Refocusing on Visual a Visual arts Practice: New Energy for an Old Habit


My life is alotta bass ‘n’ alotta flourishes
A lot that takes ‘n’ alotta nourishment
I was born on the outside, in cyphers ‘n’ vinyl collections
Found self through art, work, growth - alignment corrections
 My heart’s a chile (chee-leh), pumpin’ blood of canela
 Greatest art I practice,lightin’ eyes like candelas
 Gimme a beat, your tattered shelves, ‘n’a paint marker
I’ll shed a little light as the world gets darker

For a poet and musical artist already on the fringe, even lesser known is my upbringing in, passion for, and continuing practice of visual art. This is the visual language of poetry poetry, mind, and spirituality. Working mostly in line drawing and lettering from a graffiti background, my work explores the line between poetry and visual art. Often including language as visual form, messages can be drawn from the words themselves of course, but also the layers and cosmology each piece creates for itself. Intimate details establish rules of engagement with the piece that follow lines of thought, leading the viewer a bit closer to their own moment of epiphany. Sometimes in your face (literally and figuratively; with mirrors becoming a favorite backdrop for for pieces), sometimes nuanced to a point nearing obscurity, every piece is an honest expression of self, the world, and the myriad relationships between. Even more than a reflection though, My work is about intention, possibility, and empathy. I know folks may not catch everything the first time; and that's cool with me. The pieces can be viewed in a glance or returned to for more. It’s art that provides something different to every viewer; something that urges another step toward compassion, self-love, and progress of the human condition. 

From about as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been led by art on this path of life. I’ve been moved by the healing found in storytelling, the strength in creating a voice, and the power of self-discovery. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother telling stories about the stars and the universe, or my father’s game in getting me to ask how much he loved me, so that he could answer, “Hasta el cielo mijo” (to the heavens, my son”).

Whether my father’s Mariachi vinyl, his Ranchero tapes, my mother’s Beatles collection, or the persistent array of radio waves in our home and in the car, music has been a part of me since birth. That music filled me with inspiration to discover and create my own narratives - Before I developed the ability to write poetry, I drew it. I was compelled to tell my own stories, even without the words to share them. As I matured, those themes and visual narratives created a universe of imagination, culture, and empowerment.

I grew up alongside hip hop, and eventually we became one as I continued to marinate in the Twin Cities hip hop scene, and eventually that of Chicago. I came to live on that thin line of writing and developing my own hand-style, the hip hop art of calligraphy. My characters (both in terms of lettering and otherwise) represented aspects of self, culture, personal identity, and what’s more; everything I hoped for. Hip Hop became my lens, mirror and my loudspeaker. I’ve labored over the tender swoop of letters in words full of frustration and hope. as I practiced this art that reclaims space and refuses imposed narratives of invisibility. It’s because of hip hop that I discovered I could be my own artist. I used these words and beats to process and evaluate myself, my experiences, and my world.

I spend my life studying and practicing my craft within communities steeped in long traditions hip-hop and poetry. I spend my time discovering and exercising my voice to create something outside the lines, while pointing audiences in that direction for themselves. I create inspired art with purpose and joy. I aspire to open doors of creativity, history, culture, humanity, and justice. I create to teach, to learn, and to inspire. There’s always another perspective to see, and I hope to share angles and vantages that can improve our relationships with our world, each other, and ourselves.

These past several years have been full of challenges and difficulty. At the same time, it’s been full of blessings and creativity. Art has always been a spiritual practice for me, but it’s continued to become a deeper way to create living prayer. Pieces dedicated to my cousin who passed away, my mom who was diagnosed with cancer, and my dying cat, have helped me focus grief and hope. The day after I spent the day working on a piece as a prayer for my mom and my cat, I discovered that on that same day, my mom had been to the doctor and learned that she was in remission. I was able to share the piece dedicated to my cousin with our grieving family and spark cherished memories of coffee shops, markers, philosophy, and wild, fun ideas. My dear cat also ended up leaving us, though the stories and art she’s inspired preserve her legend as a mystical time traveler delivering a message of love.

As a working artist I’m always searching for ways my art can be experienced and acknowledged while making a living. This grant would help recover from the loss incurred from trying to heal my cat before realizing the situation couldn’t be remedied. What’s more, this opportunity would help signal boost the work I do as a visual artist. It can be difficult breaking through conceptions of the work you do when people put you in a category. This grant would come at a time where I’m connecting to more opportunities and expanding people’s view of what I do and offer. I’ve done a handful of commissions recently, one of which was an indoor mural at a local business. I’m in the right place and time in my own development and craft to take a step forward and more deeply connect with reaches of the art community. More than that though, I am realizing my potential as I continue the journey of embodying the hip hop arts in new and authentic ways.

As a unique voice and underrepresented artist of color, there aren’t a lot of opportunities lent to uplifting my work, message, or identity. I'm seeking and creating opportunities to take further steps in a lifelong commitment to the arts and the human spirit. 


Post a Comment