Interview by Elizabeth Lang
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Latinx artist whose work has an open dialogue about identity and social issues, especially those of immigrant communities.
Contreras was born in Whittier, California and moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco at an early age. There she began studying printmaking at the Instituto Cabañas as well as in other local artist workshops. Later on, she attended the University of Guadalajara, receiving a B.A. in art in 2008 and a Masters in Art Education in 2016. Her artwork has been shown in exhibitions in Mexico and the U.S., including “The Hidden Faces/ Los Rostros Ocultos” at Latino Arts Inc in Milwaukee and “What We Inherit: Remnants of Light and Space” at the Overture Center in Madison, WI. She was a recipient of the Forward Art Prize in 2020, an annual award targeted to support the work of female artists in Dane County. She currently lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, where she continues to create and showcase her art.
Identity was something I never questioned when I was young. I was born in the US, but my heritage was Mexican. Most of my childhood and adolescence was lived in Mexico, so I experienced my culture first hand, and at the same time enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving and Halloween at home. As time passed and I moved back to the US, my identity became more fluid, dependent on my surrounding but without modifying my true self. It was then when I started to look back on my own roots, and its multiple layers. These layers were to be the subject of my visual work, through collaged materials and the juxtaposition of elements.
My culture, as many others, is a product of many layers (cultures) that are constantly in movement, never static in time. Some traditions are rooted in pre-Hispanic culture, Europe and even Asia, to name a few. As the author Amin Maalouf says “Every individual without exception possesses a composite identity. He need only ask himself a few questions to uncover forgotten divergences and unsuspected ramifications and to see that he is complex, unique and irreplaceable. That is precisely what characterizes each individual identity: it is complex, unique and irreplaceable…”
It is for this reason that I am interested in exploring the relationships between identity, tradition, and pop culture, incorporating techniques like acrylic, oil, and collage into my pieces. The use of collaged material such as patterned papers, advertisement and newspaper cut-outs, to name a few, provide a palette of colors and textures for the subject’s surroundings. The use of materials is both calculated as serendipitous, leading me to create unusual cultural combinations thus providing spectators with a richer interpretation.
My work seeks to act as a bridge between various communities and cultures and thus reflecting on my own.