Hispanic Heritage Month: Artist Liz Flores

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsProfoundly influenced by her cultural upbringing and the women in her life, Liz Flores garnered deserved attention for her portrayal of the female experience with her earthy tones and abstract figures. Born to Mexican and Cuban parents, Flores has built a successful visual arts career in Chicago with large-scale murals and brand collaborations with the likes of Lululemon, Lysol, and the Chicago Bears. Recently, her work can be found as part of the Picasso: Fifty Years Later exhibition at the Elmhurst Art Museum. “It’s surreal,” said artist Liz Flores. “To see his name and work on one side to then see my name and work on the other is truly unbelievable. I am so grateful to be able to display my work as part of this exhibit.” In this week’s Hispanic Heritage Month series we highlight artist and muralist Liz Flores who discusses the importance of finding your identity and taking a leap of faith.

Lawndale Bilingual News: How were you introduced to the arts?

Liz Flores: Well, I wanted to be a comic book artist and I would do drawings of Pokémon and other characters. My dad bought me a book about how to draw human bodies, like spider-man and I became obsessed with it. I would practice and do all the little exercises that came in the drawing book, and I loved it. I just always liked making little things and being creative. I took art classes all through high school. Then I stopped during college. You know how you are just trying to survive, and I picked it back up after I graduated. I started my corporate job and thought this was going to be my life. I quickly realized that was a mistake. I didn’t like my corporate life [laughs]. I needed to figure something out, I felt so lost. So, I decided to return to the arts as a side project just to help me get through my life and then that just snowballed. I also went online and saw there was a whole community of artists doing this for a living and I thought how I could do it for a living. I worked on it for three years while I was at my corporate job until I left.

Lawndale Bilingual News: Were your parents nervous?

Liz Flores: Oh my God, my parents tried to act like they were on board, but they weren’t [laughs]. I was still living at home, and I went to my dad’s office and felt like I was 13yrs-old telling him I had a bad grade. I was so nervous. I told him I put my two weeks notice in and he was like, “what?” He called in my mom, and I told them I was quitting my corporate job to do art full-time, and it got quiet. They were worried, but I told them that I would figure it out.

Lawndale Bilingual News: How scary was it for you to take that leap of faith? To quit your corporate job and jump into an entirely new career?

Liz Flores: Honestly, so I am the big sister, I’m the oldest. My dad is Mexican, my mom is Cuban, I have always been the rule follower. That has been my identity. So, working in a corporation, I mean, that was my parents dream for me. I just think after three years of being in a corporation I couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t present and I got to a point where I realized I must do what I want to do. It was nerve wracking at first, but I knew I could figure it out and if it didn’t work out, I could always go back. It came to a point where I didn’t want to do what everyone else wanted me to do, I had to try pursuing my passion, for me. I had to try.

Lawndale Bilingual News: When did your cultural upbringing begin to influence your paintings?

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Liz Flores: That came later. My mom is from Cuba, my dad is from Chicago, but his parents were born in Mexico. So, it was always interesting to see their dynamic, to learn about their experiences. When I first started out, I had to think about what I wanted to draw and it wasn’t until I got older that I began to think about my identity, who I am as a person, and start to think about where I come from what makes me Liz Flores. Of course, your roots, your traditions, your family, all of that comes into context. As I got older it became less about me and more about those stories and those experiences. In the beginning, I was painting figures, solely figures and it was difficult to tell stories. In the past two years I decided to incorporate patterns that I grew up with, more objects like faces, different vessels, and mirrors. I felt like before the women where more androgynous, and then I started to add more hair and braids. I feel like all of that, as I progressed, the artwork has become more intimate and telling more of a personal story rather than a generic story.

Lawndale Bilingual News: What does it feel like to have a lot of support, primarily from women who feel a visceral connection to your work?

Liz Flores: It makes me so happy. It feels like I have done my job. It feels like I did it, that’s what I wanted, that’s what I came here to do. Of course, at the end of the day I want to make a painting that I want to make, but when it reaches people, I am so grateful. It means so much. At the end of the day, besides the act of creating, that’s what we are trying to do as artists, we are trying to reach the right people with our work and have a reaction to it.

Lawndale Bilingual News: Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?

Liz Flores: That is such a good question. I would love to do more international work. So, I have a show next year in Rome. I would love more opportunities like that. I just love to travel, and I always thought it would be cool if my artwork got me to travel. I, also, would love to do a show in Mexico City. I went to Cuba last year with my family and I would really love to do something in Cuba, a mural project or something. That would be a dream. I would love to continue working with galleries and pushing the needle.

Lawndale Bilingual News: As we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Latinos what does Hispanic Heritage Month signify to you?

Liz Flores: I love all the support we show to each other, and I love that we always cheer each other on. Some of the richness, the color has always been an inspiration to my paintings. The Spanish language feels so special when you speak with someone, it’s this secret connection. There is so much love within our community and spirit that I love to see and am grateful to have in my life.

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