Interview with Artist Vivian Zapata

Poetry has the ability to unleash profound insights about ordinary experience and my painting investigates the mystical inner life of metaphorical language as it arises in everyday life.Vivian Zapata

Divine Dreaming | 46

Kicking off our first artist profile of 2012 is visual artist Vivian Zapata. She describes herself as a “color contortionist and a creator of symbols unmasking reality with every step.” Vivian grew up in Skokie, IL and a few years ago won first place in the 23rd Annual Congressional Arts Competition for District 16 in Illinois and she was the 1st place winner in the National Latin Grammy Poster Contest. She even caught the attention of Latino Art Beat, a non-profit organization that awards college scholarships and was awarded a full year college tuition scholarship. Vivian currently has a B.F.A from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is working on her masters. She is part of the next generation of Latina artists that need to be cultivated and supported. Vivian is one to watch as she continues  her creative journey in the arts.

Pink Candy Butterfly | 29

What drives your creativity?

Stories, poetry, and nature inspire my creativity. For my latest project, I allowed the changing of leaf colors in the fall to form the basis of my inspiration. The treetops glittered with deep yellows, warm oranges, vivid greens, and corral reds. I responded to this spectacle by trying to imitate the phenomenon I was observing. I devised organic-looking structures that allowed me to represent the trees’ leafy textures and vivid colors.
In the process of making these orb-like structures by hand, they took on anthropomorphic qualities. Like the painter who can charge a line with emotion and meaning, I somehow imbued a degree of emotion in my sculptures. To show my work, I thought it might be interesting to take my models outside to see the many ways they could interact with their environment. My experiment to alter the location of my structures produced interesting results. In some locations, my work took on overt anthropomorphic qualities and functioned like people on a trip. In a different context (the forest), my sculptures functioned like anomalous entities that created psychological space. In a final context, my works acted like props that extended the commercial function of a space.

How can art impact communities?

Art can bring people together for a common purpose. Judy Baca, a feminist artist from California, brought rival teenagers together to create historically inspired murals. The effort was positive and constructive. It allowed the troubled youth to get in touch with their Latin-American heritage while forming positive relations with fellow students.

I feel like I am still growing as an artist but I hope that my art can inspire audiences by making them look at nature in different way. The beauty of art is that it can present altered perspectives, (new ways of seeing the world that would not have existed without artistic intervention). I am currently interested in associating nature (plant life) with the female corporeal body. I want my art to celebrate the beauty and power of the female force.

Maldita | 21

What is the opportunity of being a woman / Latina artist?

My background as a woman/Latina artist gives me the opportunity to share a rich and unique perspective that filters in my work. It might be cliché to say but I do think that Latin Americans are soulful people. Our food, our music, and our colors reflect the passion that we have for life. Two Latina artists that have influenced my work are Frida Kahlo and Ana Mendieta. They projected a distinctive female voice in different ways. Kahlo did this through visual and surreal personal narratives and Mendieta did this through her performance works that brought forth ideas of ancient female powers and nature.

What mediums do you like to work with and why?

I like working with photography, digital media, and acrylic paint but I have recently dabbled with sculpture. As a grad student it is important to explore materials that can best express an idea.

Where do you see your art in the next five years?

I hope that in five years my interests as an artist will be clearly reflected in my works. I definitely have an interest in color, in nature, and in psychological space. One can never predict the future but I certainly see myself tenaciously pursuing my career as a visual artist.

Do you have three tips for women artists going to grad school? What do they need to know to?

Grad school can be fast-paced and one needs to know how to produce work quickly so the professors can see your ideas. I think the first semester may be hard for a student because it takes time to adjust to a new environment. A student should know that new methods of working will be discovered in grad school. Before applying, try to get many professional opinions on your application materials. I think its better to go to school with some experience under your belt. If possible, try to be a working artist for some years and try to talk to mentors or people you admire in the process.

Skokie Boulevard | 31.1

What kinds of projects are you working on in the new year?

