Gathering the Embers: The Spirit of Home

chris_davisIn Gathering the Embers: The Spirit of Home, curators and sisters Natalia and Amanda Vigil celebrate Dia de los Muertos with an evening of performance by emerging and established writers, interdisciplinary performing artists, media makers and musicians.

Now in its fourth year, the showcase’s 2014 theme “The Spirit of Home” complements the annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition at SOMArts, which features traditional altars and contemporary art installations. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early to experience the free exhibition, Visions at Twilight: Dia de los Muertos 2014.

Amanda and Natalia grew up in San Francisco as part of a vibrant Chicano arts community and learned after their father’s passing that mourning crosses many boundaries. It is with this understanding that they are honored to curate this intentionally multi-racial/cultural event. For them, Gathering the Embers is a family project, a way to engage their San Francisco community, and to celebrate their Mexican heritage.

The Vigil sisters selected 10 tribute pieces centering around “The Spirit of Home” that honor loved ones, explore the meaning of home, evoke the complexities of the loss of culture and people being felt in the Bay Area now and consider the cycles of life and death.

Live music performances include gospel songs by returning artist Christopher Davis, and a performance with accompanying projection by three piece band Alzara & Brother Spellbinder.

Alzara & Brother Spellbinder is a collaboration between Alzara and Jamie Wilson. Daughter of Dave Getz, longtime drummer for Big Brother and the Holding Co., Alzara grew up in the rock-n-roll scene, acquiring a taste for the spotlight and a love of lost souls living in the fringes between the sublime and disintegration. She wrote her first song somewhere around the age of 7. Mostly she sang to birds, cats, and clouds, until reluctantly convinced to join her first band with a bass-wielding Russian emigre lover from St. Petersburg in the mid 1990’s.

Alzara has explored various musical projects while raising a kid and saving the world in her job as a social worker. She formed group Brother Spellbinder with guitarist Jamie Wilson in 2012. This project aims to create something otherworldly and beautiful, yet earthy and tangible.

Gehno Aviance, a member of the House of Aviance since 1989, has been DJing since 1992 and dancing his whole life. He got his start playing at legendary east coast parties and raves such as Ultraworld (Baltimore) and Buzz (Washington D.C.). He is part of The A, a dance troupe that incorporates vogue, capoeira, freestyle, rave, liquid and house dance, all of which are considered “street” and “battle” styles, into a seamless expression of movement, sound and self. Sometimes sexy, sometimes serious, The A continues to redefine what underground dance culture is— an ever-flowing series of moves all born of the same essence of life.

Eliana Cetto’s work is an exploration of image, identity, and power in the 21st century, with a focus on social interactions within evolving technologies. As a queer Latina woman, she believes that technology allows marginalized voices to be heard and claim space. Having grown up queer on the internet, Cetto approaches art making through the aesthetics of the Millennial Generation, employing trends, social media, and “selfie” culture as tools for rebellion. Technology enables her to virtually insert herself into spaces she would normally not be granted access because of her status as a queer Latina. She queers religious imagery to negotiate her cultural heritage in works like “gracias por los tender grrrl hugz #sisterhood #wordtoyourmother” and “Patriarchy: A system error has occurred” to oppose cultural barriers within her own hybrid identity. She is interested in the critical examination of the social experiences of women, intersectional feminism, and queer theory.

Christopher Davis was born in Hope, Arkansas and has sung since he was 5 yrs old. He got his start in the church where he and his family played a very big part. Christopher has been a DJ for 26 years and views music as a lifeline to the world. A wise man once said, “every situation in life can be expressed through a song” and he lives that each and every day of his life by expressing love with his voice. This is his 3rd year performing in “Gathering the Embers.”

Mayra Lopez is a queer Chicana originally from the Bay Area. She is passionate about her Latino and queer communities and has worked with several queer, immigrant rights and HIV/AIDS non-profits in San Francisco. She is also an avid film photographer and is currently working on a project exploring queer identity in Mexico City.

Danny Robles, writer, poet, performance artist and first year Masters student in Psychology, was born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District to immigrant parents from El Salvador and the Philippines. Danny enjoys contributing poetic and literary work that interweaves themes of the Mission District and greater San Francisco region with intersections of identities. Robles received an undergraduate BA in English with concentrations in Creative Writing and Literary Theory and two minor degrees in Chicana/o Studies and African & African American Studies from the University of California Davis Creative Writing program. Published in the Kartika Review and La Bloga, Danny is a two time participant of the Queer Arts festival event in San Francisco entitled “Still Here” as well as “Stories of Queer Diaspora 2014” in Berkeley and “Where Do You Belong” event hosted by the literary group 14 Black Poppies. Danny is a runner up winner of Joy Harjo’s “Crazy Brave” poetry contest. He is looking forward to publishing a chapbook with a small press in the near future.

Nina Reyes Rosenberg
is a filmmaker, painter, and photographer native to San Francisco. She was raised in a bicultural Mexican-Jewish household. She holds a BFA in Film & TV production from New York University, has participated in dozens of film festivals, created 25+ commercial spots as a full-time producer, and directed several indie music videos. Her paintings have shown at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Back to the Picture: Latin American Art Gallery, the Women’s Building, and the San Francisco Art Institute. She’s worked and volunteered as a teaching artist with several non-profits in the Bay Area and New York City. Her latest photography series, Working Girls, explores young women in the workplace. She lives and works in San Francisco.

D’Wana Stewart is 24 years and born and raised in San Francisco. She is currently a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in Broadcast Electronic Communications and the current Digital Media Arts teacher at June Jordan School for Equity, where she is the first returning alumni.

Amanda Vigil is a San Francisco born and raised filmmaker, educator, & media artist. She began working as an video artist at the age of 17 with the Young Artist At Work program (YBCA) and now holds a BFA in Film/Video from the California Institute of the Arts (CALARTS). She has proudly focused her talents as a video production educator for the last 8 years and now works as the Communications Director for Small Schools for Equity.

Natalia Vigil is the oldest of five sisters and a 7 year-old brother. As a proud Chicana born and raised in San Francisco, she is inspired by the city she grew up in and by the resiliency of her loved ones and community. She captures these stories and voices in her multi-genre writing. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and shows around the Bay Area, including SOMArts, Mission Cultural Center, Intersection for the Arts, Keary St., the National Queer Arts Festival and more. She loves collaborative projects and is proud to be curating Gathering The Embers for the 4th year with her sister Amanda in the city she loves por vida.

Jason Wyman & Anne Carol Mitchell bring story and music together to create soundscapes of memory, loss, and transcendence. Both are a part of OutLook Theater Project, an ensemble theater company exploring relevant issues from a queer perspective. Each has called San Francisco home for over a decade.

Pictured: Christopher Davis, photo by Jess Young