Sonoma County artists draw on their Latino heritage to create works of art that unite, educate and empower. Whether it’s designing classic cars like Gustavo Mendoza, who found his niche thanks to another Latino artist; helping troubled young people channel their energy into art like Dayana Leon, who draws inspiration from her powerful Latina mother; or building public artworks from twisted metal and fire like Martin Zúñiga, whose sculptures dot Central and Northern California, art is a force for change and reflection. Some of these artists are familiar Sonoma County names, while others are fresh faces just making their mark on the art world. Together, their works represent a sampling of the passion, strength and diversity that Latino artists bring to the art world across the North Coast.
Here’s a look at Dayana Leon, one of these notable artists:
How has your Latina heritage shaped your art?
I moved to Sonoma County when I was 7 months old from Guadalajara, Mexico. As a young Latina immigrant, I witnessed the effects immigration had on my identity. And even when I struggled to fit in, art always had my back.
My subjects don’t fit the Anglo-normative standards of beauty, and so demonstrate that sense of displacement and the desire to reclaim a sense of security. As a Latina, I have come to terms with the idea that identity should be fluid and dynamic. The world is a better place when we erase the need to form a homogeneous culture.
Who is a role model for you?
One of my biggest role models is my mom. As a single mother of three, she has always managed to remain strong. She moved our family to the United States in search of a better life. She has worked so hard all her life to provide for us and now owns her own business. She is tenacious. She taught me to keep fighting and to leave behind what others think.
Favorite quote: “Caminante, no hay puentes, se hace puentes al andar.” (“Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.”) — Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Title: Teaching artist for the Imagine Bus Project at Los Guilicos Juvenile Hall
Type of art: Oil paintings, installations, video and performance art