As I mentioned, next semester I would like to continue investigating aspects of nature, and I would like to draw parallels between nature and the female corporeal body. The associations between a feminine power and nature have been long withstanding in the history of art. Even the most ancient archeological finds such as the Venus of Willendorf, drew associations between the generative powers of the female body and the generative powers found in nature. This semester I have looked at the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and also the work of women surrealists. I found a great website that organized flower usage in art into thematic categories such as life, death, fertility etc. I have also come across many contemporary artists whose work I admire and will continue to research. These artists include Jennifer Steinkamp, Yuyoi Kusama, and Sandy Skoglund. Their works investigate color, infinity, and or psychological space that could provide adequate inspiration for new projects that dually celebrate nature and the female body.

For more information on Vivian Zapata’s art work go to

Cabeza de Barro: Conversation with Nicole Marroquin


“Clay is slow,

you can’t rush it,

you can’t tell it what to do,

it has its own clock, and you have to wait for it to choose you.” – Artist Nicole Marroquin

The first time I met Artist Nicole Marroquin was last year when she was patiently teaching volunteers how to make clay bowls for the Pros Arts Studio’s Pozolada. A year later she is part of an exhibit called Cabeza de Barro at the National Museum of Mexican Art. From across the room on opening night I see Nicole surrounded by her red clay torsos, friends and colleagues. I am intrigued by Nicole’s artwork so I decide to reach out and find out a little more about her work and what moves her to create.

When I arrive to her house for the interview I am delighted to see the front gate is full of pastel ribbons.  An artist definitely lives here, I think. The door opens and her daughter and their beautiful tiger striped greyhound Boss greet me. Nicole has been working in her art studio in back and has just made her way into the house and gives me a warm welcome.

“Our ancestors are in the clay,” she says and that’s when I notice her strong hands holding the purple teapot. “There are some days I’m covered in red clay”, she says blissfully. I ask her why she enjoys working with this material so much and she points out that, “Clay feels and looks alive when it’s wet and you can hold it in your hand. It’s also completely quiet and it smells like a rainy day or the woods and can be medicinal and suck infections out of wounds.

I ask Nicole about her first encounter with clay and she says, “ I had access to clay when I was a child and was using the wheel at an early age but after that I wasn’t around it for a long time. Later she began teaching clay at an elementary school in the Humbolt Park neighborhood and began working with it again.  Her students and “their joy of clay” were so infectious she ended up taking a clay class herself and that’s when the hard-core love affair began. “I became a cheerleader for clay,” she says.

Prior to working with clay Nicole spent many years focused on figure drawing and printmaking.  She began taking anatomy, weight and dimensions much more seriously however she says, “I never want to go back to figure drawing now that I work with clay but figure drawing does inform the work I do today.”

When I saw her work displayed at the National Museum of Mexican Art one of the things that struck me about these life size torsos was how she was able to skillfully capture facial expressions of each one of her subjects. Each mirada seems to follow you across the room. You almost expect one of the torsos to come to life and begin to move about. “When I undertake sculpture and make things to scale it takes a lot of momentum and energy and takes a few weeks of working with the clay because it demands constant physical contact or it will dry up before the work is finished”, says Nicole.

After creating a series of work Nicole is completely exhausted, “it’s like I just gave birth and don’t want to participate in any baby making activities for a while ”.  For Nicole the creativity comes in waves and she likes to give herself some space between projects to recharge.

Nicole enjoys working in schools and with people and it helps her generate ideas for her own artwork. In her most recent exhibit Cabeza de Barro her contribution was to focus on people who live in the Pilsen neighborhood. “It’s like creating an effigy of that person and bringing that person into the space where I like to show how we are relative to each another.” She views the Pilsen neighborhood as an extension of the border on a local level. When you look at her work on display you will see arms, hands, heads and torsos all floating on display, “it comes down to body in flesh and state policies and how they effect bodies,” says Nicole.

