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Conversations with Edmund Arévalo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Edmund Arévalo.

Hi Edmund, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I know it can be a bit of a cliche, but I always knew I was an artist what gave me motivation to become an artist was my wife and kids. The journey here started when my grandparents took a boat to Hawaii seeking for a better life. They worked the pineapple fields of Whitmore Wahiawa from morning till night just to make enough to support their seven children, and whatever extra money they made would be sent back to help their family members in the Philippines. My grandparents came from the northern side of the Philippines in a village called “Danglas” from the indigenous tribe called “Tinguan Itneg”. I love every experience I encounter there. The sound of villagers drumming with instruments that resemble pots and pans, the people dancing the ceremonial dance “Taduk” with colorful handwoven fabrics, and listening to the elders sing rituals called “Ugayyam”. All of this gives me the inspiration I need to create work and try to connect with my ancestors. I grew up living on both sides of the fence dissimilating this primitive lifestyle and then trying to assimilate to a modernized one.

My parents would take me back and forth and we would stay for a year or two and then return to America. I didn’t have a solid foundation cause I moved too much, but it started to stable when I met my wife. In some aspects, it was good living in the Philippines because it taught me a lot about humility, and being there always made me feel like I was going back in time. The challenging part though was coming back to the United States because I was always playing catch up and trying to not feel out of place. This removed me from my innocents, and I was on a path to a great depression. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, I made plenty of mistakes and became homeless. I was going through a dark path at that time, but things began to turn around when Cynthia came into my life. I decided to go back to school, I finished my AA at Los Angeles City College receiving a Deans Honor Roll, Vama art grant, and was the featured artist of LACC. I met a lot of creative individuals there, and that is how it led me to an internship/mentorship program with Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

I was in a group exhibition titled “Offal” at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) and I am also a 2019 recipient of the Not Real Art grant by Art Share LA and not real art. Being that my indigenous Filipino background has little to nothing in regard to information, I plan on using my work as another form of historical background for others to discover and learn. Doing so will not only help me understand who I am, but It will also be an inspiration to others like myself who feel like they are not being recognized or represented properly. I want to be able to create work that relates to my indigenous roots as well as my modernized American lifestyle, I want to construct art that celebrates and recognizes the Filipino community, I want to be an owner of what I believe America owes me, and I want to be a decision-maker in the systems that govern our lives. What gives me the confidence I need to create work is never forgetting where I come from and being thankful for what I have been given. Most importantly, I aspire to be an inspiration to my wife and my kids because they inspire me to believe I am an artist and it is what I am destined to do.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I think that in order for one to be successful in anything one must go through a lot of ups and downs, learn from those trials, analyze what you experienced, and try to be prepared for what is ahead. The struggle still continues, but I would have to say the most challenging obstacle I have overcome for me was when I was addicted to drugs and alcohol and was struggling through depression. Those times were very heavy for me, but I would have to say the current obstacles I am facing is this brewing hate for Asian Americans during these post-pandemic times. Hearing all these stories about Elderly Asians being assaulted, to the poor old Asian ladies getting verbally abused by these racists individuals is alarming.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a multidisciplinary artist working with video installations, painting, and photography. My work focuses on cultural assimilation and how we deal with the effects it has on our lives. I attempt to blend photo transfers with paintings as a form of reprocessing the relationship between the two sides which for me is Philippines and America. Western Culture has so much influence in the Philippines that our identity as Filipinos is no longer. I want to better understand this relationship between being Filipino in America. Being a husband and a father of 3 kids is what I am most proud of honestly, it’s them that give me the inspiration to be an artist.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
To always be prepared cause we never know when the chance or opportunity to showcase our talent to get to the next level will come upon us, so it’s always good to have work that’s ready to show.

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