Updating About Me

Maya Escobar is a conceptual identity artist.

Maya Escobar is a conceptual identity artist

deconstructing the artist (myself), alongside the monument, alongside the monument’s informational text…

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SELECTED STATEMENTS

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Bio for About Page 2010:

Maya Escobar is a performance artist, Internet curator, and editor. She uses the web as a platform for engaging in critical community dialogues that concern processes by which identities are socially and culturally constructed. She performs multiple identities, sampling widely from online representations of existing cultural discourses. Her identifications as a Latina-Jewish artist, dyslexic blogger, activist and educator are indexed by the blogs she keeps, the visual and textual links she posts, the books, articles, and blog posts she cites, the public comments she leaves, and the groups she joins.

Escobar received her MFA from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis, and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has exhibited work in Spain, Guatemala, United States, Germany, Venezuela, and Chile.

Twitter Bio for @Maya_Ate_This 2010:

I am a 2nd generation Latina artist, nutrition buff, and fitness enthusiast. Here, I’ll be tweeting what I am eating as well as sharing beauty and fitness tips.

Artista Disléxica Del Internet pt 1 of audition video for Reality TV Show on Discovery En Español 2010:

Short Bio for Acciones Plásticasプリクラ 2009:

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan-Jewish digital media and performance artist, currently living in St. Louis. Her work addresses issues of cultural hybridity, gender, placelessness, and the construction of identity.

Bio for Conney Conference on Jewish Identity 2009:

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan Jewish digital media and performance artist. She received a BFA with an emphasis in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently completing her MFA at Washington University in St. Louis. She can usually be found on the web blogging, tweeting, or youtubing. Escobar also serves as the online art editor for Zeek: A Journal of Jewish Thought and Culture. She has taught, performed and exhibited work in Germany, Spain, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the United States.

About Me for Maya E. on Jewish Wedding Network (2009):

I have always lived between multiple worlds, I come from a Guatemalan Jewish American family of activists and educators. The planning of my wedding is like most things other things we do, a familiar and communal affair. In addition to the Bosa Nova band that will perform, my fiancee’s band rock band Cavalry will be covering various Jewish tunes such as hava negilah and more.

Breaking Down the Elephant Blog Post 2009:

Some people think that I am the true representation of the elephant.
It is true I am an elephant, but not the only elephant.
I try to break up the conception of being the only elephant.
Some people see a small portion of my work and think it is the whole- the representative elephant.
Others understand that each piece connects to another piece and that individually they are only fragments.
When breaking the elephant up into pieces, information slips in through the cracks.
People also respond to this new information- creating a bigger more amorphous elephant.
The amorphous elephant is broken up again and again, so that it is relevant to new individuals new experiences…

Manifesto for MFA Thesis Exhibition Catalog 2009:

As an artist and an individual, I am in constant conversation with the values transposed through multiculturalism. I seek to challenge notions of sameness, unity, and political correctness with pieces that affirm a sense of community for some, while paradoxically alienating others.

Major influxes in international travel, technological advances, immigration, adoption, and intermarriage are causing the borders and boundaries between countries to merge together at an increasingly rapid pace. The imagined spaces of individual cultures are no longer autonomous.

Therefore it is with a conscious move that I, and many colleagues and contemporaries, unapologetically go forward, breaking through traditional conceptions of art and artistic practice. No longer tied down to medium-specific practices, we produce work derivative of a multitude of discourses. The works that we produce, however, are distinct from those in the  fields that our work represents. We are concerned with the past, but we will not allow the past  to solely delineate the future. We hope to form a new definition of artistic practice that will include our constantly shifting environment.

Short Web Bio for Stumble Upon 2008:

MFA Candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. Current art/research centers around mental constructions of space and the social and political implications that result from these imagined boundaries. On this blog I share my random thoughts on hybridity, transnational and transcultural identities, liberal multiculturalism, critical pedagogy, feminist theory, latinidad, jewish life in america, youth culture…

Bio for Acciones Plásticas at the Bruno David Gallery 2007:

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan Jewish interdisciplinary artist and educator. She is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received a BFA with an emphasis in Art Education. She has taught, performed and exhibited work in Spain, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the United States.  Currently, Escobar is pursuing a MFA in Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

Bio for Camp JRF 2007:

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan Jewish interdisciplinary artist and educator. She is currently completing her degree in Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sharing her non-traditional approach to exploring Jewish identity, Maya will expose campers to a wide variety of contemporary artists, artistic mediums and processes. Campers will have the opportunity to work both independently and as a collective, to produce work that inspires and participates in ongoing personal and communal dialogue.

