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Release 12.08.21

In episode 4 of Xicano Chronicles, we feature Wilmington-based Artist Karla Diaz, notably known for her “Prison Gourmet” performance work. She performed her two-hour piece Prison Gourmet at LACMA in 2010. Since then, she has done a collaborative mural for the Whitney Museum and exhibited at Hammer Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Newcomb Art Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Serpentine, the Institute Cervantez, Pitzer College, MOCA, and ESMoA. Amongst her many accomplishments, she is one of the founding members of Slanguage and teaches at CSULB. Luis De Jesus Los Angeles currently represents her.

Karla Diaz is an artist, writer, and activist. Born in Los Angeles and raised both in Mexico and L.A. her work often uses performance and writing to question institutional power, explore social practices and cultural relationships, create collaborations and provoke dialogue among diverse communities.

She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts and has exhibited her work in local, national, and international venues including MOCA, LACMA, the Whitney, the ICA Boston, and the Serpentine Gallery in London. She is co-director and founding member of Slanguage Studio.

Her ongoing project, Prison Gourmet (2010-present) is a multi-media project informed by prisoners’ recipes made from commissary food items. She recently received an Art Matters award to continue its development.

A few years ago, she got interested in the prison food system in California and in particular in the prisoners’ ingenious strategies to overcome the culinary flaws of the CDCR cafeterias. It turns out that prisoners create their own recipes using the limited list of ingredients they can buy either from the jail commissary or the vending machines. The men also design kitchen tools using whatever is available to them and make some unconventional mixtures of ingredients to create their own unique flavors.

Diaz asked friends serving time in prisons in California to send her their own food recipes and collected them for a print-on-demand book called Prison Gourmet.

On a documentary and curiosity level, Prison Gourmet is a kind of culinary version of Prisoners Inventions. But Prison Gourmet is also a performance in which the artist addresses the politics of food and incarceration by reproducing prison recipes devised by inmates.

Location: Artist studio in Wilmington, California Music by Artlist (Fury by Ardie-Son) 
Produced by Atelier Visit Filmed & Edited by Abel Alejandre
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