Chancla sketch and Chancla piñata.
Earlier this year I had a studio visit with Justin Favela and we talked about upcoming work and past influences. Besides walking away with his usual insightful humor, he offered me one of his piñatas. It was the one he made based on my sketch during "Piñatatopia" at P3 Studio in late 2014. As you may recall, he had visitors draw images symbolized their Mexican-American experience. There were citrus wedges and tacos, there was the less cliché Windex bottle, or reinforcing bar encased in cement.
My contribution was a drawing of La Chancla; the worn sandal or flip-flop that's an early warning device to children. My grandparents had their tool of behavior modification hung by a nail on their backyard patio post. It was ready to spank any one acting up and was undefeated.
Before hanging my piñata, I used Favela’s creation to mark bad behavior seen in local public art, based on conversations with artists, or through Facebook commentary from the Las Vegas art community. I don't always share the opinion with the online underground, but when I saw works that have been topics of dissension, I can hear the words I remember hearing from frustrated adults when they reached for La Chancla: “Stop doing that!”
La Chancla at the wall where a commissioned mural was whitewashed, which caught the artists, Mowgli and Epic, by surprise. When tags marked up favored pieces on the same wall, there was even more drama.
La Chancla at the site of the razed Blue Angel Motel. The signage was saved, which could be credited to watchful eyes of local artists and preservationists. If not for the outcry, the Angel may have also been scrapped. There is still no word on her fate.
La Chancla at the banner promoting downtown Las Vegas on Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. Though it is not a public art project, the 12 feet tall and 100 feet wide sign costing $34,000 was a lost opportunity to create an aesthetic marker. The sign is really a border crossing between city and county, which inspired some territorial bickering.
La Chancla at one of the two towers of Dennis Oppenheim's "Paintbrushes" in the 18b. The work still prompts debate of how public art should symbolize Las Vegas, and how the process of selecting artists is handled. As I wrote before, I have nicknamed the two pieces "Bait" and "Switch" to reflect how the arts community felt slighted when the final sculpture did not match the original concept more closely.
La Chancla Pinata by Justin Favela. La Chancla drawing and photos by Ed Fuentes.
Above: Krystal Ramirez “I Want to See More Brown Bodies” from 2017 will be reassembled at UNLV’s Barrick Museum of Art in Spring 2018.