Isis Rodriguez is the closest thing to a Chicana cartoon goddess that you’ll find living in Alta California. She is into cartoon comic strips. Believe it or not, she was also an exotic dancer. She’s also a biker chick. She has a purple Harley-Davidson. She’s a Chicana with strong convictions, opinions and, most of all, attitude! Her nickname is LMA, which means Little Miss Attitude. She has definite ideas about the virgin/whore complex that perplexes our sensual/social relationships. The goddess Isis ironically was one of the chief deities of ancient Egypt, honored and worshiped as the goddess of fertility.
Isis completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Kansas. She then came to San Francisco, California, to study at the world famous San Francisco Art Institute. The high cost of housing and living in the Bay Area quickly depleted her finances. That’s how she slipped into the “erotic dance” industry. The business provided enough capital to buy a home, but her true passion has always been art. She has set upon a personal trek to find her own “estilo.” Isis has focused on cartooning, tattoo art, prison art, feminist art, protest art and underground comics.
Isis had her first one-woman show at the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco in the summer of 1997. Her promotional flyer was a comic self-portrait wearing long black gloves, thigh-high black fish-net stockings and black lace-up leather boots. Her inner conflict was represented by the image of the religious virgin image encircled by the smoke of the naked Isis biker chick riding on her Harley. In the background are a collection of many cartoon images.
Did Isis intend to insult and disrespect the sanctity of the Catholic virgin image by including her in her thoughts as she stripped for an imaginary cartoon audience? I asked Isis this and many other questions in my attempt to understand her message and intent. Isis replied that she intended no disrespect for the Virgen de Guadalupe. As a matter of fact, her mother is named Lupita. Isis grew up with the Guadalupe image in her home. She definitely respects her. Her grandmother always told her stories of Guadalupe. “I feel that it important that the Catholic Church does have a female figure of honor and respect,” says Isis. “Whenever I have her in my artwork it’s not so much disrespectful as it is that she carries certain virtues that we assign her. She is a protectress or a caregiver. I put her in those roles. In my piece entitled ‘Freedom’ she is her consciousness, her sacred self in her head. She watches over you in a world that you can’t predict”.
Isis’ adult-themed cartoon images seduce viewers by the erotic content. Yet she imbeds symbols and metaphors, implied comparisons of specific imagery to represent larger ideas and expand the content. Some of her art is intentionally confrontational and other pieces spoof mainstream influence. Isis sometimes uses traditional promotions and adds her own twist to redirect the message. The US military recruitment theme, “Be All That You Can Be,” has been reinterpreted by Isis to examine gender stereotypical roles. Her print of Chicana military soldier equipped with an assault weapon includes an immediate background of the Stars and Stripes of American patriotism. Yet this same image also depicts other feminine roles for Chicanas.
Who is the real Isis? What is the least offensive image of the Chicanas? Does Isis intend to insult or negatively portray the worst of our own stereotypical images of Chicana women? Why does she draw these controversial images? Isis confided, “When artists do things that are very controversial that’s when it’s time to sit up straight and pay attention because they’re saying something that the media’s not going to say. No one else is going say it. That’s something that everyone’s losing out on.”
Isis explained that she spent hundreds of hours watching cartoons and drawing cartoon images. Later, she discovered her interest in comic books and satirical cartooning as typical of Mad Magazine. She enjoys drawing cartoons for both juveniles and adult audiences. She has had various art exhibits throughout California, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Jose Museum of Art, and the McPherson Center in Santa Cruz. Her first public art commission will take place in the year 2003. She will design cartoon mosaics for a children’s play area at 23rd and Treat in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Isis has a playful and fresh approach to sexuality and the spirit of extreme gender roles. She was at one time a member of women’s motorcycle club called the Hell’s Belles and conversely she loves kids’ cartoon characters, too! She can switch back and forth from various gender roles. It’s as if she herself was a cartoon character that constantly “morphs” herself into the identity that best suits the occasion. She loves her cartoons because they live in her mind as a private inner world that she lets out sporadically as the impulse inspires her.
Isis has begun to play with both Egyptian wall mural symbolism and Aztec codice imagery to create and personify present-day circumstance with past historical graphics. Her head is filled with visual glyphs and societal norms that she wants to turn inside out and upside down. It’s the ability to reinvent an alternate universe where there are no rules other than those she imposes upon the characters that she creates. Yes, in a sense, she is the cartoon goddess who allows or disallows her character’s liberation. Isis claims, “The content of my art is based on female anxiety with empowered sexuality, both stereotyped and real, dealing with the rewards, the consequences and disappointments of life.”
Isis has learned to play with erotic images to stimulate discussion and to generate income. She has various images and products for sale that contain her logos and erotic imagery for sale on her web site, firstname.lastname@example.org. She has designed a clothing line in her product catalog called Good Huevos.