I asked Nicole about the social justice component that she incorporates into her artwork she says, “Art making is an outlet for my social justice desires. Working with my hands I meditate on problems and consider solutions. It’s important to be local in your efforts and bite off what you can chew.” Nicole, originally from Texas, is also obsessed with third space and homeland. She likes to explore ideas of borders, non-spaces and places in between and the impact it has on the people living there and passing through those places.

If you are an artist in Chicago you know what a luxury it is to have a space to create your work. Nicole is excited to show me her 10×20 studio filled with clay, molds and paintbrushes.  She picks up a piece of clay she has been working on and says, “being able to pick up a piece of this earth that let’s us reside on it is a powerful experience.”  Her studio has no heat but I’m sure it’s something café con piquete can cure.

You can view Nicole Marroquin’s work at the National Museum of Mexican Art now through May 15, 2011 or She is also an assistant professor of arts education at the Art Institute.

Sandra Treviño: music and writing rhapsodies

“When I grow up I want to be a classical violin player,” Sandra Treviño, 38, quotes her younger self.

As a young girl in Houston she always knew she wanted to work with music and it has always been a part of her life.  She would go into her room, turn on the radio and listen to two types of music: heavy metal and classical.  She eventually learned to play the violin and participated in her school orchestra for many years.  More recently she’s expressed interest in picking up the accordion.  A band member of the music group she manages, Descarga, offered to let her borrow the one he owns.  So, Sandra has been looking online for instructions on the accordion, from the proper way to pick it up to playing it.

Her Texas childhood also included a very religious upbringing.  When she was a teen the tasks of the sound engineer at her church caught her attention.  She asked church officials if she could help out with those duties, she was informed that only males were allowed to do that job.

“I knew I could do it better,” she explains.  She was persistent and continued to ask about it.  Eventually, a council of church elders came to her home to explain the church policy and warn her about her insubordination.

She decided not to return to church with her parents, instead she began exploring life beyond church regulated music and books and embarked on a journey that eventually led her back to Chicago, the city where she was born.  It was the impetus to her present vocation to music, something she works and sacrifices hard for despite parent disapproval.

That wouldn’t be the last of the resistance she encountered.   On a completely unrelated note she shares the story about managing a station for Autobuses Tornado back in Houston.  She was told to learn to drive a bus just in case there was an emergency one day.  Then the day came that she had to get behind the wheel, and as the passengers boarded the bus the Mexican men began asking, “Who are you?”

“The bus driver,” She responded.   Some of the men made a big fuss about it and ultimately they decided to get off.  She still drove the bus on its scheduled trip from Houston to San Antonio.


Upon arriving to the Windy City, Sandra started attending local underground concerts.   She was so impressed with local band Descarga that she was moved to create a fan page.

Sandra Treviño is the Proyecto Latina feature for August 2010.

Band leader, Hector Garcia says, “her fan page was cooler than the one we created for ourselves.” Impressed with her initiative Hector decided to ask Sandra if she would manage the band.

“I told him, I didn’t know anything about managing bands,” Sandra remembers. “He said, neither do I, but we’ll learn together.”

Hector gave Sandra a few names and numbers with instructions on how to get started but it wasn’t until she attended the first band meeting at the old Earwax Café and she heard the band members discussing their agenda and goals that it sunk in.

Hector describes what followed next, like a domino effect, the way managing a band led to producing two television shows and the website,  The band couldn’t get air time because there was no television coverage for local Latin alternative bands. Hector put his background in video and film to work and decided, why not create their own show and thus, Errores no Eliminados or ENE was born.

Hector recalls the first episode, “The audio was horrible, the images were bad, but we were the only ones out there–at these local shows– with a video camera.” He also didn’t think twice about teaching Sandra how to plug-in sound equipment or record and edit video.

“I learned how to edit, record, set up sound. When you’re involved in this business you should know how to set up sound systems, cables, lighting,” says Sandra.

For Hector it was about being practical, “If I’m not available you need to know how to edit.  It was about having a more informed team.”

