Dallas Artist Erica Guajardo Is Creating Her Own Lane, And Working With The City As She Does.
Erica Guajardo is a Dallas-based artist, illustrator and printmaker. And, par for the printmaker course, she's interested in the democratization of art. To that end, she's exhibited her work at dozens upon dozens of group shows around town, in every conceivable type of venue.
Over the past 12 months, though, Guajardo has largely stepped away from the pack. She landed her first public art commission from the City of Dallas as part of the Dallas meter project. And now she also has a solo show coming at Epocha in Deep Ellum.
In advance of that show, which kicks off on March 14 and features her 29 Collections collaboration with local designer Jenn Zalesky, Canvassing caught up with Guajardo to talk about her project with the city, her overall drive and her advice to her fellow up-and-coming artists here in town.
When I first met you, I remember thinking “This young lady is a hustler!” Can you tell me a little bit about how that attitude has related to your art and your career?
Hustling, to me, is a way to get noticed. It shows that you have confidence and passion for the product that you are pushing. For many years, I created art alone and hidden away. About four years ago, I had someone enter my life that looked at my hidden pieces with amazement. He mentioned that I had talent, and that I shouldn't keep it hidden. I stepped out for the first time and realized that he was right — I am talented. I learned in the process that I could make connections, I could make money and I could learn how to improve my craft on a professional level. There are many artists out there, that don't know where to start. This push taught me that you start with a smile, a handshake, and take as many opportunities as you can, regardless of if they are prestigious or not. You can be surprised what you will learn from an underground artist when you are open to it.
What was it like working with the City of Dallas on the meter project?
It was eye-opening. I was fortunate enough to work in Deep Ellum. Here, I experienced many different personalities: From the homeless to the trendy hipsters, everyone seemed to have an opinion on what the city was trying to accomplish with a project like this. I believe projects like the meter project are seen as a positive view on what graffiti and street art can offer.
You have a distinctive imagery that often reoccurs in your work. Where does it come from and does it have any particular meaning to you?
The imagery that reoccurs is based off of past personal experiences. I believe that everyone has monsters in their life that guide their decisions. Regardless if they are monsters that represent your shopping addiction or your drug addiction, these monsters influence who you are. As scary as some monsters in our lives may be, we all have to eventually face them. I choose to use art therapy as my form of expression.
What made you want to shift away from printing your images on paper?
Just to clarify: I currently still print on paper. But what I have learned is that you can push your creativity when producing a 3D piece. I am a person who likes to tinker and understand how things are made. It draws my attention when the product can be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Having a background in interior design, one of the first things that I learned was Louis Sullivan's “Form follows function” quote.
How did the collaboration with Jenn Zalesky come about?
Jenn and I met over “pancakes and booze.” This diva showed me her drive for creating a product with her own hands. After examining her handbags, which she was producing, I mentioned that we should create a product together to see what would happen. This is how 29 Collection was born. Jenn and I , as a duo, would juxtapose fine art and fashion with products that could be functional for the everyday person.
How is this upcoming show at Epocha different from previous shows you've been in?
It's different than previous shows that I have been apart of because it focuses more like a solo exhibition. Although my partner Jenn Zalesky is a main part of the show, the illustrations that are featured on the handmade handbags, artwork and curating is mainly my design. I have had the pleasure of curating shows in the past at galleries, night clubs and underground parties, but Epocha is where local artist represent Dallas' new era. This month, Epocha is representing the baes.
What advice would you give to your fellow creatives?
To be open to all possibilities and to never pass up an opportunity. Remember that some great ideas are born when you create with someone as creative as you. Always remember you're not better than anyone else, just different.
You can catch Erica and Jenn at Epocha this Saturday, March 14, from 8 to 11:30 p.m.
• “Some Good Luck on Friday the 13th” by Luis Moya at Plaza of Americas from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• “Depraved Documentations” by Eliana Miranda at Ro2 Art Downtown from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• “Middle of Nowhere” by Ava DuVernay at South Dallas Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m.
• “New Landscapes” by Mark Tribe at Zhulong Gallery from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• “Plane Intersection” by Kate Colin at 500X from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• “Things” by Tim Harding at 500X from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• “#COED” by Josh Reames and Amber Renaye at OFG.XXX from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• “Static Bustle, Patterns achieved through repetitive processes” at White Space Gallery from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
• “29 Collection” by Erica Guajardo at Epocha from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.