On September 26, 2014, forty-three students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal School in Guerrero, Mexico, were loaded by police into unmarked vans and driven away. The students have not been seen since. Widespread searches have discovered many mass graves in the state of Guerrero, but only one body has been positively identified as that of a student.
The kidnapping of the students sparked mass protests throughout Mexico. It epitomized the corruption of the government and the use of money and resources from the so-called war on drugs against average citizens rather than against the drug lords.
As part of the protests, artists around the world created – and are still creating – portraits of the missing students. You can see some of the artwork here and here and here.
I’ve been working on a portrait of one of the students, Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, as part of the Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43 project.
My idea was to make a print that looked like a blackboard, to honor the chosen profession of these students. I made full-bleed monoprints that more or less look like slate with swipes of white to look like erased chalk.
Martín is carved out of linoleum, but the image is based on a loose pencil sketch; I wanted him to look like a portrait drawn in chalk. I like the unintended consequence that he looks rather ghostly, or like a photo negative. I think it evokes the mystery still surrounding the whereabouts of the students.
For his name, I also wanted it to look like somebody had written it on the blackboard. I didn’t want it to look like my handwriting, or even like any North American handwriting. We have a different style of script than most Europeans or South Americans use. So I wrote an email to my friend Jacques in France asking him to write out Martín’s name and send it to me – which he very kindly did, even though he thought the request a little bit odd. But he knows artists are eccentric types.
I had meant to transfer Jacques’ writing as a trace monotype, but for white ink to show clearly enough against a dark background it needs to be applied heavily – which resulted in an illegible mess.
Now I am hurriedly carving a block to print Martín’s name.
The first showing of some of the Ayotzinapa prints will be next Sunday, May 17, at the Guelaguetza festival in Santa Cruz.