Maria de Los Angeles brings her art back home for Santa Rosa show
For Maria de Los Angeles, a Santa Rosa artist now living and working in New York, it’s a thrill to open her first major solo museum exhibit in her old hometown this weekend, but she wants everyone to know that it’s not just about her.
“Tierra de Rosas,” opening Saturday at the Museum of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa, features new works by de Los Angeles, including 10 paintings, three sculptures and an installation displaying more than 300 drawings as well as dresses made by the artist.
“This is my first official museum show here,” she said. “This is a very intense show. It’s probably my largest exhibition. I’m excited to have everyone come and see the work, and we have a group exhibition opening as well.”
The show’s companion exhibit, “A Way of Life,” co-curated by de Los Angeles and the museum’s executive director, Jeff Nathanson, is devoted to work by 10 other artists who have influenced her, including Maria’s husband, multimedia artist Ryan Bonilla.
“Ryan and I are collaborating,” she explained. “He’s doing a series of over 100 Polaroid photos of me and my work and our trips and our life.”
Another artist represented in the companion show is Jack Leissring of Santa Rosa, who displayed de Los Angeles’ work when she was still a young student here.
“He had my work in art shows in his studio downtown, and he held fundraisers for my education every year that I was in school,” she recalled. “I’m really grateful for all of the support I’ve had from the community in my career, my education and my art over the years. I never would have thought I would achieve what I have. ”
In the decade since she left Santa Rosa, de Los Angeles, now 31, is establishing an international reputation as an artist, but she has never forgotten her beginnings.
“Maria’s artwork reflects her deep appreciation of her community and the support that has been significant to her development as an artist,” Nathanson said.
Born in Mexico, de Los Angeles crossed the border to California with her family in 1999 when she was 11, and the family settled in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa, which was then still an unincorporated part of Sonoma County.
Lawrence Cook School
She attended Lawrence Cook Middle School and Elsie Allen High School before graduating from Santa Rosa High and going on to the Santa Rosa Junior College.
She went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute in New York City in 2013 and a master of fine arts degree in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2015.
The combination of her personal experience and her education give de Los Angeles a unique range as an artist, taking her beyond ethnic folk art.
“I don’t think I can separate my experience from identity as an artist. I don’t know Mexico as much as I know California and specifically Sonoma County,” she said.
“It’s not just Latino. Santa Rosa comes through in my work more than Mexico. It’s also modeled by New York life,” she added.
“Some of the expressionist painters, like Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner inform how I create my compositions. My work now is a sample of all my life.”
Qualified for DACA
While at Yale, as an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child, or “Dreamer,” de Los Angeles qualified for coverage under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allowed her to travel to ?Italy and Greece to study art there.
Now she is more cautious about travel as political proponents and opponents of the program contest its future.
The artist does deal with the immigrant experience in some of her work and has played an activist role, but at the moment that’s not foremost on her mind.
“There’s a lot of conversation about immigration, but I’m not trying to focus on that right now,” she said. “I try to focus on my work.”
And this weekend, that means the Santa Rosa exhibit, for which she has created new work.
“All of the paintings are all new. I made them especially for this show,” she said.
“The dresses I’ve done over the past few years, and the drawings are ongoing. I have over 1,500 drawings in a sketchbook project of mine. They’re political cartoons and social commentary.”
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.