Karina Arenas ‘23 showcases her experiences through her artwork at the Latine/Queer Exhibit hosted by Chicano-x Latino-x Student Services on exhibit through the end of this week in the William H. Hannon Library. The exhibit was a collaboration with Claudio Rodriguez, director of CLSS, for Latine Heritage Month and features artwork Arenas gathered from five other students in the community in various mediums.
“Our whole mission of this exhibit was to feature art which is such a distinct part of Latine/Hispanic cultures. Art is something we are very proud, and of the different forms of art, we are mainly recognized for our dance and music,” said Arenas. “With the exhibit, I sought out folks in the community who had visual artwork to see if they wanted to showcase it. The exhibit is a subtle moment for diversity and intersectionality because there’s more to us than meets the eye and I want this to be a normal experience. I want for people to feel like they are just walking through an art show without our skin color being the main topic of conversation.”
In the exhibit, Arenas features three pieces: one called, “Dreamscape”; a self-portrait titled “Bruja”; and a portrait she created last November, “Blue Collar.” “I am an artist that likes to incorporate the human figure and “Dreamscape” especially felt like a way for me to open up and express that I believe the human body is beautiful and sacred. It is a very nostalgic piece for me and it feels almost like a memory.”
The second piece, “Bruja,” is a self-portrait, but it isn’t obviously about Arenas. This drawing was selected and showcased for the Laband Gallery’s 2020 Youth Contemporaries Juried Show. “It’s not super clear or distinct that it’s me. The most significant content of that work is a handmade sketch book,” said Arenas. “This is one of the pieces that I stayed up until really early in the morning creating and it was working on that drawing that I realized how much I love working with charcoal.” In her final piece in the exhibit, “Blue Collar,” which was also displayed in the 2022 Youth Contemporaries Juried Show, Arenas depicts her partner at the time while he is getting ready to go to sleep. “The initial message of the piece was lost, but I have found greater meaning in seeing him looking so blissful about finally being able to rest,” said Arenas. “Not all people are afforded the time to rest when they want or need to. I think back to my grandparents immigrating to this country, and my parents raising me for the last 21 years; they all worked so hard and sacrificed everything. They don’t get to sleep, they don’t get to rest, but it’s a lifestyle and they were committed to it. This has also been representative of my journey at LMU because it’s been hard to find time to rest as a student, while also being a student-worker on and off campus since I started high school. This piece captured one rare moment of rest. Rest is an oasis and I am in the desert of labor.”
Arenas defines her LMU experience around integrating mind, body, and spirit because it has been a very humbling and eye-opening time. “I’ve learned and had to relearn often about how I am taking care of myself, whether that’s been being proactive in my health or advocating for myself while I’ve been a student here,” said Arenas.
“Consistently my favorite part about being at LMU has been the relationships I’ve been able to build with my professors, and in this past semester has extended also to staff,” said Arenas. “I have a lot of good memories working with Professor D.J. Hall in the art department and all of my pieces in the Latine/Queer Exhibit have come from my work in Hall’s courses. I’ve also spent time getting to know Professor Hall outside of class and attended some of her art shows in the community.” She also has built strong relationships with all of the staff that work in the recycling yard and while her time working with them was short there as a student worker, they have been very supportive of her and her art.
Arenas is in the Student Worker program and she works in the Ethnic and Intercultural Services (EIS) suite providing support to all of the various offices there, along with the Office for International Students and Scholars. As part of this work, she helps organize the Intercultural Facilitator program on campus.
When she’s not working or attending classes, Arenas enjoys dancing with Grupo Folklórico, a Mexican folklore dance student organization that’s been performing in the L.A. area since 1972. She saw them perform during the Latinx overnight stay before she came to LMU. One of the reasons she committed to LMU was because of the energy and the community that she was surrounded with during that overnight. Now that she’s a part of Grupo Folklórico, her favorite part of being in the group is getting ready to perform. “It’s an interesting experience because it can be very exhausting to rehearse and put on pounds of makeup early in the morning, but it’s the moments of doing it together as a group, no matter how tired we are, that remind me of community. My favorite vestuarios, which are the traditional dance clothing, are for the folk dances from Veracruz, which are white and feel very dreamy or even ghost-like. Some of the dances are solely women and require dancing while balancing candles on our heads,” said Arenas. “I started dancing with Grupo having no experience in traditional folk dance. I’d also like to clarify that I am not ethnically Mexican,” said Arenas. She states that, “One of the best parts of this community is that you are always welcome to come, learn, and be creative with us no matter who you are or what you know.”