Long gone were the days of exclusive church rules or doubtful male passengers.  Sandra was knee deep in the music world, her hands full with an appointment book, a growing list of contacts,cables and wires that needed to be kept untangled and properly connected. She also began finding herself in front of the camera with a microphone in hand interviewing local acts and later snagging interviews with international bands and singers.

And while she enjoys interviewing musicians because she likes to get to know more about them, she reveals one very surprising fact, “Video and editing is not my forte, I do it, and I don’t mind doing it but it’s not me—I’d rather write.”

She prefers to write longhand and pens poetry and journals about what’s going on around her.  She feels, “Everyone should be keeping a history of what’s going on.”  Her current dilemma is balancing how much to reveal in a book she’s writing about the Latin Alternative music scene in Chicago for the last ten years.  Sandra says, she’s got a lot of stories and has seen a lot in that time.   She expects to have a completed manuscript by the Summer of 2011.


After working with Sandra for over ten years Hector learned that, “she puts a magnifying glass on some things others wouldn’t notice.”  She has also kept him accountable, asking about tasks and pushing him and goes on to quote her, “If you say you want something you don’t stop until you get it. You try again tomorrow.”

Sandra says, this attitude got her backlash from the music community, “When I first started I was attacked for asking questions. Now, I don’t care if people don’t like or disapprove of what I’m doing.”

Stephanie Celis, a 19 year-old college student, had a different take on Sandra’s work when she approached her and inquired about an internship with Enchufate and ENE.  “She’s very organized she knows how to execute events.”   One of Stephanie’s first lessons was to always carry a notepad for notes and impromptu interviews if the opportunity presented itself.

Something else Sandra feels passionate about, “I think it’s important that we support each other. We, as mujeres and as people working in a field that is not lucrative and that’s about passion should support each other more.  If I know there’s an opportunity I am the first to knock but I leave the door open so you can follow me in.”

Sandra Treviños is the Proyecto Latina feature and first guest curator on Monday, August 16, 2010–event details and complete bio.

Alicia Ponce leads the way to greener living

Alicia Ponce leads the way to greener living

At 6 years old, Alicia Ponce–a tom-boy that didn’t mind getting dirty while playing with dirt and rocks–observed her uncle, a civil engineer, directing at a construction site and got hooked on architecture. Three years ago Alicia founded ap.MonArch, an architecture, interior design, and green consulting firm. She talks to us about the challenges that led her to becoming self-employed–including a corporate structure where colleagues refused to learn the proper pronunciation of an ethnic name but conveniently dropped it into proposals to appear ‘diverse’. She’s passionate about green construction and design and also talks to us about her love of building and creating and being an educator at Columbia College Chicago–a job that she says, “keeps me on my toes.”

Alicia Ponce, 1 of 2, 7:04

Alicia Ponce, 2 of 2, 7:29

interview: Liza Ann Acosta. photo: Thelma Uranga.

Céu: Music that speaks to the heart

Céu: Music that speaks to the heart

Back in Chicago with a new album, Brazilian songbird Céu took the stage at the Green Dolphin in April with a set list of songs from her latest, Vagarosa, as well as some old favorites, including a cover of Ray Charles’ Takes Two to Tango.

Bridging reggae, bossa nova, electronica and jazz, Céu produces a cool eclectic sound that is complemented by her sultry voice. She debuted in the U.S. in 2007 with her self-titled album, which earned her a Grammy nomination, and shows no signs of stopping. In addition to her new album, Céu is one of the featured artists on Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project, a collaborative focused on uniting cultures through music.

Céu took time from her international tour to talk to Proyecto Latina.

Q: Your latest album, Vagarosa, has been doing very well. It reached #1 on the World Music Charts in Europe and made the Best International Releases list in 2009 by the Chicago Reader. What would you say is different about this album in comparison with your first?

A: I think this album sounds more “organic” than the first one, since we almost didn’t use electronic resources such as beats, textures and noises. I was strongly influenced by albums that had a strong pulse, but without much effort, like Transa, by Caetano Veloso, Luis Melodia’s Perola Negra or Serge Gainsbourg’s Melody Nelson. I was also listening to a lot of Jamaican recordings from the 60s. My first album has a lot of the specific characteristics of this time. You end up showing a lot of your influences and on the second album, you show how you processed these influences.

