Maria de Los Angeles in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Maria de Los Angeles

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Artist in her Studio. Photo by Ryan Bonilla 2019 . Photo by Ryan Bonilla 2019

Maria de Los Angeles says she feels very blessed to be included in the Domestic Brutes exhibition at the Pelham Art Center. A DACA recipient, she grew up undocumented and currently she is working on getting her citizenship, looking forward to contributing by voting for the first time. “Since I arrived to this country 20 years ago, I have looked forward to Voting. I love this county and consider it my home and can’t wait to do my part by helping elect new people. I truly believe we can build a better future together,” she says.

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Migration Story series, Mixed media on paper, Schneider Museum of Art, 2019

AS: How do you see your work in context of Domestic Brutes feminist perspective?

MDLA: Most of my current work has women and women’s experience as a main subject matter. The three mixed media pieces that will be in the show have been created and feature mothers, mainly refugees on the Mexican Border and within the USA. The drawings are symbolic and inspired by the news and other stories I have read. I have been making work about Immigration from a family perspective for a long time now. I immigrated with my family to the USA as a child and feel deeply for those families being separated. I feel blessed that such family separation didn’t happen to us.

I made a decision to speak about my immigrant experience and make work about it when I was in graduate school at Yale University. At the time, I had not come out as undocumented and creating imagery that convey those emotions and memories was difficult for me. I think my work is feminist because it conveys my perspective on family and migration. Family is at the core of that experience, which is born out of the necessity and dream for a better future. That dream for the children to have a better future. Mothers to me are so important when speaking about immigrant rights and feminism is part of that conversation. I hope to continue to make work that brings forth parental love in an attempt to educate and inspire positive change. I am 32 years old now, and my work is born out of my experience and the experience of mothers in my communities. I still don’t have the right to vote like many others and I won’t be able to participate in the next presidential election, therefore my artwork is my voice and I choose to speak about my community and our experience.

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Dear America, We Need to Talk, detail, #2, 2020

AS: Tell me about the work in this show – its genesis and process.

MDLA: I have an extensive drawing practice, the large mixed media drawings included in this upcoming exhibition continue the Migration Story series that focuses on the undocumented family experience. I choose to have a mother and child in each drawing as the central image. A symbol for motherhood, nurture, and protection. Other smaller moments and text refer to the refugee experience between USA/ Mexico. I started with large areas of color, elongated Chagall like mother and child with small characters and activities surrounding them. The maternal love seems to overcome and protect them from the moment they are in, surrounded by ICE, border symbols and roses. To me the roses are a symbol for hope, and rebirth. The helicopters, stars, and ICE arrests are cartoon symbols for the continued battled. Dear America, We Need to Talk is a question and a sharing of my feelings, observations, and hope for change. Artwork about political issues has always appealed me and given my experience both good and bad in the USA, it feels necessary. To visually talk about my feelings helps me deal with the situation. Art in many ways is healing, but the true cure is change. I like to be playful, sweet, sad, funny, and frustrated in my drawings. I hope when people see my work they will see the complexity that even I feel. My drawing practice is my way to digest.

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Dear America, We Need toTalk #3, mixed Media on Paper, 2020

AS: How does the work in this show relate to your other work?

MDLA: I have been evolving for many years and since graduating with my MFA, I have spent time thinking about why and what to make. I maintain an extensive drawing practice from which my prints, wearable sculpture, and paintings are born. My drawing practice allows me to think, imagine, and decide my imagery. I think my works on paper are like a large sketchbook where I can relax and be myself. Share what’s in my mind.

AS: How do you hope viewers connect with your work in this show?

MDLA: I hope that the tenderness of the mothers in the triptych drawing comes across and that my audience feels an emotional connection. Ultimately that being my goal because emotions are a way back to seeing humanity when a system has taken that away from refugees, and undocumented mothers.

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Mixed Media Mural on Wall, Museum of Sonoma County, 2019

All photos courtesy of the artist unless otherwise indicated.

Domestic Brutes at the Pelham Art Center – Opening receptions: September 12th (in gallery with applicable rules); September 17th (virtual).

Artists: Tirtzah Bassel, Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Ashley Norwood Cooper, Maria de Los Angeles, Nancy Elsamanoudi, Fay Ku, Sharon Madanes, Lacey McKinney, Joiri Minaya, Rose Nestler, Simonette Quamina, Diana Schmertz, Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, Manju Shandler, Melissa Stern; Curated by Christina Massey and Etty Yaniv

Thanks to Audrey Putman for helping with the interview.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: artspielblog@gmail.com