Esteban del Valle is an interdisciplinary artist born in Chicago, Illinois in 1984. He completed his MFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009, where he received a Presidential Scholarship and the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. His work investigates the performance of leadership, the role of the artist as a public figure, and the effects of class and privilege on institutions in the form of paintings, murals, sculpture and video art.
The back right molar in my mouth had been infected for weeks and was bleeding out. I could push my tongue against the inflamed gum and a spew of black, thick blood would spill into my mouth like debris, ashes from a fire. I did this often as I liked the way the blood’s knotted clots would melt on the roof of my mouth and along the grooves of my tongue, staining both my tongue and teeth the color of beets.
We hauled the half-burnt mattress out of my mom’s torched apartment and onto Houston Street, into the aftermath of the worst snowstorm Washington County had seen in twelve years. It hit all of Pennsylvania and stretched into New York, making the long bus ride from the city even more miserable and the usually short trip from Pittsburgh to Washington last well over an hour. Even the viewing—in which my mother’s twice-baked ashes were displayed in a glossy burgundy urn beside a picture I hated, a picture of her too thin—dragged on and on because the heater in the little Baptist church broke halfway through the service.
Favianna Rodriguez’s artwork challenges the idea that white, elite men can or should shape how all of us understand the world. “We need to present a multi-dimensional view of who we are,” says Rodriguez, who serves as the executive director of CultureStrike. “We have to create the content that reflects our stories.”
The woman closest to the door looks like a shorter, younger version of my aunt Eurydice, if Eurydice had been born Mexican and not Georgia Negro. She’s got the same sly slit of an eye-shape as me. Same thin mouth, always near laughter. She’s got none of Eurydice’s material weight. None of them appear to. They waft like holograms before the line of washers, O after O after O, gazing at me now as though I am less substantive even than a hologram, bodiless, an intimation of cool air in an open door.
Omar sat in the front seat of the maxi-taxi minivan with his face puffed-up like a country crapaud. He was pissed. He’d been pissed when he left his mother’s house in the quiet, turtle-watching village of Matura about an hour ago, and he was pissed now as the maxi neared the bustling hub of Pleasantview Junction.