Gina Hernandez-Clarke ’89 explains murals and art activism on campus

During her time as a Casa Zapata Resident Fellow, Gina Hernandez-Clarke became interested in the 30-year history behind the myriad murals in the dorm and elsewhere on campus. Aside from contributing to the “diverse and vibrant community” on campus, murals are also an “artistic gesture of protest,” Hernandez-Clarke said.

Hernandez-Clarke spoke about the murals at a lecture that was part of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity’s (CCSRE) 17th Annual Anne and Loren Kieve Distinguished Lecture event, sponsored by CSRE and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts is sponsored . Hernandez-Clarke took the audience through a few murals on campus and shared her knowledge of the history of art.

“The Spirit of Hoover” is a mural on the first floor of Casa Zapata. As Hernandez-Clarke explained, the student-run mural was supported by Jose Antonio Burciaga, then-Casa Zapata Resident Fellow, and created to spark a conversation about “students’ lack of engagement with issues on campus and beyond.”

“The Spirit of Hoover” on the left side of Casa Zapata (Photo: XIMENA SANCHEZ MARTINEZ/The Stanford Daily).

Different parts of the play touch on different political issues of the time. The left panel of the mural alludes to student activist efforts to get Stanford to break away from apartheid. The panel shows aggressive armed police officers with guns and South African people protesting and pulling on the ropes attached to the Hoover Tower. Hernandez-Clarke explained that the ropes pulling Hoover Tower are meant to represent student movements. A piggy bank with the Stanford logo can be seen at the bottom of the panel, receiving coins from the interaction between the officer and the protester.

White skeletal body holds vacuum cleaner tower broken in half.  Ropes pull the tower off the ground and out of the skeleton's handle.  Behind the body is a solar eclipse.
Central panel “The Spirit of Hoover” at Casa Zapata (Photo: XIMENA SANCHEZ MARTINEZ/The Stanford Daily).

Hernandez-Clarke explained that the impressive skeleton at the center of the mural is intended to serve as a symbol to encourage students to see themselves in the social movements on campus. The overall goal of the mural, according to Hernandez-Clarke, was to stimulate conversations outside of the dormitory about the issues the students were dealing with.

A cloaked lady modeled after the Statue of Liberty dropped her torch but instead balances.  On the scales, the bags labeled with agricultural products seem to weigh heavier than a mother and her child.  Below, three people are pulling the rope that wraps around the vacuum tower (to the right of the picture).
Right panel “The Spirit of Hoover” at Casa Zapata (Photo: XIMENA SANCHEZ MARTINEZ/The Stanford Daily).

On the right, with the torch falling to the ground, the Statue of Liberty is holding an unbalanced scale with a woman and child weighing less than an illustration of food. According to Hernandez-Clarke, this alludes to the political interventions of the United States that allowed companies like the United Fruit Company to exploit Latin American countries.

One of the many meaningful aspects behind these murals, according to Hernandez-Clarke, was the students’ involvement in the conception, painting, and unveiling of the murals. She recalled attending the unveiling of the mural “The Spirit of Hoover” on the steps of Hoover Tower, saying that murals have the “power to share history” because they “vividly express ideas and allow students to express themselves.” to express”. She added that murals are an “important treasure of excellence on campus” and described them as “places of public memory.”

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