Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Go Forth on the 4th!

Happy 4th!

This Fourth of July I’m sharing a project that’s been slowly growing over the past, I dunno, 15 years. Go forth! I tell myself, even if I don’t know what the end result will be. I’m calling it The History of Us, or T.H.o.U. for short. This marks the first of the blog posts that carry the project name, but I’m including several posts from my years of blogging that touch on the themes I’m gathering here. My aim, with your help, is to find the art form that all this needs to take.

This is the banner for the blog section on my website, a blog now dedicated to this project. Click to see more.

A key launching point for this will be ideas around what it means to live in the United States, on being an American, and about patriotism, founding principles, that kind of thing. You might’ve guessed as much from the project’s banner image. I reach for U.S. flag imagery when I want to address national politics head-on in my artwork. No matter how I make use of it, whether it’s depicted with nobility and honor, or ragged and abused, it remains a symbol of what I love about and hope for my country.

This flag is the repository for all of what I want us to be as a nation. It stands for what I was taught to admire about our people, the valiant stories, the overcoming, the march towards justice. The stars and stripes draped from a post in all my classrooms as a kid and it was the object of pledges for an indivisible nation that stands for liberty and justice for all. This printed (or woven) symbol is a piece of fabric that I learned to respect as a kid: how to fold it, how to raise it up the pole, and how to never ever let it touch the ground.

And it was also the starting point of some of the first political stands I took. I was in high school U.S. History when one of my best friends chose to refrain from the hand-over-heart pledge to the flag. We were at war with Iraq. There were lots of protests around the country. We discussed flag burnings as a class, and our teacher, himself a veteran, was very opposed. My friend and I argued for the people’s right to burn the flag as an expression of dismay, frustration, and anger against our nation’s policies. Freedom of expression, a core tenet of the U.S. Constitution, is a complex concept that needs to be re-established for each generation.

I have more to say but I’m really trying to keep my posts around 500 words from now on! So that means I’m gonna post much more often.

The final form of this project (I’m thinking a visually formatted book?) might zero in on a simple fictional narrative, or I might distill fraught political relationships and/or policies into a conversation between two people. I’ll explain more later!

Anyway, what do you think? If you’ve taken a look around this blog (or even my portfolio website if you “zoom out” so to speak) what interests you most? What do you want to see more (or less!) of? What are your thoughts on these topics? Let me know in the comments! Thanks!


~Maritza Ruiz-Kim


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