Artist Statement 2006:

Through the performance of actual and fictitious moments of my life, I explore my personal identity as the daughter of a Guatemalan father and Jewish mother.  I compare the complexities of projected societal, cultural, and gender-determined roles to the lived experiences of Latina and Jewish women in our contemporary American culture. My work translates ongoing anthropological and sociological investigation into accessible narrative forms, incorporating technical skills in multiple mediums. As a commentary to the objectification and exoticization of otherness that I have personally experienced, I reclaim ownership of myself; I transform my body as well my “self” into an object used within the performed ritual, which is then documented through analog and digital photo, video and collage.

Guest Post by Debbie Wolen: Ta’anit Esther and Mardge Cohen

Guest Post by Debbie Wolen*: Ta’anit Esther and Mardge Cohen

I had never heard of the holiday [Ta’anit Esther] until one year ago, when Rabbi Brant said that the JRF and the RRC wanted to honor Dr. Mardge Cohen for Ta’anit Esther. Mardge asked me what Ta’anit Esther was. I had never heard of it, and I have been Jewish all my life.

Isaac Saposnik is working on the Philadelphia side of this RRC/Kolot “reconstruction” of Ta’anit Esther as a Jewish Day of Justice. Ta’anit Esther is described in the Book of Esther (which I did actually read for the first time, in preparation for organizing this event. It describes Esther’s initial reluctance to get involved with advocating for her people. When Mordicai first told Esther about the plot, she was afraid to intervene. Apparently, her conscience and sense of justice/solidarity/responsibility was stronger than her fear, and gave her the energy and courage to intervene. Her struggle is interesting and a process that I know I face often in my life, so I can really identify with Esther’s struggle. Prior to her intervention, Esther fasted, and asked the whole Jewish community to fast with her in solidarity. Thus, the Fast of Esther is one of several Jewish fast days. (It lasts from sunrise to sundown on March 20. That is why we are having East African (Ethiopian) hors d’ouerves at the March 19 observance.)

I bought an Art Scroll prayer book recently, so I looked, and sure enough, Ta’anit Esther is listed as a fast day. It is not described as a Jewish day of justice, however. This is the new reconstruction of it. I also mentioned it to an Israeli fellow, and he said, “Oh, yes, sure, Ta’anit Esther, of course.” But, I have asked other people who are much more knowledgeable and involved Jewish people than I, and they had not heard of Ta’anit Esther previously.

When I read the Book of Esther, I was somewhat concerned about the justice described there and the assumptions I made about what the reconstructionists meant by “Jewish day for justice.” The justice in Esther is revengeful and quite bloody! I asked Isaac about this. He said this Jewish Day for Justice implies social justice, the type of justice that Mardge Cohen and others in Rwanda are working for, making the lives of the survivors of the 1994 genocide better, making the lives of the poor and powerless more empowered. Well, it was obvious, but the bloody revenge in Esther is called justice, too.

Mardge Cohen, MD, is a woman who has struggled with social injustice during her whole medical career. She is really a remarkable woman, and her work is on the level of Paul Farmer, in my opinion. I saw some slides she showed at our workplace in 8/2000, of her tour of HIV projects in South Africa after the 2000 International AIDS conference. I was inspired by her slides so that I started trying to educate folks at JRC about AIDS in Africa, and to raise funds for HIV projects there. I am just one of many she has inspired by her example.

Here is a jewish text study by Jordan Appel Ta’anit Esther text study

Thanks a lot for your interest and support

Debbie Wolen

*About Debbi:

I’m a family nurse practitioner, have worked in HIV primary care at Cook County Hospital for nearly 17 years with people who are medically indigent and suffer the indignities of poverty. I was a public health nurse before that. I have sought inspiration from many sources. My first source of inspiration was my childhood rabbi, Leonard Mervis, who gave sermons on social justice, anti-war and in support of the civil rights movement (like you, my parents insisted on my attendance through high school, every single Friday evening! So, rather than be bored, I listened to the interesting sermons.) I am a product of Cicero, Illinois. My cousins marched against Martin Luther King when I was 15. That was a radicalizing experience that affects me even today, in my middle age. Also, your mother [Tina Escobar] was the only teacher I could really relate to in my two years at Rush College of Nursing, and she only taught our class for 2 weeks!

Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish

UPDATE: PHOTOS

2005

On an almost daily basis, I receive emails from people asking if I am in fact actually Jewish. Although I do find it somewhat bizarre that they find satisfaction in my acknowledgment of what I have already stated numerous times, I usually respond. Come to think of it, the occasions where I have been accepted as a Jew (without further questioning) have been few and far between.

