Briefly describe the work you do.
I make sculptural towers made out of frosting and found objects that stand as monuments of immigrants. They are monuments to transnational bodies that have been covered in the sweetness of the American dream.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I am a Mexican American, my parents are immigrants from Mexico that came to the U.S. in the 1970’s. My background as being a daughter of immigrants who have faced struggles crossing into the U.S. and adjusting to the culture have really influenced my work. I think that hearing stories of my family struggling to come to the U.S. has made immigration close to my heart, a border will always separate me from my family members. My Mexican identity always shows up in my work, it’s a part of me. Through color, iconography, and materials the Mexican in me always comes out in my paintings and sculptures.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is similar to traditional notions of “being in the studio” and also unconventional at the same time. I have specific days where its just me and my materials in my studio and I’m making work alone consuming the colors and the music in my ears. I think its important to have some sort of moment where its just you in your studio making work. I also do social work outside of the studio which to me, its also studio work, because it informs it as much as my materials do. I teach art classes to young Mexican/Americans and I learn a lot about them and I get different stories and narratives of identities which I think is very influential to the work I make.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I see myself more political than I could have ever imagined. When I first started making work, I was interested in making political work but I never pushed myself to do it. I was afraid of painting or talking about hard subjects that are politically charged, such as the U.S./Mexico border. As the years have gone by I feel as though it is my obligation to bring awareness to these subjects through making.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
For me, the best time to make art is after 5pm. After a long day of teaching or class, the first thing I want to do is head to my studio and make crazy colorful work! I try my hardest to be in the studio every day. Even if it’s just me reading in the studio, it’s important for me to be in there and consume everything around me.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
In the last five years I wasn’t making sculptures let alone using frosting. So I would say it’s different in the choice of materials that I know am constantly using. I would also say that it’s the same in terms of my work always being about my identity as a Latina artist.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family and their personal narratives have heavily influenced my work, they are so inspiring to me. In terms of writers, Gloria Anzaldua has also had a large impact on my work. Her book, “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” has opened me to understand my own identity in such a fruitful way. After reading her book I began to gain a better sense of why I work the way I do and why my heritage is so engrained in me. It was a beautiful moment for me.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would be a stunt woman, sounds crazy right? I am fascinated with the idea of being a powerful woman who jumps off buildings and gets paid for it, what’s more great than that?
Yvette Mayorga (b. 1991) is a Mexican/American artist known for her sculptural work that is situated within the idea of the “American dream,” and how it has been perpetuated through culture—the white picket fence and sold through the popular media. Yvette’s current project, the Borderland Series (2014), utilizes confection, industrial materials, and the American board game Candy Land as a conceptual framework to juxtaposition with the U.S. and Mexico borderlands. This juxtaposition relates to the artist’s Latina identity as she constructs imagined places which mirror her position between the U.S. and Mexico borderlands. She received her BFA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently an MFA candidate at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.