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Art & Life with Ofelia Marquez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ofelia Marquez.

Ofelia, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up in Desert Hot Springs CA, a small desert town close to Palm Springs. I have three sisters, one older and two younger. We grew up in a Spanish speaking home, so I remember having a hard time writing and expressing myself in English. I was also very quiet and shy, so that didn’t help. I remember being incredibly self-conscious because I was aware of our low social status and started hearing the stereotypes attached to my culture. Drawing became one of my favorite pastimes…especially in church. Our worship space was void of any images except for those in the books. The ones I ended up being attracted to were depictions of deities with multiple arms and hybrid man-animals, which was the opposite of what I was supposed to do… When I was in high school, I remember spending a lot of time looking through paintings in an encyclopedia my parents had invested in years before. Of course, what was in there was very limited, but some of those paintings made me want to learn how to paint, so I continued to take art classes and was encouraged by multiple teachers to pursue a higher education. With the help of my high school art teacher, I applied to Laguna College of Art and Design. This school is traditionally based, I did a lot of figures and still life painting, and got into illustration and using some of those techniques. During this time I was also taking art history courses where I became fascinated with reliefs on cathedrals and the imagery on ancient architecture from Thailand, India, and Mexico. All of these had stories written on the walls through images. I started wanting to use images to speak what I felt but could not express with words. Also, I was attracted to the idea of living with and being in the same space as the object. One day I went to home depot, bought a cheap carving set and plank of pine. I had no idea what I was doing, but over time I improved as I researched better tools and woods suited for carving.

I spent the next six years after undergrad working my day job and producing art for the rest of the day in my apartment. I wasn’t sure what steps to take next on my venture to becoming an artist. A few friends and I submitted art to group shows and put together a couple art shows on our own, trying to motivate each other. We didn’t know any professional artist, so we felt a little behind as we started learning about the art world. It started being more and more intimidating. One of the most intimidating things was having to talk about my work.
During this time one of my friends called me up and asked if I was interested in doing art restoration. Of course, I was like yes! This was my first art oriented job, so I was pretty excited. Aleksei, the head restorer, liked the way I worked after a few tests and I have been there for about eight years now.

In 2011 my nephew and parents passed, this was an incredibly difficult time for me. I had so much to emote but found it hard to find the energy to produce something. After some time, with the support of my family, husband, and friends, I started getting back into it. In 2014 I decided to apply to a graduate program to help me get over my anxiety when speaking about myself and my artwork while also considering teaching. I was accepted to the two-year sculpture program at UCLA. Two years later I am the first in my family to receive my master’s degree.

I am currently still doing art restoration at Aleksei Tivetsky Restoration and Conservation studio in Los Angeles. I have had the privilege of teaching for F.O.R.M, a summer program at UCLA focusing on teaching art to high school students in underdeveloped communities while still continuing my own practice as an artist.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I make drawings, wooden reliefs, wooden masks, and sculptures out of carved wood, metal, and used fabric. I also like to use cell phone screens and lenses from old broken phones or cameras.

My art speaks directly to acts of violence and residues of trauma as they relate to anxiety, fear, and pain. The process itself is a cathartic ritualistic form of healing and empowerment through the act of drawing, woodcarving, assemblage, and sewing. It allows for the assessment of emotions while simultaneously making connections to social constructs and its’ effects on the body and mind.

Making art is a continuous investigation about myself and those closest to me, so my work should be thought about as an ongoing survey. Also, something to keep in mind is that some of the images I produce are made trying to visualize a feeling, while sometimes connecting them to collective unconscious imagery. The materials are an important part of experiencing my work, especially how they take a transformative gesture during the making process.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I am not sure if conditions have gotten better for artists. We live in a capitalistic society, so it is very hard to progress financially without some capital along with the “right” credentials and/or commercial work.

That is why its important to be motivated beyond financial gain. There are organizations like Side Street Projects, Art Division, and Self Help Graphics that focus on making art education and equipment accessible to the community, which is something the city could work on cultivating especially in places like the library.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I Have a show coming up with a friend Francesca Lalanne in January 2019. The opening is the 26th from 6-9 at Muzeumm gallery in Los Angeles. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook. I have some of my art on my website but the best way to reach me is through email, and I will be more than happy to set up a studio visit.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ofelia Marquez
Josh Claros

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