Breaking the Mold with Laura

Laura Vela is a 24 year old Chicana multimedia and interdisciplinary artist currently located in the Atlanta, GA. Her work explores issues of identity, gender, race and mental illness through various art forms including oil painting, watercolor and ink, photography, zine making, and collage making. Her eclectic art style, a mixture between mystically somber and realistically vibrant, and her unorthodox blending of various styles and mediums allow her to create pieces that are refreshing and truly one of a kind.

In this interview we had a chance to get to know more about her. We discussed the importance of artistic creation, her sources of inspiration, and how her identity has influenced her work, among other topics.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Laura Vela and I’m a multimedia, interdisciplinary artist currently residing in Atlanta, GA. I am from Texas, and I come from a family of immigrants. My mother came to the states right before having me, which has greatly influenced me and the work that I make. Basically I make work about identity as I try to understand my own, and its relation to my families’ migration pattern.

What does artistic creation mean to you personally? Why is it something important to you?

Making artwork is important to me on a personal level because I have a weird need to continuously push myself to create. Honestly, it fills a very narcissistic/vain part of me, because I love being able to sort of prove what I spend my time doing [laughs]. It makes me feel productive and it allows me to further study and strive to understand and make sense of not only myself, but also everything else. I can’t imagine not making art!

But, outside of my personal need to make artwork, I love being able to continue different discussions about topics I am interested in through my work. For example, right now I am working on a series about Catholicism, which is a religion I grew up exposed to, but no longer practice. It has to do with the pageantry, symbolism, and hypocrisy of the church. Right now, it’s mostly about the grandeur and illusion, like the details and all the impressive aspects of the decor of the religion on both the superficial and deeper levels, sort of through the viewpoint of a child.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

My main sources of inspiration lately come from mi madre y sus historias, mis hermanas, mis primas, mis tias, mi abuela, the mountains, el monte, road trips, ceramics, patterns, folk art, religion, la virgin Maria and other religious iconography, just to name a few.

Your work, particularly your mixed media pieces, transmits a feeling of “magical realism” where reality converges with the fantastical. I’m interested to hear about how you would characterize your own art. If you could pick one or two adjectives to describe your creations, what would they be?

I would say that is accurate, more so for my older work. I have a few series about the woods and about being lost in search of some unknown feeling/time/place, symbolizing my experience trying to understand my mother and her culture and respecting the fact that I have never fully been accepted in her culture because I am American and I have never fully been accepted here because I am Mexican. But magical realism def works!

As of late, I feel like my work could be described as childish research or something, [laughs].

What is your favorite piece you’ve ever made and why?

My favorite piece I have made is a painting of my mother. I wanted a way to honor her. It was also the first piece I can really say that I found my voice through, and realized that I was interested in making work about identity.

Has your experience as a Chicana influenced your art and creative process? If so, how?

It has. It’s sort of in everything I do. I am a Chicana because my mother came to this country. I am aware of my mother’s sacrifices, she has not been to her country for the same number of years as I have been alive, essentially she gave up her country for me, and it’s something that I am in constant consideration of. She came here to give me a better chance at life and I have to take advantage of it. Honestly, she does not really understand what I am doing or trying to do [laughs]. So, I work hard to not disappoint, and strive to make her proud and prove to her that the traditional views of womanhood she grew up immersed in, do not have to apply to me/us. In a way I am trying to give to her what she gave to me.

The way that Chicanx manifests itself in my work is through these sort of weird forlorn sentiments of nostalgia for something I have never had. It’s a sort of feeling that I did not intentionally attempt to capture, but has creeped its way into my work and I later began to make work about it directly. I’ve always had a yearning to know more about where my mother comes from. I’ll admit that I have a romanticized version of her upbringing, which stems from my privilege and I am aware of it. But, it’s a privilege which she made many sacrifices to provide me with, and I make art because of it, as well as about it.

Are there any creatives you currently look up to? What makes them special to you?

Yeah! Obvi La Reina of Mexican art, Frida Kahlo. La Reina of Tejano, Selena. Current artists: Jenny Seville, for her use of texture and paint manipulation, Ayqa Khan, because I feel like her work is very important in the context of body hair and body image in general, specifically for POC, and I recently came across the work of Christina Margarita Erives! She makes awesome ceramic work about identity and Mexican culture and I feel like if I made ceramics I would want to be her.

Do you have any plans or upcoming projects for 2016?

My plan for 2016 is just to make more art in general, its been pretty slow for me so far, but I’ll be in a show at Kai Lin gallery in Atlanta called The New South, and I’ll also be in a show at Kibbee Gallery in September with two other girls.

To see more of Laura and her work, check out her website, her facebook and her ig account@_lauravela_.

Written by Mari Santa Cruz | Art and Photos belong to Laura Vela