Friday, January 30, 2009

Balmy Alley Mural: Josué Rojas

Video by Walter Lopez & Chris Vargas for YO!TV

Inspired by the book Enrique's Journey, about a young Honduran boy's quest to reunite with his mother, Josue Rojas is working on a mural in San Francisco's famed Balmy Alley. YO! caught up with him to discuss his inspirations and what it means to be a part of the Mission Dictrict's public art scene. Walter Lopez is a contributer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

It's been a grueling process...truly, though this is a labor of love, so I'm taking my time.

I've been reading a great book, Enrique's Journey. It's all about the travels of a child in search of his mother. It chronicles his journey–– not unlike may youngster's journey across the length of Mexico on the tops of freight trains.

It's probably one of the most moving pieces of literature I've ever touched–––and it speaks on something close to my heart, the reality of Central American Immigrants. It's one thing to be an immigrant to the US from Mexico, and another entirely to be a Salvadoran, Honduran, Nicaraguan or Guatemalan going through a foreign land, filled with bandits, gangsters and crooked police to reach another foreign land filled with, border patrol, minute men and racism.

Needless to say, the imagery of this journey has captured my imagination, so when the opportunity came to make a mural, it wasn't hard to pick a topic.

Here are images from the process:The truth is, I'm in love with my friends and family. So they're my models.
Isaiah, my nephew is seen here, he's my main character. 

The lovely Maria Elena, my good friend since Jr. High School (Potrero Hill, what!?) is the beautiful angel looking out for him---the symbol of God's protection.

There's meant to be a depiction of a mother with open arms, waiting for the arrival of her son. The model will be my Mom, I haven't gotten to that part yet.

When I originally envisioned it, I though of a child who's going through all these crazy circumstances, yet through all he faces, he has two things going for him: His faith and his imagination.

His faith is illustrated by the angel who follows him (whom he can't see, but the viewer can).
His imagination is illustrated by his stance: He's pretending he can fly (an ability all kids still have, but somehow grown-ups have forgotten). This ability is granted by innocence.

Truly, that's at the heart of the matter in this mural; innocence and how that is either retained or lost by what the children who make this journey see and experience.

Another thing I should add, is this is based on another painting, I'm not sure what it's called,but it depicts children crossing a broken bridge and a large, angel protecting them as they go.

I know this piece hangs over many immigrant families' dinner tables and living rooms,  it hung over my bed for years. Just to look at it... I can't tell you how safe I felt before I fell asleep every night. Obviously, the painting wasn't protecting me, but it reminded me that God was always with me.

What a comforting thought.

Hope that comes across...

This is a work in progress.

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