An Artist’s Inspiration: When Hispanic and Rock Culture Mix

Image by Maris Tyler

I sat down to interview Grace, a local 19-year-old Chicana artist who embraces an unconventionally raw style of art that evokes something like a nightmare from a Tim Burton film on steroids. She works mostly on ink-based sketches and paintings, and is known to impulsively take out her sketchbook in between breaks of conversation when an idea for a new piece emerges. Her effortlessly cool demeanor, slight smile, and her eyes weary from working two jobs as a waitress and host, seemed to welcome our conversation. Grace was encouraged by her mother to express herself creatively, holding onto the Chicana rockabilly scene, which is a subculture of the early 1950s and punk scenes of her neighborhood. That culture has influenced her art, as she explains that the punk styles of the Los Angeles area are largely worn by Latinx people such as herself. Plugs, piercings, tattoos, thick eyeliner, platform shoes also known as “creepers,” and dark, blunt-cut bangs are prevalent in her social circle.

The demographic of people who tend to appreciate her art are those who she feels could relate to her. In particular her audience includes people who did not grow up privileged financially or racially, and who are far removed from the quintessentially white suburbia. She feels grounded in her community when she attends backyard punk shows with like-minded music lovers. The mohawks, aggression in the mosh pits, and dancing known as “skanking” which originates from ska music that traces its roots back to 1950s Jamaica, are all very attractive to her because she was only exposed to it when she explored the world outside of her conservative and religious family. Live music was something beautiful and initially exotic to her, and it has shaped her perspective as an artist drawn aesthetically to the rock scene. Threats to her culture came through the presence of neo-Nazis at music shows that she attended, but rather than giving into negativity, she focused on the beauty that comes out of the souls of other artists and how she can be inspired by them.

Grace indulges in the horror genre because she is drawn to the thrill of being scared and she wants that rush to manifest to the viewers of her art. She is an avid reader of Japanese comic books, particularly horror manga because of the complex storylines that the artists convey in their drawings in order to elicit intense emotions from the reader. The conflict between her dark style of artwork and society’s expectations for her as a woman is an ongoing issue for her, and she says of herself that “As a female artist, I feel like I’m supposed to be full of grace, structured, and modeled, but I feel the opposite of that, and you can see it.” She has received many strong reactions to her art that vary with the age of the commenter. Those of the older generation tend to describe her art as demonic and question her faith in God. Her peers in her age group see it as an invitation into her deepest thoughts, and they analyze it beyond the surface, appreciating it as unique and apart from what is seen in everyday life. Her artwork rebels against all that is traditional for a woman artist to embody, so she experiences pushback from less progressive individuals.

When it comes to creating her next drawing or painting, she likes to think about how every person plays a part in her life, whether it be as an supporter, oppressor, or bystander. She keeps her artwork open-ended and ambiguous to give the viewer more liberty in interpretation and to maintain her own integrity, representing her art in an honest way. She focuses on how people make her feel, how she sees them, how they see her, and how God sees her. Because she comes from a religious family her thoughts on God play a role in the creative process. She explains that her consciousness of her faith tie into her art because she is constantly aware of how it influences the passion in her work.

Although Grace has received offers from people wanting to purchase her paintings and sketches, she has dealt with many instances of rejection. Exposure is a pivotal part of every artist’s career, but the journey towards it can be emotionally draining. Rather than telling her critics that they are wrong, she welcomes the rejection that has made her stronger, forcing her to stay aware of her identity. She finds tranquility in her art as an outlet for expressing who she is and where she came from. She stays grounded in the culture that has accepted her as a woman whose art defies the social norms of all that is feminine to create art that is unparalleled in its uniqueness. Although she is known for her ink-based sketches and paintings, she is delving into the realm of designing tattoos and will create or recreate drawings or paintings out of love for her craft. For commission, she may be contacted at [email protected] and for more images of her projects, her instagram handle is eatyouroppressor.

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