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Burke Residency 5: Luis Zavala Tapia

Written by Emma McFarland

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Posted on November 28 2020

Luis Zavala Tapia
Emma: Hi Luis, I’m thrilled we get to have this opportunity to converse, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your beautiful work, what inspires you, and the focus of your artistic practice.
Luis: Hello Emma. The pleasure is mine. My name is Luis and I am an artist who is currently focused on creating uplifting images that hopefully leave in you an impression of fun and play. I am interested in art as therapy as well as creating space for wonder. The recent body of work, Margins is about that space we leave in the middle when we sweep everything to the side. When we clean and take inventory of our lives and are left with this void. But the void is not emptiness. It is instead a clean space, like a decluttered livingroom, an invitation to fill this newly found space with something new. I think we had to do this alot this year with how we spend our time and letting go of things that no longer served us. At the same time, I am working on a body of work that shares a similar idea but in the form of a vessel. The series is entitled Vessels and it promotes the idea that this year we are vessels sprouting from within, out and allowing room for new things. I can't wait to share that soon. I am very much inspired by the bold colors of my neighborhood in the streets of Guanaguato, Mexico as well as the tropics and ancient art.
E:  I first encountered your work through the murals you painted for BYOLB & Burke during the uprisings against police brutality this summer. Could you talk about community engagement and its relationship to your art practice? I’d also be interested to know if this relationship has changed or evolved for you during the course of this immensely challenging year.
L:  Absolutely. As an introvert, I've found no better outlet than to create something larger than me outdoors. I feel as though there are parts of me which have been foaming at the mouth with the need to express myself in larger spaces. Painting both of those murals was for me my intro to community engagement in the way that I know. Prior to this I'd say I was always at the cusp of engaging but not knowing how. Painting about "solidarity" and "black lives matter" wasn't just about me, my views and thoughts but especially that of the businesses too and what that represents is that we are united and that we care deeply about creating change. It was a beautiful thing and it 100% contributed to my later inclusion into Compound Long Beach's poster collaboration. To see my work representing issues that matter and voices that need to be heard is exactly what appeals to me about community engagement and my art.
Luis Zavala Tapia
E:  As a follow-up question, I saw that you started a month-long drawing challenge on Instagram, #drawvember, and have also started a portrait project on the platform called “Unmasked Portraits.” Could you talk a little about social media engagement and how you interface with it as an artist? Has this changed at all for you since of the pandemic?
L:  It's a sort of necessity these days, isn't it? I try to utilize it as I would a pencil or a brush. It's just a tool to get the message across. To create discourse and dialogue about this thing that we do in life and what amounts to precious opportunities for connection. Both #dravember and #unmaskedportraits are tentacles with which one can then also connect with different sectors of our lives. Instagram has definitely changed the game for me as it relates to how I connect to others and during this pandemic it has further confirmed for me our need, our want to remain connected in the midst of separation. In some crazy way, I think the internet was created for this specific thing, a pandemic. Think where we will be without it? Now. if we could have just used it in a way to be more prepared.
E:  On your website, you connect your art practice to a contemplation on representation; I love how you wrote about your artwork as exploring “the importance of being seen as our own selves in a world where many feel unseen or misrepresented as a way to encourage ways of healing and attaining self-autonomy.” Could you elaborate about how you access and inspire healing and self-autonomy through art?
L: What I mean by that is that within ourselves there's often a struggle to see ourselves for who we are. Yes, we are not blind to our faults but when that's all we see at times, well that's not the whole picture, is it? No, we are that but we are also amazing machines of change. Yes, we struggle, we adapt but boy are we also sentimental, lord knows I am the worst. Creating is my way of taking off the leash to the parts of me that otherwise would be stuck behind a desk at an office. But today, there's no desk or office or jobs for that matter. Healing begins when we can see ourselves as we truly are, at least in the tiny little speckle of the universe that is our mind, where it truly matters. I want that for me. I want that for everyone and I think art in its many mediums is by far the best way to open the doors to that possibility because it reflects back into the world who we are, makers. Makers of our lives.
Luis Zavala Tapia
E:  We have all been moving through so much personally and collectively this year—what is bringing you joy and healing these days?
L:  Cooking. I roasted potatoes the other night and I swear I thought I'd invented potatoes. Nothing better than preparing a meal, eating it and leaving the kitchen spotless. Rest too. I grind so hard at times throughout my day that resting has become essential. Especially after all those walks. Lots of walks and running too. Lastly, in a world filled with masks, non-verbal cues. 
E:  Finally, is there anything you’d like to share? A funny story from your day? Your favorite song or poem lyrics? A train of thought that has been occupying you lately?
L: Well, since you ask. Yes. It had to do with running. A few weeks back I ran to rent a movie at the video store and to drop off a letter. Then I had to run back to return the movie five days later, when I remembered. Now I know why I don't rent movies from the video store anymore, I hate running but I also love it.
Luis Zavala Tapia
E:  Thank you again, Luis. I can’t wait to see more of your work at Burke!
L:  Thank you, Emma. Ok. But wear your mask!

*Photo credit goes to @jensosa and @_daniellearmstrong

Shop Luis' pieces HERE available in the shop through January 2021. 

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