Local Latino/a Artist
of the Month
- Mel -
Mel is an illustrator, street artist, and clothing designer originally from Panama City, Panama and is the only Panamian female street artist in Colorado. She came to the U.S. and originally settled in Colorado Springs, but has lived in Denver on and off since 2012. Mel works on symbolic illustrations influenced by South American street art. Most of her time is spent creating new pieces, visiting galleries, and learning new ideas from older artists. She sees every day as an opportunity to improve and grow in her artistic pursuits, which is the foremost way she develops her perspectives and perceptions as a nontraditional artist.
Mel recently started making clothing. On the 29th of each month she releases a different design on Etsy under the business name XRAYclothing. A link to her Etsy page is at the bottom of this page.
Title: La Muerte Solitaira
How do you incorporate your heritage, identity, &/or culture into your work & why?
I have created pieces that include both Panamian influence and American hip hop. Not many people are from Panama in this state, or in the street art scene in general. So, I try to incorporate plant life, bright bright colors, and edges in my lines. In this way, I hope to create a different understanding of Central American culture without making it a stereotype.
Does your work comment on current social or political issues? How? Why are you choosing to comment on these issues?
Last year was the first time I did a political piece. It was in New Mexico during the Black Lives Matter movement and it was unplanned. My collaboration partner and I wanted to do it the day of meeting up. Guess people know me most through my hands. The piece had different skin-toned hands. He did the background in black, white, and gray. The darkest toned hands were at the center and were supported by all of the other toned hands as if they were protecting and giving them the attention. If the piece had a meaning, word for word it would be, "Not everything is black and white." As a woman of color, I am involved in the issue and I support it.
Title: All Hands In
Tell us a bit about being a Latino artist or the Latino artist community.
Being a Panamian woman, I know I stick out kind of awkwardly in a Chicano community. Not many Central Americans are appreciated in the Denver scene because there are not a lot of us here. People need to be more aware that being Latin American does not mean you are Mexican. I don't believe that Latin women are appreciated as much in Denver as they should be. Especially Sepia, the mother of Denver hip hop street art. There is a lot of machismo behavior from the new school street artists. It's rare to find a guy in the streets that is willing to say, "This chica is good," without getting insecure about it. I also feel that old-school Mexican painters tend to have much more respect for women than the younger generation does.
Title: Urban Jungle
Title: La Lengua
Green Lady Gardens is all about celebrating the joy of color. Comment on the phrase "celebrating the joy of color."
I think the phrase is beautiful. Life is color.
Address the use of color in your work.
I don't see any reason to not make my work colorful. I feel like when I was a kid looking at where my mama grew up in the barrio, the ghettos of Panama, I remember the tiny alleys and cement houses on the hills being different bright colors. Maybe I make my work colorful because it's comforting. It reminds me of my cultural background. When it comes to the animals and hands in my work, I make them blocky and bright because that's how I see the world. It's my style. I'm not the only one who does it. You can see it in the portrayal of streets by other Central American artists, as well.
I feel proud to be the only Panamian female street artist in CO. I'm doing this to make my family proud and to show people that even in Latin culture, we all come from different places and we all come in different colors.
All images are the property of Mel.
Some content may have been edited for clarity.