Saturday, June 24, 2017


From the editor:  We submit this article from the Neta website to foster discussion of the issues raised.  

Celeste de Luna
Two local Hispanic artists,
Nanci Guevara
Celeste de Luna and Nansi Guevara, disapprove of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts displaying an exhibition by Mark Clark on the basis that Mr. Clark is a "white male artist whose main body of work is composed of colorful reproductions of Aztec codices."

Mark Clark

They describe Clark as  "a tourist in our struggle and in our long attacked art tradition" and assert that "presenting this artwork as his own sends a dangerous message to our community that this imagery and tradition comes from the dominant culture."

While we disagree with the two protesting artists and consider Mark a friend, we submit their viewpoint for your consideration:

Dear Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts,

While we acknowledge the work that artist Mark Clark does within the community to create space to promote the arts in the Rio Grande Valley region, we will not be attending his current exhibit Mexica: Paintings by Mark Clark.

We value artistic and the freedom of expression, but are not in favor of cultural appropriation.

(For all the folks that are not familiar with the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, it is predominantly made up of Latinx/Mexican immigrants and mixed status families. Mark Clark is a white male artist whose main body of work is composed of colorful reproductions of the Aztec codices.)

Art by Mark Clark | Photo from Galeria 409 Facebook page

We get that his time on the border might have inspired him (as well as other outsiders) to take on that subject matter and imagery. But Mr. Clark is a tourist in our struggle and in our long attacked art tradition. The imagery that he has chosen to appropriate, is part of a long indigenous tradition, the Aztec codices have a deep and sacred significance to its descendants that no cultural outsider can understand. These codices depict Aztec cultural and spiritual life, prophecies and visions, journeys and astrological knowledge. Colonization has kept trying to erase these images and stories for the past 500 years. And, this rich indigenous history is not taught in our local public schools or cultural institutions and is intentionally kept from us.

As our cultural history continues to be ripped out of our curriculums, Clark presenting this artwork as his own sends a dangerous message to our community that this imagery and tradition comes from the dominant culture. We live in a racist society and country, where colonizing forces have been historically prized and recognized for ripping and taking ownership of the knowledge and excellence of indigenous and people of color. Indeed, local college art departments discourage students from working in a style that is considered “too cultural.” Centering a white artist appropriating Aztec imagery while discouraging local brown students from using culture as content is surely a symptom of racist systems.

Art by Mark Clark depicting a woman in a bikini as border patrol agents on the Rio Grande watch attentively and migrants cross the border behind them.

It is okay to appreciate native and indigenous art as a non-native person. It becomes deeply problematic and dangerous when someone who is not native starts painting native imagery and claims it as his or her own.

We will not gaze over appropriated renditions of our ancestors’ art and community. This is harmful to the community, this art is harmful to the community. It perpetuates the racist idea that white people dominate in excellence, instead of our own communities where that work comes from.

We envision a city, especially in this critical time, that will evolve into a place that celebrates the ingenuity of this place and work to support and cultivate young local artists.

Finally, Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, cultural and arts institutions should hold themselves up to high critical standards. That includes the question of cultural appropriation. Traditionally our border community has been taught that we can only better ourselves through unquestioningly accepting the views of the dominant culture. This includes stories about ourselves and cultural heritage.

Mark Clark has every right as an artist to depict whatever images he chooses regardless of whether or not it is blatant cultural appropriation, but the community doesn’t have to passively and uncritically accept them. Cultural appropriation in the borderlands during Trump Nation cannot pass without comment.

“As I pull out to take notes on the clay, stone, jade, bone, feather, straw, and cloth artifacts, I am disconcerted with the knowledge that I, too, am passively consuming and appropriating an indigenous culture. I walked in with a group1 of Chicano kids from Servicio Chicano Center, and now we are being taught secondhand our cultural roots twice removed by whites. The essence of colonization: rip off a culture, then regurgitate it’s white version to the ‘natives.'”