Q: You have such a unique sound that blends so many different genres. For example, on this latest album, you have a song called Bubuia. Tell me a little about your creative process. What comes first? The lyrics or the melody?

A: It depends. Each song goes through a different process. Sometimes I do the lyrics, sometimes the melody, sometimes I write a verse, and [sometimes] only to find it somehow useful years later. For Bubuia, I had my part of the lyrics and the melody, which I passed to my friends Anelis and Thalma. I knew that they would understand what I was saying in no time. I did a rough recording in GarageBand and forwarded it to both of them and to Gui Amabis, who would produce the track.

Q: Music evokes so many emotions and is interpreted differently. What are some of the things you want your audience to feel and understand when they hear your music?

A: That things don’t need to be understood, they need to be felt. And music has this power. It is capable of taking you to distant periods of your life, when you hear something you used to hear a lot. It is capable of dissolving any prejudice and just speaks the language of the heart. It sounds cheesy, but that’s how I feel and that’s how I wanted people to feel.

Q: People often talk about what influenced them to become musicians. Maybe it was the first time they heard the Beatles or the first time they strummed a guitar. Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to become an artist.

A: This is an inner sensation that I just couldn’t explain. Once, when I was still very young, I noticed that Ibirapuera Park (a major city park) beside my house was unusually empty (something rare for such a popular spot in São Paulo) and I said to my mother: “Mom, look how many people didn’t come today!” I guess she must have thought: We better drive this girl towards the arts!

Q: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

A: A lot of shows, I hope!

We hope so too! Listen to Céu sing Rosa Menina Rosa.

Veronica Vidal has contributed in-depth articles on drug prevention issues for Prevention First, and currently works for a local foundation. She has served in public relations and fundraising positions for several arts organizations, including the Chicago Latino Film Festival, the School of the Art Institute and Shedd Aquarium. She is a strong supporter of the arts with interests in photography, film and graphic-inspired artwork. She resides in Chicago and is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Cindy Mosqueda: blogs the Chicana perspective

Cindy Mosqueda: blogs the Chicana perspective

Cindy Mosqueda pens Loteria Chicana, a blog shy of its tenth anniversary I thought it was  a great opportunity to spotlight this veteran blogger and hopefully capture some wisdom that others new to blogging can put to good use.   Cindy documents her thoughts on identity, school, politics and family, often including posts with thoughtful entries and colorful photos of friends and family.

Another reason we wanted to feature her on our site is because Cindy also recently interviewed her father and grandfather for Story Corps and has given us permission to re-post her interviews–check them out after our Q&A–we hope they inspire you to schedule a date to do an interview with a friend or relative while the StoryCorps mobile booth is in Chicago.


Full name: Cindy Mosqueda

Blogging as: Cindylu @ Loteria Chicana

Age: 29

Occupation: graduate student, researcher, program coordinator

Home town: Hacienda Heights, suburbs of LA

Your blog is a year shy of its 10th anniversary, any special plans to commemorate?

I hadn’t thought of it, but I’ll definitely have to do something. I’ll be 31 by November 2011 too, so that’ll give me even more reason to celebrate.

You are a very public blogger, you share extensively through writing and in photos about family, love and work– any rules or guidelines you follow or have learned to keep?

I started out with a very small audience – if any at all – and didn’t think too much about what to share or not to share aside from the simple understanding that it could be read by anyone. Since then, my audience has grown and I relented to my initial rule of never including my first and last name anywhere on the blog. My general guideline is not to publish something I would not like my boss or parents to read. I don’t mind censoring myself as I still find an outlet to share some of the more personal writings. I’d rather censor myself than upset people with things I’ve written or find myself embarrassed by what a future employer could find. Blogs are a very public forum and some topics might be better discussed one-on-one.

