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These Young Nicaraguan Women Are Pushing Back Against State Violence Through The Power Of Art

The Nicaraguan people are living through its largest uprising since the end of its civil war in the 1990s. For the last month, protests, led by students, the elderly and workers, have been held to voice opposition to President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista government’s policies, violations of the constitution and overall dictatorial tendencies.

The demonstrations have been met with violent state repression. According to La Prensa Nicaragua, more than four media outlets were shut down or heavily censored by the government and currently 85 people have been killed and almost 1,000 have been injured throughout the Central American country. To stay informed, many people are receiving news updates by following the stories of Nicaraguan citizens through trending hashtags, like #SOSNicaragua #SOSINSS and #QueSeRindaTuMadre.

In these times, art, which has the power to educate and empower, has been used to spread awareness and challenge injustice. FIERCE spoke with Nicaraguan and Nicaraguan-American women who are using art to say, “Ya Basta.” Here, four artists who have created powerful illustrations and poetry that help us visualize the beauty and power behind Nicaragua’s current and historical resistance.

Darcy

Darcy, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her from being censured and targeted by the government, is an illustrator and designer originally from Bluefields, Nicaragua and now living in Managua, the nation’s capital. Her most popular illustration, which shows a young woman with the Nicaraguan flag and emblem stating “Nicaragua Libre” across her face and blood dripping from her brow, has been widely shared by people in and outside of the country. That piece, which shows us how the threat of violence and hypervigilance are the real risks that many Nicaraguan youth are facing as they engage in protests around the country, and one of an inflamed cola bottle, which makes the connection between today’s protests and a well-known photo of a Sandinista revolutionary during the 1970s that was fighting against the brutal Somoza regime, have circulated internationally and are even used as posters and default profile pictures on social media for the youth leading current protests.

A college student studying graphic design, Darcy’s art urges the international community to focus on accessing and broadly sharing information from credible news sources from the people of Nicaragua and reputable international outlets. Noting that art and political spaces are heavily run by men, Darcy’s art moves away from this by centering women who are at the forefront of social change.

Gabriela Alemán

CW/TW: Violence, Blood, Abuse Journalists, students & the elderly in Nicaragua are victims of violence inflicted by the government following arbitrary reforms on the social security system. SIGN THE PETITION (link in bio) ! DENOUNCE THE VIOLENCE, DENOUNCE THE CENSORSHIP & STAND IN SOLIDARITY ! – "No se rendirán.Nicaragua se levanta en momentos de opresión, Nicaragua se levanta en momentos de abuso, Nicaragua se levanta para defender y apoyar el pueblo." – Papá Alemán – @anaiscat & I have been working closely to come up with a phrase and graphic to show our solidarity with the ???????? PEOPLE. In a time when the government is shutting down news outlets for hours at a time, we ask you to use your platforms! PLEASE use the hashtag #SOSNicaragua & #SOSINSS

A post shared by Gabriela Alemán (@smugmorenita) on

Gabriela Alemán is a queer Nicaraguan-Salvadoran artist born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District. Her art, which often features #CentralAmericanHeroes who are largely overlooked in history, is inspired by the women in her life, including her mother, her sisters from the folklore group Chavalos Danzas por Nicaragua and the women at the forefront of Nicaragua’s struggle for freedom, like Francisca “Chica” Ramirez.

Alemán, 23, reminds us that the fight Nicaraguan students are taking on was in many ways built on the existing struggle led by Nicaragua’s indigenous people, Afro-Nicaragüenses and campesinos who have been leading caravans of protesters from the Atlantic to the Pacific for more than four years to protest violations to human rights and the constant threat of destruction of natural resources and sovereign lands.  

On April 21, Alemán created “Nicaragua Se Levanta,” a piece that shows two people dressed in trajes tipicos facing the words “Nicaragua Se Levanta” to symbolize the connection between our folklore, our culture and our resistance as Nicaraguans who are no longer afraid.

The following month, on May 30, known as Nicaraguan Mother’s Day, Alemán shared an illustration showing Daniel Ortega and Anastasio Somoza Debayle side by side with the popular protest phrase “Ortega y Somoza son la misma cosa.” Her caption reads, “To the mothers of Nicaragua, you are in the hearts of many organizing & working to amplify the voices of your children. Your child’s right to have a voice, that was unjustly taken away, will not be in vain.” On this day, thousands will meet in Managua’s city center to protest alongside Nicaraguan mothers that lead El Movimiento Madres de Abril to commemorate the lives lost and call the government to justice.

