I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. Actually, I haven’t been recognizing much of anything, lately. The world today looks more like a horrific description of a slow-motion apocalypse than it does a progressive society. Black Americans are still being hunted by police- with our money. Innocent families suffering in their homelands are being separated at the U.S- Mexico border Babies are being kept in cages. Lately, in a show of an absolutely ridiculous obsession for power, the U.S threatened various nations to stop endorsing breastfeeding. That’s our reality. And while we are constantly being bombarded with sad news, everyday people like this artist Harmonia Rosales are keeping us afloat, giving us balance, and holding it together by simply following their purpose. Meet Latinx artist Criselda Vasquez…
An Ode To La Resistencia in Brush Strokes
Criselda Vasquez is a painter. Perhaps accidentally, she is also an activist. Criselda went to The San Francisco Art Institute to study art. By trade and by profession she is an artist. In her paintings, Criselda accurately captures the faces of her family and those closest to her. In each brush stroke, each shadow, each touch of a different shade on her subjects’ faces tells a story of a hard life full of sacrifice and fight – a relatable pain most immigrants face as they leave loved ones, parents, and children alike, for a better life.
In the image above, titled It’s Been Years Since I’ve Seen His Face, Criselda paints her grandmother and her great aunt. The original photograph she took and used as a template for the painting was taken when she visited Mexico for the first time in 2015. In her Instagram caption, Criselda shares her inspiration is found in the poetic balance of both happiness and sadness as her grandmother weeps after seeing her grandchildren for the first time. She continues to describe her grandmother as a strong single woman who lost her husband in her 30s, standing short of 5 feet, wakes up at six in the morning, makes her tortillas from scratch, feeds her animals, and hikes up various hills to grow her corn.
In the painting, we see our realities. We see our abuelas. We see our tias. We see a bit of where we come from too.
“The New American Gothic” Is A Reminder of The Quiet Warriors Still Thriving
When Criselda posted her The New American Gothic oil painting in May of last year, we all instantly became captivated by the message (her following grew from hundreds to over 7-thousand) the emotion and the honesty behind the painting. In the masterpiece, Criselda powerfully catches her mother and her father’s expressions after a long day of work. As they hold cleaning supplies and stand in front of a red Chevy truck, her mother looks strong yet gentle and graceful while her father is focused and serious- perhaps the beautiful combination and balance that has helped carry the family through many obstacles. In her Instagram caption, Criselda pays homage to her parents not only through her paintings but through her words. She expressed “Sadly, they strive to be invisible every day. They don’t have to pretend to illustrate the invisible. They have dealt with constant rejection, suspicion, and fear so long, that it seems now that it comes naturally to them”.
The Latinx artist has been praised and bought by many including the founders of Undocumedia and comedian/actor George Lopez. It has been hailed as a representation of not only the suffering of our people, but also the quiet, harmless, and gentle fight behind their need to have a better life. Criselda reminds us that it is those with a modest life path that need to be applauded for their resilience. While they fight to find better, they don’t do it with the intention of harming anyone else. They are accepting of their current circumstances without giving up hopes for better ones in the future. They have the unbreakable spirits and they should be applauded for surviving against all odds.
Through her talent, Latinx artist Criselda has become a voice that represents the struggle of many undocumented immigrants, many laborers, many oppressed communities. Her work has become the image of the humble necessity to carry on- a quiet and pure resilience that goes by unnoticed, un-reported, and un-applauded in today’s noisy world of media and opinion.
Criselda Vasquez’s art reminds us that while the world falls apart, it is our purpose and our celebration of one another that will uplift us and remind us that, indeed, we are the unbreakable ones.