“One person can make a difference,
and if not in the lives of others,
in our own lives.”
-Maria de Los Angeles.
By Lupita Peimbert.
(Local Artists) – Maria de Los Angeles is an artist. Through painting, printmaking, sculpture, and performance she explores social issues such as immigration and economic inequalities while setting up platforms for dialogue and discussion.
Currently, Maria de los Angeles is an instructor at the Pratt Institute in New York. She recently returned from Venice, Italy, where she taught a workshop on Tintoretto’s methods.
An art instructor, the founder of One City Arts in Santa Rosa, California, and an artist who proudly showcases her Mexican roots and immigration experiences in dresses made of paper, and with drawings full of color and strong lines.
This local artist can also be called Artivist – Artivista. Her work is still in development; her life, a source of inspiration to many already.
How her life experiences evolved into art
Art was never Maria de Los Angeles’ intended choice for a career. Although she discovered and loved drawing in high school, she wasn’t adequately directed toward the many art institutions in the country where she could further her studies, she told me. It was her boyfriend at the time who told her about Santa Rosa Junior College, and that from there she could transfer to a university. Maria de Los Angeles graduated first from SRJC, next from Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Arts (2013), and last from Yale University with a Master’s in Fine Arts (2015).
Born in Michoacan, Mexico, and having had to follow her family as they immigrated to the United States when she was 11 years old, one of Maria de Los Angeles’ biggest challenges has been her undocumented status. “We were treated as second class citizens: our car many times impounded, police mistreating us, and being told I could not go to college.” Maria recalls.
For undocumented people, the list of limitations is long: If a person doesn’t have a social security number, generally, they can’t work, get grants, travel, and a lot more. Drawing was for Maria, a way to deal with the harsh realities she was living, and a source of peace and healing.
One day, her drawing professor at SRJC candidly asked why she wasn’t going to further her studies at a university. “I told him I was undocumented, something I had kept privately at all costs.” A moment of silence and disappointment for both, student and professor. Somehow, that was one of the experiences that set Maria into a different direction. A few years later, she holds two degrees from prestigious institutions.
What the artist dreams about
“All artists have big dreams,” says Maria de Los Angeles “while we say it outloud or not.” She wishes to exhibit in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, or in any of the world’s top Biennials; also a true dream for her is to exhibit in Mexico, “so that I also get to know the art scene in my country of origin.”
Having experienced the benefits of advanced parole for certain undocumented people, (that is how she got to leave the US for Italy, and come back) Maria de Los Angeles plans to apply again so that she can travel to Mexico.
What her story shows is that limitations in life become less important when a person decides to go for her dreams. That is one of Maria de Los Angeles strengths both as an artist and a woman.
“Art is about people, starting with the artist and continuing to the viewer,
and it hopes to change their way of seeing.”
-Maria de Los Angeles.
What the artivist strongly believes
While she admits her biggest hope and expectation is immigration reform, she owns her strength. “One thing everyone has, and we never realize is, that we have a voice. One person can make a difference, and if not in the lives of others, in our own lives.”
Maria de Los Angeles can’t imagine who she would be if she wasn’t an artist. She is redefining the idea that ‘art is about art,’ by adding that art is also about making this world a better place. “Art is about people, starting with the artist and continuing to the viewer, and it hopes to change their way of seeing.”
I met Maria de Los Angeles in 2014 while she was founding One City Arts in Santa Rosa, California, a Summer program to help a community heal after a Latino teenager was tragically shot by an officer. Her ability to galvanize political, business, and community leaders was impressive. Since then, I’ve seen her pursue some of her dreams and daringly speak her truth, despite of being undocumented. Truly successful people know that achievements come with their share of disappointment, frustration, and failures. Although her list of achievements is substantial, things have not come easy for her. The gain, however, is invaluable: maturity, strength, and a certain knowing that everything is possible. I continue to get inspired by Maria de Los Angeles, I hope she knows how successful she already is, and I can’t wait to see how her artistic work unfolds.
You may connect with Maria de Los Angeles at http://www.mdlafineart.com/
Lupita Peimbert is a free lance, bilingual writer and publisher focusing on art, travel, and multicultural life. If you like this announcement, please support independent storytelling by:
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