Celeste De Luna & Nansi Guevara


  1. Crazy racist bitches. They need to go find a safe zone.

  2. Yeah I always wondered why Mark painted that stuff that looked like it belonged in caves. I mean most of us don't live in caves anymore. Didn't he go to some sort of art school?

  3. am writing to you about the Art Against the Wall (Issue 88, Spring 2015) article written by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. This article was a gross misrepresentation of the people and artists of the Texas Rio Grande Valley. An artist friend sent the article to me from California who wanted to know why I wasn’t mentioned, since they couldn’t find any women artists who were doing political work. I read the article with half bored interest, since they are all people I know. I was dismayed that were no women political artists to be found by Griest, except in a curious offhand remark by artist Mark Clark, the journalist’s white guide and a non-native of the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Clark said, he knew of “a talented Chicana artist with a taste for subversive art, but can’t quench it because her husband is an ICE agent”. (Side note: When I married my husband, it was pre-911 and he wasn’t even a U.S. citizen) Hijole, I find myself mentioned after all in an unbelievably racist and sexist remark that dismisses my work due to my personal relationships. I’m appalled that Griest did not bother to follow-up on such a comment and I’m very hurt by Clark’s remark because I had considered him a friend and had thought he respected my work. I am a Xicana artist, mother, and educator and have an M.F.A in Studio Art. I have exhibited my work extensively in Texas, San Diego, Chicago, Arizona, and overseas. If you can’t find women border artists, it’s because you’re not looking hard enough.

    This article has a very Eurocentric male perspective of the borderlands. Mark Clark’s Art Against the Wall exhibit is not revolutionary or daring but rather an extraordinary display of privilege. White artists who place their work on the Border Wall have the privilege of doing so without any of the real consequences of undocumented brown-skinned people. These consequences include death, financial ruin, arrest, detention, and deportation. Clark positioning himself, as a political artist surrounded by apathetic brown savages is the classic Dances with Wolves white savior fantasy. The idea that people of the RGV are apolitical people fosters the dangerous myth that the plight of this region (drugs, poverty, and violence) is really due to apathy, laziness, and criminality and not violent, racist government structures, both American and Mexican. There is a Spanish saying that you hear the real radicals throw around, “Sin Mujer, no hay revolución”. Without women, there is no revolution. This article fails and it fails BIG, so it’s good thing that it’s placed in Texas, at least.

    Celeste De Luna

    1. You are just looking for exposure by attacking others because your "art" goes widely un noticed. Regardless of the reason, I love watching you liberals fighting over something so silly. Watchale mark the xicana warrior princess is gonna get you!

  4. What the hell is a Xicana? Is that a new race? What country are Xicana's from? I'm a Mexican American. I was born in the US and my mother was born here in the US to Mexican parents who were residents and my father was a Mexican citizen and I have no idea what a Xicana is.

  5. Very profound statements from such beautiful, talented and intellectual women. They are no doubt wealthy, highly educated, world-traveled and contributing citizens. We are indeed fortunate to have them in our Valley home.

    1. You know nothing about art

    2. That's profound sarcasm.

  6. Let's take racism out of this for a second and look at this from a strictly artistic value. Mark's work is much much better than Celeste de Luna and the other girl's. Female artist tend to be over emotional and confrontational when it comes to protecting their art. Throw in this make believe zinka nonsense and they take it to another level. I think these two women are jealous of Marks beautiful gallery and his fine work. Un successful Artist such as Celeste de Luna tend to find themselves in dead end jobs in low end education. It is the only way they can make a living.

  7. There very few, if any, true artist in the RGV. Most are very good at tracing...a concept learned in kindergarten along with coloring. Mark is not alone when it comes to tracing

  8. she makes some valid points, but please take the racist rant full of modern day liberal buzzwords, out of it, please.....

  9. Those failures were envious of Mr Clark and came up with a stupid plan to gain notoriety by attacking Clark? How did that work for them? How about an update.