Stumbling through Instagram one evening we were alerted to a striking illustrated portrait of the iconic artist Frida Kahlo. Like most Frida images that circulate the Internet, this rendition was unlike the others. It felt pure. The portrait was done by Angélica Becerra, another bold Mexican artist. Sleuthing through her IG we encountered several other pieces of her artwork featuring brave women of color. What makes Becerra’s work unique is in her choice of materials: watercolor. The pieces are rich in color, and the portraits are adjoined with a poignant quote by the subject. Coming of age in the United States, Becerra's own life can be seen in her artwork.
Becerra’s love of art came naturally, perhaps because she comes from a family of artisans and was raised to be creative in her hometown of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of 10 she and her family immigrated to the United States and her accessibility to art changed a bit.
“I realized in high school that art was a natural and inevitable outlet in times of stress and isolation,” Becerra says. “I began to make art every day, not as a hobby but as a necessary almost instinctive need to feel connected to home.”
Although Becerra says that her family always encouraged her artwork, pursuing that craft full-time was a quite a different story. She says her mother and immediate family saw her artistic pursuit as a hobby, and “even those members of my extended family who pursued art did so with a healthy dose of realism and a day job.
“I was never told to stop painting or that it would be impossible [to make a living off of it],” Becerra says. “Instead my mother reminded me that if I wanted to pursue art, I needed to do it in a way that was sustainable and conscientious.”
Becerra applied her love of art and social causes and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Chicana/o studies and is a teaching assistant at UCLA.
“My activism has taken on different forms over the years due to my own coming of age and of political consciousness,” Becerra says. “Pursuing a degree in Chicana/o studies has allowed me to learn of the social movements that led to civil rights movements in the U.S., but also of how much work needs to be done still to combat the social inequality of people of color in the U.S. as a whole.”
“For me, political consciousness is twin skin to my art.”
Becerra says that her ultimate goal is to become a professor and to never stop creating art.
"My hope is that my work is affirming, empowering, and healing for anyone who comes into contact with it," Becerra says. In the piece on Sylvia Rivera from the “Palabra” series (the images seen in this article), Becerra says she chose to depict women who have been influential for her as a queer woman of color.
"The tireless work of figures such as Rivera, a Puerto Rican trans woman who was not just present but a key participant in the Stonewall riots, often cited as one of the first moments in the LGBT civil rights movement is going to touch people in different ways," Becerra says.
"I hope those of us who are part of these multiple communities learn about these figures and honor them as elders. The academic in me wants my art to be educational but also a way to remember our worth and our magic."
“Making this work puts me in a very vulnerable position, letting others know what it is that influences me deeply, but at the same time my hope is that we support artists and makers while they are still alive, and help them thrive," Becerra says.
Currently Becerra is working on a painting feminist scholar bell hooks for her “Revolutionary Love notes Series,” as well as her “own hometown sister” and Frida contemporary Maria Izquierdo, a painter from the 1930s that deeply influenced her.
We asked her what it's like to create such incredible artwork and have others be moved by it. She responded beautifully and poetically, saying, "It’s hard to describe, but the closest feeling I can liken it to is that moment when you see an old friend after a long time and there is that instant of recognition, of comfort. So when others are moved by it, it makes me feel like putting myself out there is worth it, it is connection on a deeper level."
For more information on Becerra and how to purchase her artwork, please visit her website at: angelicabecerra.bigcartel.com/