I am one of the many artists on Emergent Art Space and also one of EAS nonprofit's employees. I am excited to announce that just recently a few friends and I came together in the Bay Area to form a couple of artists collectives meant to empower anyone that identifies as an artist. We put together an exhibition to introduce both collectives in partnership, under the theme of birds, called 'Perch with the Flock'. Hope you enjoy!
It is common, as an artist, to feel or be approached by skepticism when considering the idea of success in the art world, or the world in general. There are so many different things that play into the difficulties of our situation, like lack of resources, of knowledge, busy work schedules and all the other every-day responsibilities, like family for example.
Considering all this, and how difficult it could be to get the ball rolling on your own, my friends and I came together as artists seeking opportunities to practice and produce art with different goals in mind. We started two collectives: “Manos Santas” in 2016 and “Rayos del Soul” in 2017. Both groups are grounded in collaboration, because we all recognize the power of organizing and doing things together. Both were created to seek balance, not only between art and life, but within the various aspects of art itself: “Manos Santas” is the professional collective, Rayos del Soul is the healing one, and both are important for personal and artistic growth.
In “Manos Santas Colectivo” we seek to encourage one another as developing artists, learning about the art community and art production itself. As artists that understand the difficulty in balancing a normal work schedule with making art, we come together as a support system because of our love and respect for art. We understand that it is important for all of us to be able to make art, because it is our passion. In this way we can also set the example for other artists who also want to reach this point, through social networking, development, and collaboration.
As a collective, “Rayos del Soul” seeks to recreate and channel the energy, both positive and negative, that has transformed our lives and influenced those who came before us. Our art aims to forge a space where we can share fragments of our people’s history by grounding our own experiences within narratives that linguistically invoke the sense of “Otherness”, that is countered by oral histories and resistance, and honored through art. We came together as a group because through art we have individually found love, healing, energy, and transformation. Through collaboration and decolonization, we rediscovered the resilience that enables us to dare greatly and through our art reclaim what was lost, stolen, forgotten, or silenced.
I am happy to say that both collectives came together for the first time at the beginning of June to produce an exhibition at the Dirty Bird Lounge, in Hayward, called ‘Perch with the Flock’, for which each artist created the painting of a bird that referred to their self and their inspiration. Here each artist talks a bit about what the work means to them.
There are some extremely smart and predatory birds, such as vultures, hawks, eagles, and falcons, just to name a few. Most birds have better memories than humans, such as the crow, and Clark’s nutcracker; they remember where they buried thousands of seeds. The seeds that they don’t remember to locate play a crucial role in growing new pine forests. These birds have much freedom and also much power. I wanted to capture that essence in my piece. One day I sat in a daydream by Lake Merritt in Oakland observing the birds, the manner in which they inhabited the lake and the way they behaved in such an artificial environment. I wondered how birds would come into play if they were much bigger in size. As much as we try to get rid of trees to make space for buildings, these birds are going to keep pollinating the city and surrounding areas; as much as we try to keep control nature will always take its course.
I was really looking for a queer bird, a bird queer in its aesthetic and its nature. After some google-based research, I found that black swans and pink flamingos most often show queer mating tendencies, and a lot of birds live very queer lifestyles. I initially wanted to paint black swans, I was attracted to the darkness of the bird, but when I read that a lot of black swans males would form throuple relationships with female swans and then push them out of the relationship once they bear children, I decided to go with pink flamingos. My first inspiration was the 1972 John Water's film, Pink Flamingos, and I started to build my homage to that, but the work took a mind of its own. My subject matter tends to move towards a heavy mood, my paintings never feel fun, but building around the pink flamingo, and from my original concept, which was going to be a pink flamingo reading a magazine, I think the painting took turn after turn, and each one was more exciting than the next for me.
The hummingbird is for me a sign of sweetness and nectar, movement, peace, good luck, and new beginnings. For this piece I chose to paint the hummingbirds after seeing this bird fly in front of me as I finished an entire year of college after taking time off. When I saw the hummingbird’s wings move and fly smoothly, and the quietness of the morning, I took it as sign of good luck. I was left speechless and a sense of peace followed the rest of the day. Therefore, when asked to paint a piece on birds, I chose the hummingbirds to honor the blessings I’ve had this past year, both in my academics, my personal life, and the growth I’ve made. This piece was a culmination of joy, sweetness, and a symbol of moving forward, healing from past traumas and a thank you to the blessings in my life. The choice to place the four hummingbirds around a tree is my reminder to stay grounded in the moment even when my head is in the clouds. The moment to stop and look at the flowers, hear the birds, and see the trees growing. Chuparosas y Flores en el Cielo is my thank you to all the positive, loving, and supportive energy, to all the stumbles, to embracing self-love, to personal growth, and to the hummingbird who flew in front of me to seal my year back to school with a little bit of sweetness. Thank you.