Frida Francela

Frida Francela is a 20-year-old Nicaraguan graphic design student from Masaya, Nicaragua who was in class at her university when the Juventud Sandinista, a group of Nicaraguan youth funded and trained by Ortega’s government, took over the school and forced all students and staff to evacuate. Francela, along with hundreds of students, ran out of campus and found herself trapped behind barricades on Wednesday, April 18, the day that sparked demonstrations around the country led by the elderly, university students and other Nicaraguan activists.

After this experience, Francela decided it was time to use her position as an artist to share with the world what is happening in Nicaragua. Living in Masaya, one of the most politically active and resistant cities of Nicaragua, she saw firsthand how the government’s repression has sought to silence Nicaraguans seeking justice and accountability.

Her work combines images of activists, Nicaraguan landmarks and popular phrases promoting hope and unity. Most recently, she created an illustration of a single candle that reads, “Nos Faltan 70+” which is inspired by Nicaraguan singer Ceshia Ubau’s song “Una Vela,” commemorating all those that have been murdered for speaking out against the government. Nicaragua is in constant struggle and mourning, and Francela’s black and white art allows us to commemorate that fight and the lives lost in the lucha.

Anaís Catalina González

Anaís Catalina González is a Nicaraguan writer from Los Angeles that draws her roots from the small town of Posoltega in the department of Chinandega. González’s writing is heavily influenced by her time in Nicaragua as a child and experiencing Ortega’s re-election, listening to folklore with her family and taking in their narratives about life in Nicaragua during  the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her most recent pieces are inspired by the words of her family, “Nicaragua se carga en el corazón,” and her commitment to speaking about the injustices faced in Nicaragua. She powerfully describes the reality of Nicaraguans waking up to news of more deaths and another mother who lost her child to this struggle with, “Cada noche que cierro mis ojos, al despertar sangre inocente corre entre las calles del pueblo. Mil llantos de madre resuenan, por tener en sus brazos a un hijo sin aire, sin palpitaciones.”

The 22-year-old’s poetry bridges our nostalgia, resistance and hopes for a better future in Nicaragua.

These women, and the other Nicaraguan and Nicaraguan-American femmes using art as a tool for change, speak, create and resist with their art and demand that we no longer remain silent as we witness murders, marches and failed attempts at dialogue with Ortega’s regime. It’s time for us to listen, to feel and to bear witness to the Nicaraguan people’s lucha.

Read: From Fed Up Teens To Mourning Mothers To Angry Celebs, This Is How Nicaraguan Women Are Fighting Back Against Political Violence

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This Houston Artist is Bringing a Touch of Whimsy to Her Hometown

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This Houston Artist is Bringing a Touch of Whimsy to Her Hometown

Art is often the manifestation of our emotions. It manifests the artist’s intentions and projects them onto the audience. Though we don’t all experience art in the same way, the visceral reaction we have to an especially moving work of art is universal. Through the lens of its artist, art makes us hope, feel as well as heal. For Texas-based Mexican-American artist Shelbi Nicole, the desire to share these feelings with her audience is what drives her to create.

Named one of Houston’s Top Ten artists back in 2014, Nicole is a Texas transplant originally from Oklahoma City. Using bold color and shapes, it’s her goal to put feel-good vibes out into her community. Working in a mix of media but a painter at heart, Nicole’s work can be seen all over her adopted home. Whether it’s through murals, in private and public art collections or through her newest interactive art installation, this artist is committed to drama and whimsy.

Recently, FIERCE caught up with Nicole to talk about the intention behind her lively art and see her latest installation.

For Shelbi Nicole, art was an instinctive passion to pursue even from an early age.

Instagram / @fiftyshadesofelishagray

In fact, the medium of painting became a therapeutic tool that helped the artist evolve into the woman she is.

“I have enjoyed creating since I was very young, which was when I discovered my love for painting,” Nicole told FIERCE. “I suffered from depression and found the benefits of painting to be extremely therapeutic. Painting has tremendously helped me combat depression and in a lot of ways been essential to my well being. Once I discovered the impact painting had on my life, I wanted to identify first and foremost as an artist.”

