Mexican American Artist Explores Cultural Identity in New Chinatown Exhibit
Mexican American artist Sofia Enriquez grew up in Coachella Valley, California, and made her colorful debut at the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2019. During the pandemic, Enriquez moved to Honolulu where her latest works respond to being in Hawai'i.
Suave silhouettes and lines that curve like smoke are recurring motifs in the work of Enriquez.
She was making art and working for the music festival in California when the pandemic hit. Then she found herself unexpectedly in Honolulu, a kind of detox.
"And I started to experience—this is going to sound really cheesy—but self-love for the first time, being able to grow and seeing myself in a new environment and trying to just be nicer to myself," she said.
Enriquez began helping out, at Bas, the new design bookshop in Chinatown.
"People are really nice where I live, but it's a different level. It's like I'm going to a family member's house and I don't know who this person is—that's the kind of kindness I'm talking about," she said. "I come from a big Mexican family and it's the same sort of camaraderie and comfort level that I've experienced here with completely different strangers. It's been really good."
Enriquez' shaped canvases are fun on the walls at Bas -- androgynous silhouettes with lowered eyelids, paisleys, plus Mexican Catholic and pop culture imagery. That imagery carries over to Mucho, Enriquez' clothing line that is hand-painted and usually thrift wear and work clothes.
"I take a lot of pride in coming from a working-class environment. My parents came here from Mexico and they were just like, 'What we know how to do is work.' That was their priority. Work, get it done. That's where Mucho came from," Enriquez told Hawaii Public Radio.
"When I graduated college I had three different jobs, freelance teaching, I worked construction, doing all these different things. That's how the workwear started to come into it," Enriquez said. "Learning how to weld from scratch and having to re-learn Spanish as well was a whole thing."
Enriquez' welding eventually led to her break-out piece, Mismo, at Coachella 2019. The towering, multi-hued paisley shapes were popular for selfies.
"Don't Cry in Public," Mucho clothing and paintings by Sofia Enriquez, are on view at Bas Bookshop on Nu'uanu Avenue in Chinatown through the summer.