yasmin hernandez welcome

All That You Can Be


Mixed Media on Canvas
30" x 48", diptych

In post-9/11 U.S., militarism continues to be on a steady rise and recruitment strategies focus primarily on communities of color and/or poor communities. Whereas some folks still view the military as an honorable path, for most youth being a soldier becomes a ticket out of the ghetto. With promises of job skills training and money for college, most kids who enlist are not considering the lives they might have to take in the process, including their own. This image is a diptych or two-panel painting that presents the glory sold by the military with the portrait of the marine. This is juxtaposed with the image of an Army veteran, representing the effects of war on a soldier. Growing up in the late 70's and 80's amidst the heroin epidemic, I was too young then to understand the connection that the Vietnam War had with the drug epidemic in poor communities. It wasn't until my uncle told me his war strories when I was a teenager, that I learned of how soldiers relied on drugs to self-medicate and numb the pain of the atrocities they witnessed and/or were forced to commit in war. The homelessness, the amputations, the heroin nod-offs that I saw in my Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood as a kid were the effects of the number of men of color back from the war, too emotionally or physically disabled to continue life as usual.

In the Fall of 2004 I returned to Park Slope for an exhibit at beautiful shop called Patrias. Convinced that as a gentrified neighborhood my boricua community no longer existed there, I stepped off the train and to my surprise, on Union Street, saw a man that inspired the image of the veteran in this painting. Walking down the street, looking pissed off, he wore an army uniform, a Puerto Rico tee shirt and carried a small Puerto Rican flag in his hand. It was as if some greater force had put him there to represent for the last of the Po' Ricans left in the Park Slope of my childhood. Those memories and the present situation with this bullshit war brought it all full circle and fed my concept for the painting.
The image of the marine is surrounded by a collage within the blue background. Included are texts and images of military propaganda that serve to lure young people into enlisting. The collage on the green background combines various images that show the effects of war: the amputees, the drug addiction, murder, slaughter. They are all juxtaposed with text on how to resist a draft and be a conscientious objector. Included in this collage are also images of the legendary Nuyorican Poet, Pedro Pietri who succumbed to stomach cancer in the spring of 2004. He attributed his cancer to his exposure to agent orange while in Vietnam. In addition he dressed in black every day of his life to mourn the part of him that he lost while serving in that war.
I would like to give special thanks to Walidah Imarisha and the folks at AWOL magazine for providing images and literature for these collages.

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