Drawn to abstract forms, Nicole traveled to France at 18 to study her craft. Exploring the numerous art museums Europe has to offer, she grew into herself as an artist. Her search to find her own voice as an artist took her to Miami. There, the vibrant colors of the South Florida Latinidad inspired her and made their way into her permanent color palette. Having found her signature style utilizing abstract shapes and vibrant colors, Nicole made her way to the University of Houston for her formal education.

“I think my constant exposure to so many different cultures has influenced my work,” Nicole explained. “Especially being back in Houston, the most diverse city in the U.S.”

Since then, Nicole has been a cornerstone of the local Houston art scene, literally leaving her mark all over the city.

Instagram / @shelbinicoledesigns

Putting her skills as a mural artist to the test, Nicole beautifies the Houston Metro through her work with Mini Murals. Mini Murals is a multi-city project aimed at bringing color to unsuspected places utilizing electrical boxes as mural space. The pop of unexpected art that these pieces bring to local neighborhoods is completely on message for this dynamic artist. With her mix of abstract and geometric shapes and bold use of color, Nicole has contributed a dozen mini murals to Houston.

Aside from her many projects with her own design firm, Nicole has collaborated with everyone from local artists to big name corporations.

Instagram / @shelbinicole
Houston Press / Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

“The last two years of my life have been some of my most successful, thus far, with my art endeavors,” Nicole proudly shared. Last December, the artist teamed up with jewelry designer Kendra Scott to create the “Korridor.” Next to the Kendra Scott jewelry store in the posh community of Rice Village, the bright mural space is a combination of Nicole’s colorful sensibilities and Scott’s elegant forms.

Another such collaboration matched Nicole with the largest rodeo in the world. The tremendous Texas event — once headlined by Selena herself — is also an opprotunity to take in arts and culture. This year, the artist won the opprotunity to paint in her own style a 6-foot tall ceramic boot for the Rodeo’s Boot Row. Nicole is only one of six artists chosen to execute a design for this piece that lines the Rodeo’s entrance.

Still, perhaps one of Nicole’s biggest collabs have been with coffee giant Café Bustelo.

Instagram / @shelbinicole

The Cuban coffee company established these pop-ups around the country for some time now. Not only do they bring their bold flavors, the pop-ups also invites emerging Latinx musicians and artists. For Nicole’s project, the people behind the iconic yellow can connected her with fellow Houston artist Gonzo247. At a Café Bustelo pop-up event in Houston’s art district, the two artists worked together to create a unique art piece to embody Latin flavor and culture.

While these accomplishments are impressive in their own right, the project that Nicole is most proud of has been five years in the making.

Instagram / @shelbinicole
Instagram / @thewhimsyworld_

A larger-than-life visual funhouse, Nicole’s newest exhibit — Whimsy World — is a colorful, interactive fantasy world. The exhibit debuted in Houston during February of 2019. It opened to rave reviews as Houstonians explored Shelbi’s brilliant dreamscape.

“What inspired me to create Whimsy World was an intense desire to showcase my work in a solo show that was unconventional and much more interactive,” Nicole explained. “I’d lost interest in traditional art shows and the lack of color in most gallery settings. I wanted people to be able to feel like they’re inside of one of my paintings rather than just standing back and looking at a canvas.”

The multi-experience installation spans several rooms, each with its own touches of magic. From a hand-welded claw foot tub and in-door rain cloud dripping with hundreds of crystals to the abstract paintings spilling over the canvas and onto the studio walls, every inch is art. Even the bathrooms — with their fierce boss lady Beyoncé motif — are a spot worthy of Instagram.

For Nicole, Whimsy World is a culmination of her artistic voice and the joy she hopes her art creates in others.

Instagram / @thewhimsyworld_
Instagram / @whimsyworld_

“I want to encourage everyone to understand the endless possibilities there are, when it comes to how we experience art,” the artist confessed. “It can be a feeling, a moment, a world that you enter that brings joy and elicits feel-good vibes. That is the intention of The Whimsy World and I hope everyone can experience its magic.”

