Artist Cynthia Velasquez Goes on A Journey to Find Her Roots in "Lxs Guía"
Cynthia Velasquez’s journey to find herself as an artist and more so as a descendant of people displaced, began with home and the understanding and introspection of her own roots. Velasquez was born to a Chilean mother and a Guatemalan father, but her household never felt strictly stuck to either culture. Like Los Angeles, her household was full of different cultures, which would later come to influence how she viewed her identity and how she creates art.
She studied Fine Art and Gender Ethnic Multicultural Studies at Cal Poly Pomona before receiving her MFA at the School of Critical Studies at Cal Arts in Aesthetics and Politics. While finishing school, she felt lost and searched for some grounding, feeling within herself the need for a spiritual connection. This connection ultimately came when she found a queer healing circle, a space where they honored people and learning. This sparked a journey that led her into connecting with her native ancestry with greater purpose: “It’s connected to my ancestry, but it was lost in its conviction and its legacy and I felt like I had the right to figure something out.” This opened a door for her to figure out more about her family’s native roots in Chile and Guatemala. She understands the complications and intricacies of the Native American identities and works respectfully with the Native American aspects she is a part of and places them in dialogue with the native identities of Latin America as well as the identities of its descendants. She is searching for the parts of her identity that were lost, exploring that loss in an attempt to understand the specifics of it all to find her grounding as an artist and a womxn.
Being a queer womxn, her experience has also allowed her to realize a different aspect in finding one’s grounding, one associated with home. Similarly she uses her art to explore her ideas on her queer identity, specifically focusing on the phenomenology of home in queer place making. Velasquez states, “It’s how we situate our bodies in space and the context of the queer diaspora, and how our connection to a home country is through objects.” She reminisces on how growing up she would drink an English breakfast tea, something nobody around her would drink, and how she came to realize it was adopted in her home from Chile. These associations with objects she has come to realize, have assisted her in situating herself in the world as queer womxn, displaced by not having a set space, and finding that space in her family’s roots, associating it as a space for her queer identity.
Cynthia Velasquez’ work touches on a spectrum of these ideas, and her piece “Lxs Guía” on exhibition now, “Honors the direction of the buffalo, the elder, and our ancestors. This is a portrait of a womxn’s moment connecting with the spirit of the elder and the pigeon.”
Giani Chavez is a Self Help Graphics & Art Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern from Grinnell College.