Photo credit: Mr. Diorable

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Take Five is a new feature asking people ‘how do you do (the things you do)?’

Mission Loc@l: Tell us about your dresses at Artillery Apparel.

Stephanie Marie Echeveste: I try to utilize scrap fabric, buttons, notions, etc. mostly out of necessity but also just to be creative. I create ‘free form dress’ which basically means no patterns are used and I just design around my body and my thoughts… a long process of draping, fitting and setting aside. Now that I have the opportunity to sell things to the public, it’s more about creating a cool, unique piece and having it available if it fits someone else, too.

A lot of my artwork is physical deconstruction of natural products. (I use leaves in my monoprints because they most represent death and life to me.) I’m starting to do more screenprinting on fabric then creating pieces out of that… a great pairing of two favorite art forms.

ML: What made you decide to teach an inter-generational art class at Mission Cultural Center?

SME: Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because they would watch me after school until my parents got home (both worked full time).  A lot of families have similar situations. My grandparents have the best stories that really inform how our world is today — something you can’t find on the internet and something that takes a while to bring out.  I might have to sit with one of my grandparents for more than 30 minutes before he starts talking about himself, which is a lot for some kids or even adults.

I’m often the only one to get Grandma out of the house to do things (movies, sewing class, coffee). And as an adult it is really nice to be able to enjoy things with her when I can. For kids stuck at some ‘old person’s house’ until their parents get home, they’re probably watching TV or playing games on the internet.  This class is just a chance to do something that engages both generations together.

Sheymi – student, age 8. ‘La Ciudad de Nueva York’. (Scrap fabric, pom poms, feathers, pipe cleaners, felt, glue)

ML: How does kids’ art influence you as an artist?

SME: I am always learning new things and how to be resourceful… that something can always be created. Kids always see things that adults have learned to overlook.

ML: After talking with you about your cityscape project with kids at Mission Education [thru Root Division],  I thought of something my immigrant mom told me, a superstition from where her family is from. When you visit a new village or island, take a pinch of the soil and eat it.  I guess it’s supposed to give you a taste of the place as well as protect you, like some immunity.  Perhaps it’s something similar for new immigrant children to handle found or reused material and create, expressing their hometown or this city…

SME: I totally agree.  I lived and worked in Spain last year (2008-09) as a North American Language and Culture Assistant.  Theoretically I was supposed to share U.S. culture.  Having lived in Los Angeles, any conversations about cities inevitably led to Hollywood.  I’d bring in photographs of all the other different neighborhoods in LA and try to talk about similarities in youth culture, etc.  But my students (especially the older ones) had a really hard time letting go of their idea of LA or the U.S. In order to keep the class in engaged I’d fall back on the ‘my friend so and so is an actress…’

My main reason for being in another country for a bit of time was to really grasp the culture, language and people, and break my idea of it.  One time I did a screen print juxtaposing some graffiti at my school and around Bilbao, and then basically art attacked the ‘bad’ neighborhood. That made me feel really connected to the city. Thinking about the connotations and reappropriations of materials can really help people — new or native — to understand the culture around them.

ML: What do you mean “art attacked the ‘bad’ neighborhood”?

SME: Basically I did a screen print created out of various photographs I took… graffiti in that area meant nothing, it was like a sport… my students couldn’t understand gang connotations of graffiti. Anyhow I just did an edition of ten and posted them around an area that was considered really bad. It was mostly considered bad because immigrants lived in that area.

“Hegemonic Disaster” monoprint by Stephanie Marie Echeveste

ML: It seems more synchronicity happens when traveling or moving to a new place. Maybe the breaking of ideas and contructs allows more flow. What has been your experience regarding identity while lost in the unfamiliar? And is there a correlation to found art, with its randomness and reused materials?

SME: Yes definitely. Just rearranging things helps my mind think better; I always would rearrange the furniture in my room growing up. When I was living in LA I felt kind of stifled at a certain point… Everytime I move somewhere new I feel completely reenergized. On the other hand, moving so much makes it hard to really dig your feet into a place, which is why my new goal is to stay somewhere for at least two years.

My identity, just growing up and learning about the world, is completely informed by who I am, what is around, and the hegemonic culture of that place. With the internet and all this constant interconnectivity, it’s almost harder to really connect to people and places because it seems so easy — just a click of a button. But really tactile people, like me, need to be there: see and touch and feel things.

Intergenerational Found Art Class
Instructor: Stephanie Marie Echeveste
Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission Street
$10 per class (all materials provided)

Kids ages 7+. Parents/grandparents/guardians welcome to join for free with child.
Anyone can create art! Explore collage, recycled art, environmental art, found objects and found art; connect with surrounding objects in everyday environment. Scholarships available for low income families.  For more info, please email stephanie.echeveste(at)gmail(dot)com

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