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Daily Inspiration: Meet Conny Cavazos

Today we’d like to introduce you to Conny Cavazos.

Hi Conny, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I was born and raised in south Texas, in an area known as the Rio Grande Valley. This place is situated along the Mexican-American border near the Gulf of Mexico. I attended undergrad at the University of Texas-Pan American (now known as UT-Rio Grande Valley). I was studying Biology the first three years of college on a pre-med track. This was for two reasons 1) I didn’t know one could have a viable career as a creative and 2) it was the safe thing to do. Coming from a rural working-poor background, I didn’t have examples around me to help me navigate a creative career, it simply didn’t feel like a real endeavor to pursue because it didn’t exist in my socioeconomic sphere. Well during college, I eventually stopped going to classes and pretty much failed my junior year because it felt like I was going against the grain in pursuing the pre-med field.

Then at 20, I had an epiphany and realized I needed to do what was instinctual and what had always been innate, and that was to pursue a creative career. I changed my degree plan and found myself taking painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and art history classes. I earned my BFA in Studio Art in 2013.

I continued to live in Texas after graduation and did the whole fine-artist thing for about two years. Until, again, I realized things felt off. I knew I wanted to be creative but had to figure out how to express this creative way that was financially feasible and one that made sense to the way I was thinking and doing. I started making zines with the art my friends were making. So I would make zines that included their writing, paintings, and collages. Painting started to feel archaic and contrived—I found it fascinating to create and design in this micro desktop publishing practice.

After half a year of doing this, I decided to get serious about graphic design. I figured if I could get an education in this field, it would also serve as a ticket to leave Texas (which was withering me away at this point). I decided to pursue a three years MFA degree in graphic design (the extra year is for students who don’t have a BFA in graphic design). I applied to Rhode Island School of Design, Yale School of Art, and Maryland Institute College of Art. Go big or go home right?

I ended up getting interviewed to all three.

Visiting each campus was my first time away from home by myself. In the end, RISD and I weren’t a match. I was wait-listed at Yale, and MICA said yes. Instead of waiting around for Yale, I accepted my admission into MICA for the one year Post-Baccalaureate program for Graphic Design. I moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 2016. MICA’s academically and technically rigorous program absolutely kicked my butt and molded me into what I am today. Yet this wasn’t enough, and I wanted to move again to complete my MFA, this time to the West Coast. I applied to CalArts and got into their graduate program in Graphic Design.

During my time there, I interned in several studios and ad agencies. I was a TA for Lorraine Wild and completed a fellowship with Louise Sandhaus. I was allowed to live in this gray area of art and design, and it was completely amazing. Now I work part-time at CalArts as a designer, and I just started my own creative studio, Project View Finder, where I freelance as a designer and creative director for cultural productions in and around LA.

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?
Not at all smooth, it was most definitely bumpy. The only smooth thing about my journey has been the creative part of it, the thinking and the making. I have tons of ideas, and creative problem-solving comes natural to me. The adversity lay in financial and logistical matters. Things like buying my own car in order to move. Paying for my own rent and bills. This is why I’m a big advocate for paid internships. Unpaid internships ultimately only serve to funnel the privileged into already exclusive creative fields– it’s a big morally corrupt hack that upholds the classist status quo, to continue to exclude the marginalized, thusly leaving these fields as homogenous esoteric chambers, and ultimately not as creatively or culturally progressive as the ought to be.

Pursuing a creative career is not only risky because jobs are tough to get and you need a strong portfolio, but because I had no plan-B. There’s a lot of stress that poverty forces you to carry, on top of the stress of being a graduate student. That was part of my strategy: make it to one of the best programs in your field, and it’ll cover the bases you don’t already have. If I didn’t make rent during grad school, I couldn’t just ask my parents. This was all merit and determination, and really just believing that I could. That was another hurdle, imposter syndrome, exasperated by not really having a guide to help me navigate college and the new socioeconomic places I had made my way through. I’m a first-get college student and then first in my family to attend grad school. So my morale depended on the support of my friends, and especially the things I told myself, having that self-confidence and self-worth. Thankfully, I never had to sleep in my car or anything that dire.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am an artist, graphic designer, and creative director. My practice is multidisciplinary, I work with photography, abstract image-making, claymation,art films, screenprinting, writing, and tie it all up with graphic design. I’m not really the person you want hire for a logo or super straight-laced graphic design work. My work is experimental; I like to create systems and worlds. I love working for and collaborating with artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers. I suppose this is why CalArts was perfect for me, I was free to cross-navigate all these métiers.

With my freelancing, I do a lot of over-arching vision creating or creative campaigns. The work I did for indie musician Kyns best sums up what I excel at. I created her album art, illustrated animations for her music video, and really just created this world for her music. That’s what I do best, create worlds via images, graphics, typography, layout, which is why I really enjoy working with musicians, galleries, theatres, and other cultural venues. I’m also pretty great at making posters. If it has anything to do with creating visually arresting layouts and assets, I’m your girl.

When I worked at an ad agency in Santa Monica, I had a creative director tell me my ideas were always fresh, odd, and conceptually driven. I truly think this has a lot to do with the area I grew up in. The borderlands have their own surreal veil around them, they feel isolated—yet connected to two worlds, of which you don’t fully belong to. I think this cultural act of suspended animation did a lot of shapes my creative idiosyncrasies and peculiarities.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
The best aspect of LA are the people and the history. The least best thing is the astronomical cost of living.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

For Kyns album image, the experimental typography is by me. Photography by: Jayden Becker.

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