  • “ No you can’t be Jewish you are Hispanic”
  • “You don’t look Jewish”
  • “Escobar… is that a Sephardic name?”

Recently I discovered that without our knowledge, the validity of my own and my brother Gonzalo’s Jewishness has come into question (to the point where documentation has been requested) from people that we are now very close with.

Below are some of the examples of comments (not emails, I do not share the content of emails without permission) from youtube:

roundedwhtcollar Am I the only one who thinks this reprobate Turd is NOT in fact a Jew?

Rafaelpicc But is her las name jewish? or converted?

ReptorY her last name isnt jewish.

xruchy you are not jewish i guess… tus videos= cero aporte

raquelita40 she’s half Jewish/ half Guatemalan.

nakedjanet i am also suspicious. for one thing, escobar is not a typical Jewish name. For another, Jewish girls are usually a whole lot smarter, and have a whole lot more substance, than this girl has

(from chaptzem blogspot) There is no way she is Jewish- there may be a small chance her family are anusim or something.

But what gets even more bizarre is that interspersed with in those comments are horrible anti-semitic statements:

johnnycastle86xx all the jews have to die, stupid jewish puta de mierda. Que mierda que Hitler no mato a tu familia, asi tu no hubieras nacido. muerte a los judios y muerte a israel.

mocrostyle3600 AnotherJewish nasty bitch

mrrimfire She’s an ugly cockroach

filet there’s a nice Jewishcrew- club… Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people

roshanpinto13 i want to put you in a concentration camp bitch if your people want israel so bad why don’t you go there and rid the world from your hideous jewish ways

So in light of my sarcasric sense of humor I entitled this post : Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish I wonder what will come of that statement… From Judaism 101: Who Is a Jew?

First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children’s children also comes into question.

In my case my mother is Jewish and my father is not. Yet it is my father that pushed me to go to Hebrew school until I was 16. Rain or shine my parents have been attending Shabbat services at JRC for almost 20 years. I remember being so mad as a child that my friends got to go out on Friday nights, and I was stuck with my family not even allowed to watch TV when we got home from services. Vickie Korey left the nicest comment on my Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog:

I remember Maya at Friday night services at JRC, sometimes listening intently, sometimes reading, but always being present. When one of the children of our extended spiritual family grows to be such a fine, thoughtful and accomplished young woman we are all proud. Gonzolo and Tina have worked hard to set a strong foundation for Maya and I am so pleased for her and her family.

A few months ago I met with my Rabbi to discuss my (art) work. During our discussion I mentioned to him how my father is feeling really nervous about me having an orthodox wedding where he will not be included in the ceremony. Brant said something to me that really touched my heart. Your father is the essence of what a Jew is, he is a stranger in a strange land. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and if you ask most JRC members I am sure they would agree as well. However that does not change the fact that he is not considered to be Jewish by our neighbors, and even if he converted, to them it would not be halakhic unless he went through orthodox conversion.

So who is a Jew? Who determines this?

As I stated in a previous post I will be working as the art director this summer for Camp JRF. I am in the process of creating this summer’s curriculum that will be geared towards answering these very questions and challenging notions of Jewish Identity. Below is a very rough sketch of my plan…. (Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or would be interested in contributing any resources)

The Changing Face of Jewish Identity: an exploration of self and what it means to be a Jew in our contemporary society

To introduce the concept of a changing Jewish Identity will discuss the following:

  • How do we define ourselves/ how do others define us?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Can someone be more or less Jewish/ who decides this?
  • What is our role in society?
  • What characteristics make up a Jew?

Mediums Mixed media sculpture

Art Exhibitions The Jewish Identity Project Too Jewish Challenging Tradition Identities

Written Works by Ilan Stavans Achy Obejas Rebecca Walker

Campers will produce mixed media sculptures that reflect their perception of what it means to be a Jew

Pre- Activities:

  • We will begin as an ice breaker/ intro to project identifying the characteristics that make up Jews.
  • Followed by a discussion on contemporary representations of Jews in Popular culture

Project Campers working in groups of 3-4 will have the option of creating either abstract or representational mixed media sculptures that to them represent Jewish identity. Prior to the construction of their piece students will need to create a (flexible) proposal that outlines their piece.

  • Will it be site specific (interact with a certain location)?
  • What form will it take?
  • Will it have a function?
  • What materials will be used based on the above?

If they end up going with more representational sculptures I thought it would be really cool to photograph the sculptures and to place them in various Jewish settings and non-Jewish settings (baseball stadium, temple, Shabbat dinner, work, school….)