Colorado Latinos/as to Know and Support: February 2023
I'm Aztzin Lopez, a Denver born, self-taught, Latina artist. I have been drawing and painting since I was old enough to hold a pencil and have always been inspired by my Latina/Chicana roots. I come from a family of non-traditional artists such as graffiti artist, comic book illustrators, and muralists who are often my sources of inspiration. I enjoy creating art that reflects my love and passion for motherhood, activism, and my Chicana and native cultural background. Creating spaces where Latina art can be seen and represented in Denver communities, where people of color are experiencing gentrification, is an important part of my journey as an artist.
Outside of creating art, I am a working mother of two. I enjoy spending time with my family and being outside. Family and motherhood are my greatest passions. I love finding creative spaces where my children can feel free to enjoy themselves through creative expression.
What kind of art do you make? What mediums and techniques do you use?
I am an adaptable artist that enjoys dabbling in many mediums. But graphite drawing and acrylic painting are my mediums of choice. I make art that reflects my cultural background. I also make specific commission pieces at the request of my customers. I enjoy painting planters but also love painting on canvas and other materials.
How would you describe your work?
My work is unique, detailed, and made with passion.
Hand-painted pot - Lotería la rose, acrylic, 2022. Lotería is game played around the table in many Latino households. The game of Lotería allows family members of all ages to gather around the table and connect to each other and their culture. This pot features the la rosa card. Cactus or nopales were included in this piece to incorporate another important symbol of Latino culture.
What is the purpose of your art? What moods, feelings, thoughts, or questions are you trying to evoke from your audience? My art provides a space where self-care and creative expression meet. I love hand-painted art pieces and wanted the chance to make my own that represent myself, my culture, and others like me. I want audiences who engage with my art to feel the passion, vibrancy, and pride that comes with being Chicano/ Latino. I want others to see themselves in my art and to be reminded of their colorful and vibrant cultural history.
What work are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of my hand-painted pots. Creating detailed pieces on small surfaces that evoke powerful cultural symbolism in a person's home makes me proud. They remind me of culturally symbolic pieces such a Mayan pottery, Zarape blankets, and Chicano activism paintings that I recognize in my own mother's and grandmother's home.
Hand-painted pots, Zarape, acrylic, 2022. Zarape blankets are found in many Latino households and are used during Día De Los Muertos as the base of Ofrendas (alters). (Ofrendas are put up to welcome deceased ancestor's home.)
Tell us a bit about being a Latino/a artist or the Latino/a artist community.
To be a Latina artist is to be part of an exclusive group of individuals who are making it their mission to preserve Latino culture and heritage the same way our ancestors before us did, through art and color.
How does your work comment on current social and/or political issues?
For so long Latino/indigenous imagery and symbolism was deemed negative and “un-American”. Much of our native culture and heritage was erased from American history. Creating strong recognizable Latino/indigenous imagery is how my art rebels against this historic cultural erasure.
Hand-painted pot, Lotería la luna, acrylic, 2022. The moon is a culturally significant symbol for feminine energy and balance in Latino culture. This pot also includes marigold flowers, which are culturally significant flowers. For example. marigold petals are used as pathways for the dead to find their way home during Día De Los Muertos celebrations.
What do you hope the viewer learns or does after viewing your art that comments on these issues?
I hope viewers are reminded that we are still here and are still as vibrant, colorful, and proud as our art represents.
How do you incorporate your heritage/identity/culture into your art?
I grew up in a family full of activists. They have fought the for equal treatment of people of color, better treatment for people experiencing poverty, and for the rights of women, native lands, and LGBTQI+ individuals. This activist centered upbringing has inspired my art, and has inspired me to make sure my art is representative of my Latina and indigenous culture.
I want my art to reflect the vibrancy and pride conveyed in traditional Mexican, Chicano, and Mayan art. Symbolic imagery, such as icons from the Lotería card, and bright colors and patterns, such as Zarape blankets, are recognizable and representative of the communities who live in Denver. This cultural representation is what I strive to include in my art.
Hand-painted pot, mal de ojo, acrylic, 2022.
The mal de ojo, or evil eye, is a spiritual belief that looks of admiration or envy can lead to bad luck or misfortune for the recipient of the stare. Wearing or placing jewelry/pendants on one’s body or home is supposed to ward off this evil eye and protect the recipient from misfortune.
Do the colors you use have any particular significance or meaning?
Color plays a huge role in Latino/indigenous culture. From colorful tapestries such a Zarapes and rebozo blankets to celebrations like Día De Los Muertos. Using bright colors is a must with my art so I can continue to create prices that reflect my culture.
What are you trying to communicate by using certain colors?
I am trying to communicate feelings of pride, reflection, and nostalgia. When I see my pieces in homes, it reminds me of my grandmother's house, which was full of Latino/indigenous symbolism and color. Flourishing plants, paintings of the moon and sun, drawings of indigenous women and their babies… I want to evoke that feeling of warmth in being in your grandmother's kitchen surrounded by art and culture.
Images are the property of Aztzin Lopez or Jessica Schutz.
Some content may have been edited for clarity.