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Art & Life with Yocelyn Riojas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yocelyn Riojas.

Yocelyn, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m a Mexican American artist and activist that creates artwork, primarily focused on women’s empowerment, cultural identity, and immigration issues. I was born in Mexico and raised in Eagle Pass, a small, border town in Southwest Texas, just a short walk across the bridge from the country of Mexico. I’m the grandchild of Mexican immigrants and the daughter of first-generation migrant workers turned attorneys.

Growing up on the border helped me develop a deep sense of understanding about issues within the Latinx community whether it was culturally or politically. My art is influenced by what I know and the experiences I gained as a child to now. Some of those memories include the building of the iron fence that cuts through the backyards of people’s homes, my father suing the government to keep the border fence open to not restrict our access to the river, skipping kindergarten to travel out of town with my mother to chase down clients at their doors to help fix their legal status, and listening to the past struggles of family and stories from strangers as to why they came to seek asylum to escape dangerous circumstances.

It’s true what they say. The surroundings you grow up in molds your identity as a person.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My art is inspired by the lack of positive representation and if any at all that I saw growing up. The media has a tendency to twist Latinx community as a threat trying to invade US borders or use undocumented civilians as tokens for political negotiations. There should be no reason why we can’t as a community speak for ourselves and celebrate our cultural identities rather than having the media do it for us. I illustrate what I know, that is my culture and issues that should matter to us. For a while, I was afraid to be politically vocal with my art because I knew deep down it would mean giving up the opportunity of having a steady paycheck once I put myself out there.

However, after a while, illustrating in my sketchbook the only way I could process events happening right now. I started to share my art through Instagram just for myself and then when the day they chose to announce that DACA was supposedly going to expire I released the ‘My Dreams Are Not Illegal’ piece that took over the internet. Since then I’ve been blessed to keep working on creating more pieces focusing on Latin culture and resistance art because I was fortunate enough to build this relationship of trust with the Latinx community. My art was able to create a safe space in a political climate that makes us question our place in America.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
Trying to stand out and find success in an oversaturated market. The internet is a great place to promote your work, but it’s also this void of trends you can get lost in that comes at you in waves. To be successful is to be authentic to yourself and your audience. As a creative, you are selling your story or brand, not your art. We all have a niche, but before you can find your brand you need to find your voice. Know who you are, find that special thing you have to offer, and think about how you want others to perceive you.

The moment I stopped overthinking is the moment I was able to pull my head above water. My art became my voice instead of just images floating around the internet. I’m unapologetic about my cultural identity and vocal about my beliefs whether they’re politically driven or not. Sometimes it makes others uncomfortable, but that’s fine because I’m not here for their comfort. I’m here to fill the space lacking in Latinx representation and issues that are not being addressed. My illustrations reflect cultural identity and resistance highlighting the Latinx community in a positive light. I create with purpose, not clichés. My advice to everyone is to not fear vulnerability or failure. Don’t allow the anxiety of what you think others want to see from you hold you back. Authenticity is what builds trust, not trends.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
You can catch me through social media on my most active platform Instagram @yocelyn.riojas where I always update my latest work. If you like what I’m doing share it with others and you can always purchase something on my shop at https://society6.com/yocelynriojas.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Yocelyn Riojas

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