My Design Fundamentals class at SCC last fall pushed me to find out about my uncle. I knew the story, at least at the time I thought I knew the story. During my research and investigation I found out that I really didn't know anything at all. In fact, I was rather oblivious to everything.
My art teacher assigned us a final project: to create a series of work (at least 3), which tied together. The theme could be anything we wanted. At first I had absolutely no idea what to do. I worked on an abstract charcoal series, but found it to be more of an exploration than anything else. Finally I decided after looking through some of my mother's old photographs that I would do a series on my uncle: he has the most amazing eyes.
When I told my mother what I was doing she gave me a manila envelope containing scraps of old newspapers, old photographs of the family, and various other documents that related to my uncle's disappearance. I had never seen any of these things. I didn't know that my mother had written to congressmen about her brother's situation. I didn't know that after my uncle's disappearance my grandmother's house had been raided by La Guardia. I didn't know.
And it was when I was reading a large feature on my mother and uncle in the Davis Enterprise that a sudden sense of despair and sadness hit me.
Initially, three men grabbed Vargas as he walked along the street, witnesses related. When he resisted the others joined the trio, and the men began hitting him with the butts of their guns.It may have been the feature's cartoon depictions or the manner in which the article was written, but I was suddenly stung with the harsh reality of things: my uncle was gone. I may have never met him, but he was a person. And we shared the same blood. Perhaps that's what got me, the realization that not only was he real, but he was also my mother's brother.
They tied Vargas' hands behind his back, gagged him and three him inside the van, then drove away. - The Davis Enterprise
At first I started compiling a book of dates and facts. Visually mapping out the actions of my mother's family and also important dates during the war. I immersed myself in the time period trying to understand.
I'm still trying to understand. I listen to stories that my mom tells about her brothers and sister. I'm trying to find out who he is.