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Meet the Makers | Anna Sofia Amezcua

Hi everyone!

For May’s ::Meet the Makers:: edition of the newsletter, I’m proud/happy/grateful to introduce to you visiting teacher, Anna Sofia Amezcua. Anna Sofia is returning to All Hands on Sunday, June 9th for another one of her transformative Embodied Abstract Painting workshops. I took her workshop the last time she visited us from Eureka, California. It was delightful, challenging and intriguing all at once. She helped us use movement, meditation and mindfulness to paint freely and boldly. And if color particularly stimulates, inspires and heals you, look no further than this workshop for an amazing experience of creative expansion.

Below are Anna Sofia’s thoughtful and thought provoking responses to questions I asked her about her life as an artist. Enjoy!

Kendra

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What is one of your earliest memories of making something with your hands?

I don’t have a direct answer for that but I think it’s funny that a lot of the art I made as a child was sooo uptight and perfectionistic! I think part of the reason I paint the way I do is that I work against that tendency - I think it’s actually a big creative resource for me - to work from a “the obstacle is the way” perspective. It gives me something to push against, respond to, and interact with.

How did you begin your current creative practice?

My current creative practice started around 20 years ago. I was attending Sarah Lawrence College, thinking I was going to be a writer, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Through a support group I was attending with my parents, I was introduced to Anna Halprin and her work, in which she uses movement (aka dance) and art for self-expression and healing. When my mom died a few months later, I decided to wait a year before I returned to college. During that time I worked at a restaurant and took every workshop I could at the Tamalpa Institute, the school founded by Anna and her daughter Daria, for movement-based expressive arts therapy. I discovered that moving my body with intention and attention gave me deep insights into my emotional landscape and helped me heal, and it also provided access to a creative source within me that is always full and always accessible. Regardless of what is happening in the moment, there is always creative guidance and material for expression, growth and healing. When I went back to school for my final year, I auditioned for the dance program and spent that year focused on painting and dance. I found that what I struggled to express in writing came more easily with painting, and that physically moving my body directly and indirectly informed my work. When I finished school the only thing that made sense to me was to find a way to keep painting, moving and dancing. Throughout the years I have explored different facets of movement and the body through my work: my experience of moving through the world in a female body; sensuality; sexuality; gendered assumptions; the gender spectrum; the body of the earth and how we/I physically and emotionally relate to, connect with, and echo it’s experience; trauma; gesture; the body and art as metaphor for life.

What do you enjoy the most about your art?

I love that making art has the effect of making the way I experience the world around me more colorful, vivid and vibrant. I love seeing people inspired to live their lives more creatively because they see me doing it.

What have been some challenges you faced in your practice and how did/do you face them?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is validating the aspects of my practice that don’t look like painting but that are crucial to my creative practice. Slowing down, doing nothing, daydreaming, puttering, napping, going for walks, lying in the sun, playing with my dog, cleaning, dancing, looking, seeing, thinking, loving. What I have learned is that my whole life is my process and my practice, and the more I can hold and honor that, the more successful I am.

How has your cultural heritage informed your practice?

I am Latinx and for me that is a term that inherently indicates being bicultural. I am half Mexican, but not Chicana, which is a quite different socio-cultural experience. On my dad’s side, I am first generation. My dad is from Mexico City, of Spanish, Basque and Indigenous decent. My mom was from California, of English and Irish decent, and spent time in England in her childhood. I grew up in predominantly culturally white communities, feeling very Mexican/other, and in Mexico feeling very Gringa. I pass for white, and I also get labeled as generically ‘exotic’. I have never felt American enough nor Mexican enough. I have generally experienced myself as ‘too’ intense and emotional, and I think some of that could be cultural. I see my work as embracing the liminal spaces I exist in - female bodied, Latinx, mixed, other, too feminine, too masculine, not feminine enough. One of my intentions in my work is to validate experiences of living and being that are culturally sidelined.

Is there anything on the horizon that you're excited about?

I am really excited to paint more murals! I’ll be painting one this summer in Eureka, and am hoping to line up more soon. I love the physicality of it and the opportunity as a woman and a Latinx to take up space in public. It feels subversive to a system in need of change to bring powerful, emotional, feminine experience to the public sphere.

How do you nurture and sustain your creativity?

Self-care, self-care, self-care! I know this is an overused catch-phrase that has simultaneously lost it’s meaning and taken on lots of problematic associations in conversations around privilege, but I see it as a radical way of life. It requires deep questioning of the reigning Cult of Productivity, and tolerating the friction that not conforming to standards and norms creates. Making art requires that I be physically and mentally strong (and emotionally strong too, although often that gets worked out in the process!). I have to take good care of myself because when I don’t, I can’t make good work or make work at all. Always return to and trust the process. When I feel blocked or stuck, I know that I can return to my body and movement for information and creative source material. I know that if I allow myself the time and space and materials to work, and I just Make Work, something good will eventually emerge.
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PS. You will be able to sign up for Anna Sofia’s June 9th workshop by this time next week. In the meantime, go to www.allhandsworkshops.com to sign up for a May workshop! (Perhaps gift a mother in your life a handmade journal, some sashiko mending skills or a custom tea blend?) 🙌✨


PPS. Yes, the logo evolution continues… 😅