Before switching my major and completely pivoting from science to art, I had a vague idea of what a career in the arts might look like. It was the classic “starving artist” stereotype and that in the end, art would have been something I study now but later, I would be working in a different field. Of course, I received positive and negative comments from the people around me. Some were supportive and encouraged me to continue pursuing what I love. Others would share how they knew someone who studied graphic design who now work at Costco as a cashier. Everyone has an opinion, good or bad, but thankfully my immediate family was always supportive, and I learned to navigate the – sometimes backhanded – comments I would get.
It’s now my sophomore year at Whitworth and naturally I’ve signed up for Drawing II. This class gave us a bit more freedom in exploring content in addition to practicing the technical skills in drawing. In the beginning, I was just going through the motions. Not putting too much thought behind the drawings, I’d submit them and get a grade. I enjoyed the process of working on a drawing, but the content was basic and cliché. The classic representation of “life and death” and more still-life drawings; I didn’t push the content any further. Until, of course, Professor Wilson called me out and pushed me to explore more interesting themes and subject matter. Thankfully, it helped me with the diptych assignment. This assignment had us create two drawings that would sit side by side. We were to explore the relationship between the two and include things that were meaningful to us.
I chose to talk about my identity as a Mexican American who grew up in a Mexican household but when I stepped out, I was in Washington State. This drawing represented the two cultures I navigate but it also meant that I saw them as two very different worlds. The name, I’m Neither from Here, Nor There, is a saying that’s often heard in the Latino community, especially the generations who were born and grew up in the US. The drawing contains the 50 pesos coin my grandpa gave me when I was around 12 years old. Not only does it have sentimental value, but it was a fragment of a country I have never been to. A country I’ve only heard about through stories and the first language I learned to speak. On the right sits a US quarter, representing the other country and culture I grew up in. This self-portrait was where I felt that I finally had something to say as an artist.
I now had a sense of direction in what themes and subjects in art I wanted to explore. Discussing issues of race and identity had always been a major part of my interests. Now I had the chance to share my story through the visual arts. I continued creating work that met the Drawing II requirements but also pushed the stories behind them even further. This second drawing addressed immigration with a sense of hope. At the time, there was a strong resentment against undocumented immigrants and much debate about the building of the border wall since 2016. I created the work by representing the torch that the Statue of Liberty holds and the monarch butterfly, both symbols of hope for immigrants. As Ellis Island received immigrants from across the Atlantic, the monarch butterfly symbolizes the migration of people from the south, in Latin America.
Today, I continue to explore issues regarding race, identity, and culture through the art I create. These topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion run deep for me as they are always present in my mind. Not only were they made apparent for me at a very young age, but they continue to place me and my family on edge whenever we step outside. We’ve seen the videos and have heard the stories. It’s not a matter of if it’ll happen but when. This digital drawing was one I made to combine text with the drawing. I wanted the words to have a physical and unescapable weight to them. Being words said to me, I’ve had to just move forward, but people’s prejudice continues to follow me through my life. It’s these experiences that forces me and my family to be on edge. We are constantly aware of who we are in the spaces we inhabit. How we speak, act, and look is something we need to be checking to avoid the looks and condescending tones. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s happened enough that we remain careful. It doesn’t stop us from living our lives, but it can be hard to explain these experiences. This drawing is one that I felt I needed to create. It’s an unfortunate story but it’s part of my story. I understand that my experiences are shared. It’s also a part of many other stories.