My favorite part of our 10 day Tiquipaya homestay were the 4 afternoons I spent working on my Independent Study Project, graffiti. It transformed my mindset. It may sound a little depressing, but my art is one of the few things I pride myself in and that really interests me. As my adulthood nears and the dark clouds of college applications loom ahead in the distance, I have grasped onto art as a passion and a lifeline to give myself direction, purpose, and community. This past year I put a lot of time into developing my techniques and pushed myself really hard to try and cultivate the best portfolio I could for my final AP exam. I was proud of the work that I put in but it also really drained me emotionally and creatively. The submission of my portfolio was followed by weeks of an empty mind. This had been difficult for me since I associate my productivity with my self worth.
Coming to Cochabamba was very healing. Seeing the abundant imaginations of my fellow dragons, Penelope, Emma, and Natacha reminded me that I can create for myself and that I don’t need evaluations from teachers or the CollegeBoard to validate myself. My teacher and mentor, Mauricio, or Puriskiri, also was a very inspiring and motivating person to work with. He first showed us his works and other murals around Cochabamba which gave us context of the city’s history and the diversity of its styles. He showed us a lot of techniques with spray paint but encouraged us to use them in accordance with our own styles in each painting exercise we did. The most important thing he demonstrated to us was the way that art can portray a message and influence the social and political climate of a place. His artwork celebrates indigenous culture, the fighting spirit of Cochabamba, and the hard work of cholitas.
Natacha and I tried to use this in our final project. If hundreds of people will walk past our painting, what do we want them to receive from it? The two of us have both witnessed and experienced the patriarchal and sexually conservative culture in Bolivia and have seen the damages that it can cause. For these reasons we chose to use imagery that reflects the beauty of LGBTQ+ women. The mural shows a mountain with the subtle figure of a woman and love between the moon and the sun, the killa and the inti. I don’t have a photo of the finished painting but will try to add one soon if possible.
It is a really powerful feeling to think of the ways that our work can influence all of the people who pass by it. I really hope to continue learning about graffiti and that I can impact more people with visual art in the future.