Meet the Artists behind Focus, Flow, Ground.

Maya Vivas

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Afro-Latinx Queer Femme; sculptor, performance artist and activist. Through my work I explore concepts of race, identity, and gender as filtered through my own experiences. I use art to communicate what can't be explained through language. 

Who has been instrumental in your personal and creative growth? How so?
My influences span from the individuals in my life, to my cultural heritage as a mixed race person, to investigating deep curiosities about the connections between mineral, flora and the human body. My family, both blood related and chosen, have uplifted me, pushed me to always ask questions and to not allow myself to shrink for the comfort of others. As a person with mixed heritage I have the privilege of exploring and connecting with my Cuban and Trinidadian roots. There is much to learn, celebrate and question from the decisions made by our ancestors. Finally, I have always had an innate curiosity for investigating, absurdity, elegance, sensuality, the feminine, and body horror. I have many memories of playing with snails, various plants, digging in the dirt and meticulously examining the insides of grapefruits, papayas and other fruit. I believe all these influences have culminated into me being the artist I am today. 

What would you say to your younger self if given the chance?
Don't allow others to make you feel ashamed of who you are. 

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Colonization. 

What are your next steps?
I will continue to challenge myself to learn, explore and face my fears. 

 Molly_Mendoza

Molly Mendoza

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
 
My name is Molly Mendoza I was born and raised outside of Chicago, spent my highschool years out in the desert of Arizona, then moved to Portland, Oregon back in 2011. In 2014 I received a BFA in illustration from PNCA and since school I've been working quite a bit as an editorial illustrator. Some of my clients have included The New York Times, Adobe, Hazlitt, and The Atlantic. I love working in editorial, there is a thrill to collaborating on a story at such a quick turn around, but my love runs even deeper for narrative based work - especially comics. I self publish my own comics and zines with stories that, lately, have centered on interpersonal relationships. My most recent story was published in Short Box comics which is curated and published by the phenomenal Zainab Akhtar and that story revolved around two swimmers having a falling out. The problem is that their story is being told from the perspective of peers outside of the relationship which I think is a drama that most people can relate to. Communicating with others and reaching out through my work, finding ways to relate to one another, I think is why I gravitate so strongly to editorial work and narrative based work. Lately I have been finding new ways to explore this further through my personal paintings and crayon pieces - I am still figuring this out but I can say that I love to sit with folks and draw their picture...the conversation we have is a treasure to me and their faces when they see the drawing is even better.
 
What do you attribute the biggest successes in your life to? How about your largest failures?
 
My family were always really firm with me yet supportive. I didn't have things handed to me but if I wanted to learn about the stars they'd encourage me. If I wanted to study science they'd encourage me. If I wanted to draw they'd encourage me. But how do I do that on my own? My family told me if I wanted something I have to work hard but they would have my back the whole way. There was a period of time through high school and before college where I worked a lot of hours and did everything I could to go on to school. It took years but I was finally able to get everything covered and my parents believed in me the whole while. I don't want to glorify overworking as a means to get what one wants out of life - it is horrific that so many of us have to do this for even the most basic living necessities let alone education. But what I can say is that their belief in me, their love, and support made me strong and I now can face challenges that may seem impossible at first glance. I am incredibly lucky to have a family that roots for me. The opposite of that is when I let people into my life that fill me with self doubt. My failures are my own but I know better now to not let people in who want to make me feel small or incompetent.
 
What are some things you’ve had to unlearn?
 
As an editorial illustrator, and as someone who makes comics, narrative becomes a major tool in my process. However, just because I tell stories that does not mean that other people's stories are mine to tell. Looking back there were instances where I took on editorial projects where, although I had some ties to points of the story, the overall voice comes from an experience that is not my own. It doesn't matter how carefully I approach the story with my hand because in the end it just seemed damaging, insincere, and for my own self gain. I can't be so ignorant and I need to say no. Besides, I can recommend my peers for the project who actually live and empathize with those experiences and they can get paid for their awesome story telling abilities and all and all it's just going to be so much more incredible.
 
How different was your life one year ago?
 
It wasn't much different...! I was still doing too much all at once, running around from thing to thing, and trying to figure my life out. I am still trying to come to terms with what I want and what I need. There maybe was a little more free time last year and I think next year I'd like to go back to that.
 
What are your next steps?
 
My next steps are to finish what is on my plate and then go on vacation. I haven't had a vacation in like years so please let me go on vaycay and not think about anything! I want to read, brush up on theory, work out a little, drink some water. I can't see next year or a year after that at this point because all I see is September when my projects are done and I go away with my sister - it's going to be amazing.