For Nicole, the future is as bright as the art she creates. An extended version of Whimsy World will be debuting in Sugarland, Texas March 15th-April 27th. The installation will include 8+ brand new fixtures. The Sugarland show will also feature a new main attraction — a mirrored art room hand-crafted by the artist. Nicole is also planning to take Whimsy World to audiences beyond Texas.

Shelbi Nicole’s dedication to sharing her positivity and light with the world is evident whenever you see her art. It’s a reminder that through artistic creation, we can share who we are and what we want the world to be.


Read: It’s The Beginning Of The Year And Cardi B and Selena Gomez Have Already Topped Spotify’s Most-Streamed Female Artists

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These Fantastical Book Illustrations By Latinas Are Worthy Of ‘Twilight’ And ‘Harry Potter’ Covers

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These Fantastical Book Illustrations By Latinas Are Worthy Of ‘Twilight’ And ‘Harry Potter’ Covers

Social media has made it even easier for creators to share their art, ideas and techniques with each other and with art fans. Places like Instagram and Twitter are especially great platforms that help get unknown artists seen for the very first time. It is with that in mind that the #VisibleWomen hashtag was started.

Created back in 2016, #VisibleWomen was started by artist Kelly Sue DeConnick. The motivation behind the hashtag started because of the common narrative in the comic industry that there are no female artists. By using the hashtag, Twitter users are declaring that not only are there tons of women artists, but they are just as capable as their male counterparts.

Since it’s inception, #VisibleWomen has regularly trended and provided much deserved exposure to these artistas. The campaign has broadened to include artists of all kinds and from all over the world. There’s no denying the talent of these mujeres — especially the ones hailing from the Latinidad.

Here are 20 very talented Latina artists you’ve just got to check out.

1. Gloria Felix @GloriaFelixArt

Twitter / @Gloriafelixart

A LA-based Mexicana, Gloria Felix is an illustrator and visual development artist. Specializing in character development and environmental rendering, she is a freelancer and background artist at Darker Co. Studios. Felix’s work is embodied by the genuine and expressive characters captured in her slice-of-life illustrations.

2. Geraldine Rodriguez @GeryRdz

Twitter @Geryrdz

If the fantasy of fairy tales is your thing, the artwork of illustrator and digital artist Geraldine Rodriguez is just your speed. The Mexican artist specializes in Children’s Literature illustrations. Represented by Bright Agency, Rodriguez’s art is recognizable through her use of light and the whimsy of her subject matter.

3. Amanda Corona @sanagie

Twitter / @sanagie

With a subject matter and style that draws from pop culture, Mexican artist Amanda Corona brings her flare to freelance illustration. Definitely not afraid of color, her use of bright, complementary tones make her creations pop. Whether enjoying her original creations or her take on your favorite characters, Corona delivers a dynamic piece.

4. Vanessa Morales @phonemova

Twitter / @phonemova

Specializing in strong women and fantastic creatures, Vanessa Morales is a Mexican artist and illustrator. She works in Children’s Literature but also makes comic covers and games. Sporting lots of bright, complimentary color, Morales’ work focuses on fantasy, nature, and her Mexican culture. Be sure to check out her Mayan-inspired take on Sailor Moon.

5. Sofia Davila @sofa_sofiaa

Twitter / @sofa_sofiaa

Puerto Rican sequential artist Sofia Davila specializes in soft colors and highly stylized characters. A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, she creates comics. Check out her comic “Retale” for a peek at her imaginative world and gorgeous characters.

6. @Monarobot

Twitter / @monarobot

Inspired by Mayan mythology and culture, Mexican artist Monarobot brings this aesthetic to all of her art. Located in Chiapas, she often takes recognizable characters from pop culture and gives them a Mayan upgrade. Monarobot also creates original takes on Mayan monsters — all in a style and color palette that will remind you of the lost empire.

7. Fanny Rodriguez @charratastic

Twitter / @charratastic

Mexican illustrator, designer, and writer Fanny Rodriguez mixes fantasy and fairy tale with unique style and bright colors. She currently produces her webcomic “Malicious Magic” but is soon to be published in print. Her graphic novel — “Fantastic Tales of Nothing” — is set to debut in 2020.

