I had only worked with charcoal, graphite, and chalk pastels and I was convinced that my career at Whitworth would be focused on drawing. That was until I registered to take printmaking during Jan term of my junior year. I needed to fulfill the credit for the 2D major anyways, so I decided to take it then to leave space for my drawing classes. Printmaking instead introduced me to a new way of artmaking and I knew I had to keep going. I didn’t take my next printmaking class until the fall of my Senior year. This is where I often felt lost, and I didn’t quite have a focus yet. My interests in culture, identity, and heritage are all a part of what I make. Each print I created seemed to jump from experiences to culture to language and so on. I knew Senior exhibition was coming up so I felt pressure to find something to focus on. Eventually, after going through a few prints that were mid at best, I found it. The 2022 Senior exhibition currently has six pieces of art I created this spring. These pieces feel like a culmination of what I had been thinking of these past years. This last fall, I spent time looking at Mexican printmakers like Leopoldo Mendez and Jose Guadalupe Posada. My focus was on their technique in woodblock relief printing and the content they explored.
This triptych is a portrait of my father. He worked in Central Washington harvesting different kinds of fruits. He primarily worked in the apple and cherry orchards, but he also harvested pears and pruned grapevines. The series highlights the work he did for ten years. Some of the most taxing work he’s done was picking pears. At times, the bag was so heavy that it cut into his shoulders, leaving him scarred. These prints force the viewer to focus on the fruit first and then consider the worker second. It was important to me that the figure was not fully representing my father because these pieces speak to the experiences that hundreds of workers go through. Many of them are immigrants and because of their status, they’re often ignored. However, we gladly enjoy the fruit of their hard work.
These woodblock prints were my first attempt at working with wood as the material for the matrix of the print. After spending a year looking at Mexican printmakers and working on a digital piece that emulated the technique, I wanted to try out the medium. I see these pieces as a response to my coin drawings. The coins symbolized the feeling of displacement. I’d constantly think about the phrase, “I am neither from here, nor there”. These prints, however, speak to the family experience and the cultural heritage I’ve received. They are a part of who I am and I don’t have to choose one over the other.
This painting, while outside of my preferred media, still speaks to the shared experiences of many first-generation Mexican Americans and other underrepresented people groups. It’s based on a situation that happened in first grade, when my teacher celebrated Cinco de Mayo. She had every Mexican student bring traditional foods and then lined every Mexican student at the front of the class. While she had good intentions in honoring our heritage, it placed us in a strange position. I became aware of who I was and why I was being seen as different. No longer am I just another student in the first grade but I’m also a Mexican kid who has different foods, different language, and a different way of living. While none of those things are negative, it was the moment and feeling that I wanted to capture in this piece. The feeling of being othered while also proud of the heritage I bring. The strange feeling of being a part of this country while also feeling excluded and different.
These pieces work as one, adding to each other and showing different aspects of who I am. They are personal to me yet, I hope they allow for others to be seen. My work continues to focus on my personal experiences and as I continue developing my artwork, I hope to create space for community and advocacy. These past three years of being a part of Whitworth’s Art + Design department has allowed me to grow as a designer and artist. I’ve learned to create opportunities if there aren’t any, to find and reach out to professionals in the field and connect. While others might worry about the starving artist, I’ll be in the studio and in the community making something.