Artist Sonia Romero Contemplates Hope and the Future of the Planet in "Year of the Straw"


By Gabrielle Garcia

With an extensive familial legacy of visual arts behind her, Sonia Romero is charting her own unique path with her hybridization of painterly, paper cutting, and linocut techniques that she has mastered since receiving her BFA in printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design almost twenty years ago. As the daughter of Frank Romero, one of the muralists behind the Los Four art collective of the Chicano Art movement, and granddaughter of the founders of the Craft Contemporary, formerly known as the Craft and Folk Museum, Romero builds bridges between the realms of fine art and public art and 2D and 3D art. Self described as “representing the diversity of Los Angeles,” Romero actively engages with the interconnectedness between humanity and nature and the multiplicity of identity throughout her work.

Sonia Romero has had a prolific artistic career thus far with her work being acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian and exhibited at a variety of galleries and institutions in southern California, Texas, Washington D.C., and France. Her public art projects are installed in several LA locations, including Little Tokyo, MacArthur Park, Plaza de la Raza, two LA metro stations, and the Artesia County Library.

Looking at Sonia Romero’s past work, motifs of the female figure, butterflies, and children are consistently present. For the Self Help Graphics & Art’s Annual Print Fair and Exhibition on Saturday, June 29th, which features fine art prints from a variety of professional artists, Romero has developed a new serigraph piece over the past three months that unites old and new content alike. “Year of the Straw,” the second installment of her Nest series, features a young infant floating atop a bed of plastic straws in an ocean, invoking both the biblical imagery of baby Jesus and Moses. This piece serves as a momentous combination of her printmaking techniques and is the result of countless hours of creating hand cut stencils.

“It's a lot of work, but when you do make the stencils by hand, there are moments when Oscar can collaborate with me and make suggestions. Everything took a lot longer than if I had just pre-designed it on the computer, but there were these moments of growth and play and happy accidents. So I think that that's what’s going to make this print powerful,” said Sonia Romero about her artistic process.

Reflecting on her decision to create the bed of plastic straws in the piece in response to the emerging plastic straw bans, Romero stated, “It was humorous because it was so ridiculous to get rid of the straw, but not the cup, but effective because I did change my own habits and my family’s habits because of that straw campaign.” The print also negotiates the intersection of the past, present, and future, drawing upon fluorescent colors of Romero’s childhood, the aftermath of plastic straws and their ban, and the image of Romero’s son as the up-and-coming generation who must face our growing environmental crisis. She also draws inspiration from the development of trash islands, such as the Great Pacific garbage patch, which continue to grow and damage our environment.

At its core, “Year of the Straw” provokes viewers to confront the expanding consequences of human pollution on our environment and on future generations. Honing in on a smaller example of wide-scale policy change regarding the regulation of our waste leads us to examine larger and more sustainable changes to conserve and protect our world. In a domino-like effect, we begin to question, why stop at plastic straws? How do we hold our government, industries, and corporations accountable for their extensive damage to our world? How can we ensure a sustainable future for our children? And how might our children do the same?

Self Help Graphics & Art’s Annual Print Fair and Exhibition Saturday, June 29, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. is a highly anticipated one-day opportunity for art lovers to see a culmination of works printed between 2018-2019, and acquire new, limited edition, fine art prints created by dozens of artists through our Professional Printmaking Program. The Annual Print Fair and Exhibition features serigraphs, monoprints, as well as new relief and intaglio print editions for sale. You can also purchase prints at our online shop.

Gabrielle Garcia is a Self Help Graphics & Art Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern and a recent graduate of Scripps College.