Today we’d like to introduce you to Rosalie López.
Rosalie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
My family life was kind of wild growing up. It made me focus on doing things that would get me out of that environment and that ended up being education and art. I grew up in Gardena, which is in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles. I’m the oldest of 3, raise by my mom. We were all very close but things were straight up unhealthy many times.
My stepdad was a drug dealer from the neighborhood, my brother sold drugs too, and my mom was a recovering addict, battling with alcoholism. Through all of this, I ended up staying focused, becoming the first person in my family to graduate from high school and made it up to a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking. By the time I completed my graduate degree at Indiana University, my artwork was focused on creating contemporary offerings and immersive altar installations, stemming from Day of the Dead practices. Many of them focused on highlighting social issues impacting my community.
I had lost my uncle, who inspired me to be an artist, to an overdose, my brother to the same just two years after, and my mother succumbed to liver cancer a few months before finishing my MFA. This made my artwork really focused on remembrance, storytelling and sharing family histories. I was creating artwork that commemorated but was also very bold about not veiling the conflicts or harshness of life.
Currently, my life blends my art practice with educating and community involvement in various ways. Its important to me to be involved with community arts because that mentorship is needed. I remember being a kid and my mom not having money to put us in extracurricular activities. I understand how this makes a big difference in a young person’s life and I want to give a part of myself to that.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I am a printmaker, papel-picado (Mexican cut paper) and installation artist. I’m interested in the use of the day of the dead practices, like altar and offering making, as a means of archiving community histories and highlighting social issues. My work primarily takes the form of immersive installations, sculptural prints, and art & social practice projects. I often make work about impactful personal and communal stories of resiliency and pride.
The traditional processes I use become a connection to my cultural past and then get translated through my contemporary experience. I feel like my artwork often takes on this alluring look and then hits you with a punch of unexpectedness. I like that because its just like life, both are always in play. I want my artwork to make people think about who they are in relation to who they see. Depending on the audience, this can build a connection through common life experience or build an understanding and respect through the telling of the story.
My most recent work has transformed the commemorative offerings into representations of life and growth. For example, in a recent project, I made a pop-up altar installation, using my mother’s plants. It was installed right along the LA river the day before mother’s day. I called it, “Debbie’s Inheritance, Sharing Plants for Sharing Memories.” I put posters up all over the neighborhood and offered one of my mom’s sprouting plants in exchange for sharing a story about a mother in their life. It was a great experience to hear the stories people shared and to have them allow their stories to contribute to an audio archive I shared on my website social media for others to hear.
Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
That’s a good question. I just came back from a conference in Little Tokyo, called ReMap Los Angeles: A Cultural Equity Summit, held by Arts in a Changing America. It was a convening of artists, cultural leaders, activists, Cultural Affairs, LA Country Arts, philanthropists and lots more to talk about what changes changes need to be made to empower community arts and artists. The main take away I got from that conference is something I can use to answer your question. To empower artists, we need more inclusion, we need more equity, and we need more access. That is how things will change. Its difficult because we are trying to create something that hasn’t really existed yet.
As for myself, I’m still figuring out what success and empowerment looks like. It’s definitely changed over time and experience. I’m proud and lucky that I get to use my creative talents as a means to support myself and contribute to my community. In addition to my art practice, I teach printmaking and foundation art courses part-time in various colleges, Universities, and community arts organizations in LA. I’m also am apart of a collaborative group, that I meet with every summer, called The Arikara Community Action Group, to create artistic projects engaging native youth on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I just completed my first museum group show, at the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach, my alma mater. The exhibition was called, “Call and Response, When I say…You Say…” which was curated by Mario Ybarra Jr., and Karla Diaz. The next exhibition will be in late Fall, a 3 person show in San Antonio, at the Southwest School of Art. I’m happy to share I just got a studio space in Wilmington, CA, at Slanguage Studios, where I’m currently an artist in residence. The biggest project I have on my plate right now is preparing different artworks to contribute to fundraise for Self Help Graphics & Arts, Paper Fashion Gala & Runway show, happening May 3rd.
Something super cool that happened to me recently is having a studio visit with the Smithsonian Latino Art Collections regarding an upcoming Chicano printmaking exhibition happening in 2020. They visited me because they were interested in meeting different artist, inspired by this printmaking lineage and are working to push printmaking in new ways. I was honored just to have the time from them. I don’t know if anything will happen from it, only time will tell that. None the less, it was exciting for me. Coming up, I have a summer residency planned in Veracruz, Mexico. This Fall I’ll be starting an experimental ceramics residency at Long Beach City College.
Right now, Instagram @rosaliemlopez and my website rosalielopez.com are the easiest ways to see and support what I’m doing. Thanks Voyage LA for the spotlight.
- Website: http://www.rosalielopez.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosaliemlopez/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosaliemlopez
- Other: https://youtu.be/ZTttgzQFcCM
Personal photo and 3rd artwork image by Sam Comen, 6th artwork image by Rafa Cardinas.