Calavera Crystal Ball, 1992 Serigraph on paper Collection Mills College Art Museum, Gift of Elsa Cameron, 2002.7.2

Rupert García’s Calavera Crystal Ball is a serigraph (screenprint that combines imagery from Mexican folk art and pop art to emphasize colonialism’s effects on native people and enduring legacies of colonial violence. Rather than characterizing Christopher Columbus as a hero, as he has often been shown in the dominant Western imagination, García uses color blocking to depict him with minimal detail and places his image above a menacing skull that spreads to the edges of the print. The title of the piece, a composite of Spanish and English with “calavera” meaning skull, evokes a prophecy of death. The seemingly contradictory combination of the skull, which represents death, and the crystal ball, which represents what may be coming, either foreshadows a gruesome future or speaks back to the past. One interpretation of the piece’s title along with its symbolism could be that García is sending a message to Christopher Columbus, as if saying to him: look at what your actions have done. Alternatively, García, as an artist deeply involved in Bay Area leftist political movements, may be sending a message of warning to the viewers about our own future. In both of these interpretations, his piece is the crystal ball itself, revealing the truth about a future that is yet to be seen.

Isabella Perry