Second, I was on the island of Alcatraz recently for an exhibition of Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist who uses the former prison as a site for his installations that foreground the importance of freedom. Weiwei has been critical of the Chinese government for its lack of transparency and he found himself in jail for about two months back in 2011. After that, his passport was taken away and his studio in Beijing monitored. For Weiwei, it is extremely important for artists to have the freedom to express themselves. Even though the Chinese government won't allow Weiwei to travel, he worked around this challenge by directing the exhibition long distance.
As I was taking the ferry to Alcatraz and looking at all the incredible views of the bay and San Francisco, I thought about Frida and wondered if she looked at Alcatraz while taking a ferry to the Marin side before there was a Golden Gate Bridge. In 1931, Alcatraz was not a federal prison, known for its high profile inmates, such as Al Capone; instead, it was a military prison from 1857-1933. Did Frida know this? Did she know that in 1895, 19 Hopi tribal members from Arizona were imprisoned for a year because they resisted the policy of forced education for their children? Did she marvel at the beauty of the bay or was it too foggy to see much?
My dream is to see a nonviolent America in my lifetime. It would be even grander to see a nonviolent world. I wonder what Frida would say?
© Celia S. Stahr 2015