Monsanto chemical company genetically producing plants that do not produce seeds, which ruins the economy of poor Oaxacans, who have to buy new seeds every six months.
â€śBlack Sky Buddhalupeâ€ť is similar to 1 and 2 â€“ another image of healing. You can see either a vagina or a penis, depending on your perspective. Either way - sex is healing. The devils are protecting the light. â€śBlue Egg Corn Butterfly Beeâ€ť references the biogenetic experiments going on, as well as the cosmic egg as â€śattainment of the impossible.â€ť He said this painting was influenced by paganism. â€śEven though corporate interests are changing, nature will eventually have her way,â€ť he said. â€śAll we are is dust in the wind,â€ť he said, quoting the old rock group Kansas.
Notice the pun in â€ś3 Muxes Gracesâ€ť as the Spanish for â€śthank you very much â€“ muchas gracias. He is thanking the Muxes for being gay and spiritual.
He told me that in Oaxaca, people are raised to be gay. â€śIf you do not have a gay child in your family, you raise the next child to be gay, or else you have bad luck,â€ť he explained. â€śFeathered Snake Dance Loversâ€ť is a dance between two Muxes who might dance for days on end in a ceremonial party.
Those are big, rounded metal hats with feathers glued on. â€śLa Venusâ€ť is an interpretation of the icon of Venus on the Half Shell. The last painting has a Muxe sitting on top of the world in total power. He said he wished all the world was ruled by Muxes.
Magnet Executive Director Steven Gibson wants to announce that the gallery is now taking applications for exhibitors to show their work for a month at a time. The deadline is July 31 to possibly qualify for a slot. Details are at magnetsf.org or at the building on 18th and Castro Streets.