Born and raised in the border town of El Centro, Calif., the Chicano/Native/Yaqui artist Yerena Montejano explores questions of identity, gender norms, politics and spirituality in his lush illustrations, precise prints and thought provoking collages.Yerena’s most recent projects are influenced by the #NoDAPL movement. Last November, as part of a delegation of artists from Los Angeles, Montejano stayed in the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock for a week. “I didn’t go for art reasons. I was basically a gopher: One day I was stripping pine trees for tipis, another day I was putting in insulation and flooring. But I met people willing to die for Mother Earth and it was incredibly powerful.” Since the trip, Yerena has raised several thousand dollars through his artwork to help other artists and photographers document the movement and the xenophobia of the Trump administration. “Trump has so many White supremacist connections, he doesn’t care about Indigenous peoples or anyone else that’s working-class or poor. He’s making a lot of moves and laws that are harmful and predatory,” says Yerena, a former assistant to artist Shepard Fairey. “This is the time to create art in solidarity and resistance. Fascism is becoming normalized, and we’re going to be pushing back against that.” Much of Yerena’s previous work is about fair immigration. He is the founder and curator of the Alto Arizona Art campaign and co-founder of the “We Are Human” campaign. Yerena has also collaborated on politically charged projects with artists Zack de la Rocha, Manu Chao, Ana Tijoux and Chuck D. Collaborator Ayşe Gürsöz tells his story.
Ayşe Gürsöz is a producer, photographer and digital storyteller dedicated to producing content that challenges, educates and instills compassion. At Standing Rock, she co-launched Indigenous Rising Media, an Indigenous-led media collective in collaboration with the Indigenous Environmental Network. In San Francisco, she’s produced for the Al Jazeera’s AJ+ Real Time news team. She has also produced for Grassroots Global Justice at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Most recently, her photography work has been featured in the Amplifier Foundation’s “We The People” campaign.