[Q&A]: Chicana visual artist Laura Gomez on making inclusive art honoring our identidades
Written by Vocalo Radio on August 7, 2020
For a long time, I grew up being “not enough,” “not all-American,” and “not enough Mexican.” But I have made peace with it. I stopped looking outside myself for acceptance, and started looking inward. —Laura Gomez
Joliet-born/Chicago based illustrator and graphic designer Laura Gomez spoke to Domingos en Vocalo‘s Rocío Santos about how she’s been keeping herself active these days as a visual artist, the ways growing up as a Chicana have influenced her latest painting series, and some of the influential mujeres in her journey. Laura’s new exhibit “The Exploration of Identity” runs from August 7th through August 31st at Pilsen Arts Community House with a virtual opening and artist talk via IG this Friday from 7-9pm. Check out Laura’s Latin-contemporary music playlist at the end of this Q&A featuring some of her favorite sonidos for your listening pleasure.
First, where did you grow up, and which community do you call home in Chicago?
I was born in Joliet (about 45 minutes from Chicago) to first generation Mexican parents. I came to Chicago to go to college and stayed. I have lived in Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Little Italy, Mayfair, and now Albany. I’ve loved all of them, but Pilsen has my heart!
The pandemic has definitely changed the way we experience art. How has it been for you living this time while producing art?
I’m a fairly productive person, so I just started painting crazy. I did three series and freelance work. I love being alone as much as I love doing things; I just did all the things I didn’t have time to do before: painted, finished projects, baked, deep cleaned, read and meditated. Personally, it was not much different for me. I just had more time, and no social contact in person, which is no big deal. But I had the same worries anyone would,
When the pandemic started, you began a series of daily illustrations titled “Time in space” that was even awarded by the Time Out’s “Time In Awards”. What is something that you learned and enjoyed from this process of making an illustrated representation of people’s quarantine experience?
It was therapeutic. It really was just my quarantine experience. I did give myself the worst haircut in the world! I believe that we are much more similar as people than we think. We long for individuality, but we all get anxiety, we all worry and we all do foolish things to keep our sanity. This project was just [me] documenting my experience, but it becomes our experience when we see ourselves in one another person, and that’s beautiful. That’s what art does sometimes, it levels us and entertains us at the same time.
Tell us about how you explore identity in your latest exhibit “The Exploration of Identity” at Pilsen Arts Community House.
For a long time, I grew up feeling that I was “not enough,” not “all-American,” and being “not enough Mexican.” But I have made peace with it. I stopped looking outside myself for acceptance, and started looking inward. Now I want to create art that is inclusive. This entire show represents reverent and proud women that are often overlooked and underrepresented. I have depicted the subjects with natural crowns, so as to suggest that all women are in their own right, extraordinary, whatever their interests, ethnicities, or senses of purpose are.
Laura Gomez, Doctor Bird, 2020; Charcoal on Acrylic.
Who are those mujeres who have influenced you?
My mother (she’s a gangsta!). Also, Mexican-Spanish surrealist artist Remedios Varo. I really love surrealism, and she’s one of the reasons. Also, Harper Lee, her book “To Kill a Mockingbird” taught me about racial injustice at a super young age in a way I could understand it.
Any advice you’d give to emerging artists starting off their journeys in the art world.
Put the work in. Go out into the world with good intentions and work ethic. If it’s in you, it’s meant to be shared.
What are the best ways to support an artist, especially now that it’s a different experience we’re confronting with the physical distancing, and all those constraints.
Buy their work. Commission a piece. Hire them to do a freelance project.