Michelle Lepe

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a self- taught photographer who is still working on growing into herself as an artist. I’m quite introverted and don’t consider myself to be much of a people person, which is funny since I enjoy photographing humans more than anything else. There is nothing more interesting to me than the vast personalities, stories, and emotions that come with centering my art around people. As someone who feels very deeply, I like to incorporate my own emotions into my photos as well, which is why a majority of my edits emit a bit of darkness but also why sometimes the mood of my photos can feel like it goes through fluctuating phases. 


Do you experience creative ruts? If so, how do you overcome them?

Absolutely. Constantly. As contradicting as it may sound as a creative, I feel like my creativity isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’ve always been artistically inclined, but I have to push to bring my creativity out. I think this is one of the biggest struggles for me as an artist with anxiety as well - the fear of unleashing creativity and the fear of what trying something new and out of the ordinary may bring. I have to consciously challenge myself to expand my creative mind and think outside the box. To do so, I make lists of things I like visually or concepts that inspire me and see how I can mesh things together to make something new. I go to Powell’s and grab a stack of photography books and see if anything stirs me. I choose random assignments from my “Photographer’s Handbook” to get my juices flowing. And sometimes, I just have to ride the wave of creative blockage and keep shooting all while knowing that inspiration will hit me again. 

 

When do you feel most inspired?

When I’m shooting subjects I’m passionate about. It’s a feeling unlike any other to create something beautiful that is close to your heart with people who understand and appreciate your vision. Maya Vivas came up with the powerfully thoughtful name of the show - 'Focus, Flow, and Ground', to represent each of the artists, and she chose focus to represent me. I think that perfectly sums up my inspiration because not only have I dedicated my life to my art, but in a more literal sense I focus my lens on subjects that matter to me and ignite my fire. Sometimes it’s a concept I’ve been sitting on and perfecting, other times it unfolds in an unplanned moment with someone or something I am moved by. Both of these scenarios usually involve women. 

 

What issues are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about a lot of issues, but my biggest passion is the empowerment of women, particularly women of color, however that may look to each individual women. One of the issues I personally have struggled with my whole life is body image and low self- esteem, and I’ve been in disbelief as I’ve seen almost every one of my beautiful friends struggle with the same thing. It’s a societal, patriarchal idea that women’s bodies have to look a certain way to be lovable or desirable, (or that anyone other than ourselves needs to love our own bodies), and we have to deconstruct and heal from that. I like to use my lens to help move that process forward by instilling confidence in women and showing them their beauty that has always been there, even if society deems it unconventional. I also love to be a part of women rediscovering or claiming their sexiness. I love bringing sexuality into my art and watching women express the rawness and vulnerability that comes with it in front of my lens is an aweing experience.

 

What are your next steps?

There’s so many places I want to take my photography and my career it’s hard for me to know where I should start! I could go on and on about the things I want to do next, such as gallery showings, music tours, magazine features, publishing a book, etc. But the thing I want to do with my art as a whole is refine who I am as an artist while working on decolonizing and bringing that process of healing into my art. That really will be what I’m pouring my focus into while I’m working on achieving that list of goals I mentioned earlier. Besides photography, I’ve always loved other mediums of art such as drawing, painting, and writing, so I would love to explore those more and see how I can intersect them into photography. Either way, there’s a lot more magic to expect from this bruja. 

 

Loveis Wise 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Capricorn lady and Freelance-Illustrator based in West Philadelphia and was born/raised in Washington,DC. I’ve worked with clients such as The New Yorker, The NYT, Cartoon Network, and REI to name a few.

 

What is your earliest memory of being creative?

My earliest memory was witnessing my dad use a camera to document our day out in the city and    persuading him into buying me a disposable camera to use as well.

 

What are you currently inspired by?

Currently, I’m inspired by spirituality, femme energy, withcraft, and basically all things mystical!

 

What has had the biggest impact on your political beliefs?

Sadly, this election and the aftermath of the tornado that was 45 going into office. It definitely made me realize that it’s time to step up and educate myself, there is no more room for complacency.

 

What are your next steps?

My next step is to create more work to inspire hope in some way! I’m just looking for more ways to heal through my work and it’s process.

Focus, Flow, Ground

Friday, August 3
5:00 - 9:00 PM
2502 NE Sandy Blvd.

 

Featuring works by:

Loveis Wise
Maya Vivas
Photo Bruja
Molly Mendoza

Plus:

DJ - Black Daria
Spoken Word - Annika 
Singer - Kingsley

Photos:

Rose Léon

Curated by:

Anthony Ferguson

Portland Equity in Action

Sponsored by:

Dub’s St. JohnsTiny Moreso


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