8. Alejandra Elena Gámez @themountainwith

Twitter / @themountainwith

Mexican comic artist and illustrator Alejandra Gámez excels at building worlds that are beautifully mythical as well as charmingly strange. She is the author and illustrator behind popular comic “The Mountain With Teeth.” In 2018, she published her first illustrated book — “Más allá de las ciudades” — which portrays an eerie, dream-like take on the world. Gámez is now working on her next book releases.

9. Nicole Janér @njjaner

Twitter / @njjaner

Brazilian illustrator and character designer Nicole Janér is a born story teller. With her cool-toned color palette, her creations portray her appreciation of mysteries and the mystical. It’s hard to tell what we love more: her uniquely stylized character designs or the fanart she creates of our favorite figures.

10. Amber Vucinich @mbrleigh

Twitter / @mbrleigh

It’s easy to recognize a piece created by Chilean-American artist Amber Vucinich. It’s got to have pink, it’s going to be bubbly and there’s a good chance you’ll recognize her subject matter. A storyboard revisionist on Disney’s animated series “Rapunzel’s Tangeled Adventure,” Vucinich has turned her love of fanart into a fulfilling career.

11. Hannah Cardosa @hannahcardosa

Twitter / @hannahcardosa

Freelance illustrator Hannah Cardosa creates her art from her home in Rio Janeiro, Brazil. Working in a limited color palette, Her depictions of the female form are anything but simple. The precise color choices and graceful arrangements found in her work are especially evident in her Mermaid series.

12. Mariana Avila @marinaavilal

Twitter @marianaavilal

Whether it’s Marvel, Star Wars, or Disney, Mexican artist Mariana Avila can create it. The freelance character artist and illustrator creates doe-eyed renditions of some of our favorite pop culture figures. Her seamless pattern works also show a talent that would be at home in Children’s Literature.

14. Karla Díaz @karladiazcomic

Twitter / @karladiazcomic

Chilean comic artist and illustrator Karla Díaz uses her adorably stylized characters to tell the stories of her comic worlds. The creator of comics “Non-Non,” “Coffee Shop” and “Cute Sins,” her work ranges from the cute to the Not Safe For Work. Diáz’s style and work is influenced heavily by Japanese manga and anime.

15. Juliana Motzko @julianamotzko

Twitter / @julianamotzko

Brazil’s Juliana Motzko makes work that she hope’s touches people’s hearts. Represented by the Bright Agency, the illustrator creates whimsical pieces that would be at home in a child’s picture book. If you check out her feed on social media, you’ll notice that Motzko has a soft spot for depicting animals — especially penguins.

16. Monique Alencar @pijamallama

Twitter / @pijamallama

Located in Brazil, Monique Alencar is a talented 2D artist with a knack for dynamic character designs. Specializing in comic covers and concept art, she uses a bright palette and various styles in her illustrations. While she’s very talented at depicting the human form, her illustrations of cats and dogs are what really caught our eye.

17. Karla Alcazar @ohhaikarla

Twitter / @ohhaikarla

Mexican illustrator Karla Alcazar uses a muted color palette, distinct style and delicate figure drawings to tell her stories. Dedicated to drawing girls and plant life, she is interested in editorial work and illustrating for Children’s Literature. Her sweet-faced figures might seem simple at first glance but detail is worked into every inch of her pieces.

18. Isadora Zeferino @imzeferino

Twitter / @imzeferino

With vibrant colors and her charming style, Brazil’s Isadora Zeferino creates worlds full of vivid magic. The freelance artist specializes in comic book covers, graphic novels, and editorial work. Though her Instagram feed is a thing of beauty, her art book is page after page of loveliness you’ll want to get your hands on.

19. Brenda Failache @BreFailache

Twitter / @BreFailche

Brazilian illustrator and 2D game artist Brenda Failache excels both in uncanny fanart and her own personal creations. A freelance illustrator, she loves to illustrate girls, game characters and all things Brazil. Failache also works creating images for educational games and book covers.

20. Victoria Maderna @vmaderna

Twitter / @vmaderna

Argentina’s Victoria Maderna is an illustrator and painter. Often working in gouache, she enjoys painting animals — both real and imaginary. Besides her cute and furry renditions, Maderna also creates comics dealing with the supernatural.


Read:Yalitza Aparicio Brought Her Mother To The Oscars And Other Incredible Things Latinas Did Last Night

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