This is 5 Questions. Each week, we send five questions to an artist featured in Under the Radar, our weekly email highlighting the best art on the ArtSlant network. This week we seek answers from Yesica Guerra.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
As a designer, artist, and social practitioner, I have worked in various capacities with diverse populations, cultures, and communities. I have experienced firsthand how art and design can be a catalyst to positively change communities, influence societal needs, and provoke advancement.
To a great extent my work has been motivated by my personal experience of growing up in Northern Mexico, four hours south of the American border. It is a borderland filled with ironies: individually demarcated yet synthesized, secured yet transgressed, fetishized yet denigrated. Because of these paradoxes the region suffers from problems like economic disparity, political tension, social and cultural alienation, as well as ecological threats. These everyday conditions influenced me as I was growing up and have given me a certain standpoint and awareness that have translated into my work.
As a consequence of this “condition” of being bi-national—Mexican and American—I have lived, experienced, and observed daily contradictions manifested through opposing relations between values, needs, and interests. But my identity has also helped me develop a mentality for interdisciplinary practice. Art and design are devices to express myself and intervene in the city. I work through the lens of interconnected systems that feed and respond to these complexities and contradictions.
Identity/Individuality, Wax, resin, metal, coffee, nails, tree bark, transparency map, string, 12 x 24 x .5 inches
What is an artist’s responsibility?
Throughout my professional practice I have learned how the city is a laboratory where the government, public and private institutions, geography, investment, and society are often dislocated “in conflict.” Yet art, design, and urban planning as contemporary practices can directly remedy this conflict while taking into consideration, cultivating, and supporting the participation of civil society.
My goal as a responsible citizen and social practitioner is to keep creating art and design projects that are socially relevant—projects based on community engagement with a multidisciplinary approach and cross-sector collaborations. I aim to use sustainable systems and contemporary models for creative practice.
In Transit, Acrylic paint, gesso, 24 x 24 inches
Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?
This is a really complicated question. During my professional life I have supported many artists and organizations in different capacities, sometimes assisting them to deploy art projects. I guide them through administrative and legal processes as well as coordinate several phases of implementation. It is truly important for me to point out that those experiences have given me great knowledge about the many layers of creating responsive art and design projects. However I have struggled to find the time to fully dedicate myself to my own work.
If I have to share something that I am truly proud of, it is the work I have done via community engagement. This multi-image shows some of those interventions, whether it was designing and building a stage for a non-profit to fulfill part of their programmatic needs; building an inhabitable inflatable to raise awareness about environmental issues; assisting in a positive campaign employing on- and off-line tools; or creating a community garden for a disadvantaged community. In all these instances the “product” has been a collective experience where art and design were tools for dialogue, equity, and inclusivity while addressing social, cultural, political, and other urban issues.
Landscape, Acrylic, photograph, nails, graphite, pencil, 16 x 24 inches
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will.
While pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree, I developed an interest in Urban Design studies while enrolled in classes like Urban Theory, Contemporary Issues, Urban Anthropology, and Urban Sociology.
I have integrated into my practice concerns about poverty, cultural differentiation, segregation, education, human rights, democracy—or the lack of it—and social transformations. But these subjects come largely from personal experience. I would like to have a stronger social science background, and be able not only to represent these concerns visually and physically, but also in writing. I guess to do so I might need to go back to school to have a better understanding. The goal would be to have a more concrete foundation and get more sophisticated so I could convey this subject matter in a more holistic way.
39 Wordly, Acrylic paint, oil paint, metal numbers, 18 x 24 inches
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
Mathew Mazotta, a great friend of mine: www.matthewmazzotta.com
Fiamma Montezomolo, an early mentor: www.fiammamontezemolo.com
Marcos Ramirez Erre, a source of inspiration and a relentless/resilient human being: marcosramirezerre.com
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Majority World, Acrylic, coffee, wire, tape measure, screws, bolt, typed letters, nails, and found object, 20.5 x 16 x .5 inches)