"Melanin Midnight" is both a reflective and experimental piece that is inhabited by a blue jay perched on an oak branch. When we encounter a blue jay, we get glimpses of blue, brown, and black hues. The main pigment, melanin, found on the feathers of the blue jay speak to our physical self while the blue hues reflect our expressive self. This blue jay looks back at the viewer as if inviting you to share the space created between her and the moon, as she finds balance with the wind and the tree. The branches ethereally extend themselves out into the night, which is a mixture of cool and warm hues that are associated with the inner psyche and the healing energy that is unlocked when we look within ourselves.
The hues intentionally flow with the night, wind, and the branches to express a union that the blue jay recognizes at the head center. This is a visual expression of what community can look like, honoring the healing the qualities of art. When we give our selves and our youth the time to reflect with various art mediums (whether it be colors, music, poems etc), they are given the space to explore and embrace their creativity and authenticity. This blue jay honors this by speaking to our inner voice and reminding us to embrace the moments that remind us of our holistic and healing nature.
I was born in the City of Mexico, the one that before the Spanish conquest was known as ‘The Great Tenochtitlan’. A city protected by the grand god of the wind, art, craft and knowledge, known as Quetzalcoatl. He was the 'plumed serpent', one of the creators of all humankind.
Quetzalcoatl was said to be decorated with the feathers of the quetzal bird, which were distinguished by their long length and vibrant colors. What I want to convey in my artwork is this; the beauty of my city and its rich history. As a Mexican, I want to show that our people are more than what is being portrayed on the news. I am part of a beautiful and magical pueblo and despite the bad representation and reputation we are given, we continue to move forward and to show to the world the beauty of our culture.
My painting, as a first generation Salvadorian American in the United States, represents the intersection between two worlds colliding - my connection to both El Salvador and the United States. To give some background - Every summer break, when I was in elementary school, my mom would send my siblings and I to El Salvador for 3 months. During those times I became enamored with the beauty of my culture and the immense and vast tropical scenery that I saw on every corner.
With that influence as an artistic kid, when I transitioned into adulthood, I realized that I had always loved the art and naturally occurring colors of El Salvador. I decided to use my own personal love and connection towards this country, its indigenous artisan crafts and its nature to create my paintings as a representation of my experience. I've done this in this painting, through my developing modern style of gradient geometrical shapes, the incorporation of the national bird of El Salvador and traditional art styles, representing my experience as a person immersed in many cultures.
‘La Lunera’ was inspired by the symbolism that comes from the owl; owls are known to represent acute/clear vision, perspective, silence, wisdom and even death -- the ending of cycles and new beginnings. I feel that I put a lot of emotion into this work because it is very transitive for me as a person, but especially as an artist. I started this painting as one of the works that I not only produced for a show, but that I have begun my new life with.
Being an artist has always been my passion, since I was a kid, and now I am kicking off my Summer with the first step - creating. This is my transition, it’s where I get to strive to be the owl by applying all of the knowledge I have acquired, and by making my ideas become realities through awareness, practice and routine. The moon is present as a symbol of that awareness and of projection; it shines light reflected from the sun at night, allowing us to see even in the dark, and its energy affects the owl and everything else; even the earth itself is sensitive to it.
‘Caw! Caw!’ was inspired by the sound of birds. Birds have a presence in any natural environment. I created this bird in a gestural way to present the wild nature of the creature. I chose blue as the primary color because of its elemental connection with the sky. I filled the canvas as if it were a window looking out onto the bird.
Camila Yvette Ruiz Custodio
Crows have been known since near the beginning of time to be watchers and keepers of secrets. More than that, they are indications of signs; typically change, new beginnings, or death. Recently I went to an event that celebrated sex and queerness. This is my tribute, and attempt to manifest and recreate all that that was. Since starting the piece I’ve encountered so many crows, which I see as a validation.
Side note: We would like to invite anyone in the Bay Area to contact our collectives if you are interested in sharing ideas and experiences to help each other become better artists, and maybe even collaborate on future projects.
Also thank you to Oakland photographer Kim Webber for documenting the exhibition!
Venue of Exhibition: The Dirty Bird Lounge, 926 B St, Hayward, CA 94541