As for relationships, I’ve asked past boyfriends if I can write about them and even let them choose their pseudonyms.

What are some lessons that you know now that you wish you knew when you started blogging, that you think new bloggers out there should keep in mind?

This is tough since blogging itself has changed so much from when I first started. Overall, I’ve had a positive experience blogging, probably why I’ve kept at it so long. Still, for new bloggers I’d encourage you to engage with other bloggers in conversation (email, comments). I would also make sure to always give credit to others for ideas or even if you quote them. I’ve received negative feedback and mean-spirited comments. It was tough not to take those personally and let it go, but you have to realize that the trolls and mean folks come out in droves on the internet.

For a blogging Latina, how has the blogging landscape changed for you since you first started your blog?

When I first started blogging, I found very few Latino bloggers. I gravitated toward the ones I did find as I related most to them and their experiences. Since 2004, I’ve seen many Latino blogs pop up in LA and around the country. Some of these bloggers became close friends, some stopped blogging and some only blog infrequently. I think that just mirrors blogging in general. Lots of people start something only to lose interest or be distracted by life later.

Blogging has also become a lot more user friendly. It’s easy and free to run a blog, host pictures and other media like podcasts and video.

Have you observed any change with the online Latin@ community of bloggers evolved?

Definitely. There’s a growth in numbers, there are organized groups trying to get Latino bloggers together in other forms of social media. Latinos are blogging about various topics from politics to gossip. When I first started feeling a sense of community with other bloggers, it was much smaller and tight knit. Another blogger called it Blogotitlán, a term I really liked. We all read each others’ blogs and even talked about getting together for a meeting (I let the ball drop on that one). Even though we aren’t all Latinos, we still had a lot in common.

It’d be impossible to follow all Latino blogs now. In fact, some of my favorite bloggers stopped blogging (the Daily Texican, El Más Chingón) or slowed down significantly to the rare post every month or so. I think the growth of other social networks probably impacted this, but I think folks just get tired and distracted with life in general. That’s okay with me, since some of these bloggers still keep in touch.

I know there’s a lot of bloggers out there scoring book deals, do you know of any Latin@ bloggers getting in on the action.  In your opinion, why or why not?

I know of one or two. Daniel Hernandez, a reporter with the LA Times, is the first who comes to mind. I’m not sure if he had the book deal before he left Los Angeles for Mexico City or if his blog reports and dispatches from el DF led to his book deal. It seems like the gimmicky blogs (e.g., Stuff White People Like or This is Why You’re Fat) are the ones that get book deals while more personal ones are just seen as navel gazing. The gimmicky ones attract lots of attention, have high reader/views and are mentioned in mainstream newsmedia stories. I don’t know of Latin@ bloggers getting that kind of attention for a publisher to be interested in selling our stories.

With that said, is there a book deal in your future?

Um, if there is, no one has told me about it.

What are the top three blogs you follow?

They change as some bloggers go through periods of little posting. Lately I’ve really enjoyed PostBourgie, PearMama, and my boyfriend’s blog. I won’t link to his.

I recall a reader from Australia introducing herself in your comments, please, this is the place to brag about your readership.  Indulge me…

I love my regular readers and even those who email occasionally just to say they like my blog or appreciate my stories. I just got an email from someone who simply said, “Just stumbled across your blog… it’s my new favorite.” I’ve been recognized on the street, quoted in a book and magazine, asked to contribute to a NY Times blog, asked to contribute to various other group blogs and even been called the Madrina of blogs by blogueros in LA.

Overall, my readers, especially those who make time for me when I drop in to their cities, are awesome. I’m lucky school/work means I get to travel and meet some great people.

Any final thoughts?

Can Proyecto Latina readers offer up topics or questions to address in future posts? Even I run out of things to talk about…


Cindy interviews her grandfather for Story Corps last March.

Cindy also interviews her father for Story Corps.

The interviews posted here first appeared on Cindy’s Loteria Chicana blog.  You can find the interview with her father here, and the  interview with her grandfather here.