If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t miss the Los Angeles Latino Queer Arts And Film Festival this week, April 16-19, 2015, at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Featuring short films, food, music and art, the festival will be a celebration of community. The event opens with a free art exhibition on April 16th, including works by artists Yukiko Avila, Yasmine Diaz, Dalila Mendez, Cynthia Velasquez and performances by Carolina Hoyos and DJ Joyful. I had a chance to speak with Yasmine Diaz about the beautiful, moving pieces that she will be including in the show.
AfterEllen: Tell me about the pieces you’ve chosen to include this show.
Yasmine Diaz: I actually started them four or five years ago in Argentina when I left L.A. and moved to Argentina for a year. Before I went, same-sex marriage was legal in Argentina but not in California. I found it really interesting at the time, especially because Argentina is such a Catholic country but they still have legal same-sex marriage before us. It was just kind of a weird contradiction. While I was there I reached out to a few people who had been active in the movement to get same-sex marriage legalized. I had this idea of doing a series of portraits on some of the first couples to get married and got a good number of responses. I was able to meet four or five couples, and I had email contact with others who were in different cities (I was in Buenos Aires). I actually met the very first couple to get married. They had been super active in the movement and they had a huge party. I restarted this series of portraits for this event in L.A.
El Beso/The Kiss.acrylic, pencil, and metallic pigments on wood
AE: What inspired this specific piece, El Beso/The Kiss?
YD: One of the intentions behind this piece relates to naming it El Beso/The Kiss. While I’m definitely not suggesting my work is on par with Gustav Klimt‘s, using his title, The Kiss, was not an accident. His painting of a man and woman embraced in a kiss has been a universally accepted depiction of love and passion. We’re at a time when we are talking about gender/sexuality more than ever before and what that means. There is no norm anymore. We need more representation of the various forms of love around us.
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (Lovers), oil and gold leaf on canvas.
AE: While you were working on this project, did anything surprise you?
YD: One thing that surprised me is how open people were with me, a virtual stranger. I didn’t know anyone, I just had this idea. When I reached out I shared a little bit about why I wanted to do it and where I was coming from. I grew up in a culture where arranged marriage was common practice. My husband to-be was pre-determined without my having a say in the matter. So, the issue of being able to freely choose who you marry and who you love has always been important to me. It’s the reason why I don’t talk to most of my family. There’s so much attached to this issue that it’s been difficult to be open about it; it can invite negative consequences, as with same-sex marriage. While marriage equality wasn’t exactly my struggle, it resonated with me. Maybe because I’ve struggled with talking about my own story, I was amazed by how open the couples I met were to talking about theirs—they are all people who were vocal for a long time, even before it perhaps seemed safe to do so. I was really touched. It’s so much easier to not be open. But it was clear after meeting everyone how beneficial it can be to share and to form a community and support each other.
AE: Your struggle sounds like it was really isolating. You didn’t have a community like the LGBT population does. Who can a victim of forced marriage talk to?
YD: Thankfully, awareness of forced marriages in the U.S. is steadily growing. The Tahirih Justice Center and Unchained at Last are two organizations that provide resources for women forced into marriage. They are both East Coast based. There is still a shortfall in awareness and therefore resources in the U.S., though. It was reported that there were 3,000 forced marriages in the U.S. over a recent two-year period, and those are just the ones we somehow know of. We could look to the UK as an example, where victims and potential victims of forced marriage and honor crimes have more options for seeking help. There’s a great hotline called Karma Nirvana that actively educates the public so that people like teachers and social workers can recognize potential signs. The police in the UK have training sessions and materials specifically on how to properly handle these situations. For example, if someone approaches them, they know that the last thing they should do is contact the victim’s family. When I was still at home, it never crossed my mind to go to someone for help. If my parents found out they would have sent me out of the country and forced me to get married.
AE: You’ve been to the Los Angeles Latino Queer Arts And Film Festival before. Can you give us a preview?
YD: Last year I was able to go to opening night and it was a lot of fun. There was great food, music, and other live performances. People were in really good spirits so it was a fun environment. It’s also a great opportunity for people to check out the Los Angeles LGBT center and learn about what they do.
This week’s Los Angeles Latino Queer Arts And Film Festival promises to be a great way to celebrate community and various expressions of love. Visit on April 16th to see Yasmine’s artwork, and check out more of her pieces at www.yasminediaz.om. Click here to read more information about this week’s festival and buy tickets here.