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Updated: Mar 13, 2022

For more than 20 years I have always painted from my own personal experience which has been the processing and abandonment of generational and ancestral trauma. Chicana philosophical writer, Gloria Anzaldúa, wrote an essay titled "Towards a New Chicano Consciousness" in which she redefined the 16th century Aztec word "nepantla" to mean "torn between ways".

She used her redefinition to describe the Mexican American experience living a dual American life under polarizing identity politics, where she asks her readers,

" mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another...and in a state of perpetual transition, the mestiza faces the dilemma of the mixed breed: which collectivity does the daughter of a dark skinned mother listen to?"

This is a question that puts anyone of color at a crossroads. In other words, where do we go from here? The book was full of theorists and poets, mostly critics of race and gender, expressing injustice, anger and protest, which after a while, was difficult to read. But Gloria's essay was a call to action for "women of color" to begin the spiritual process of healing from institutional racism (now known as systemic racism), post colonialism, and gender inequality. It is no accident that she placed this essay as the last chapter. The book I'm referring is called "Making Face, Making Soul: Hacienda Caras" 1990.

Pastel portrait of a masked woman
The Desire Pastel Drawing by Isis Rodriguez


It was this essay and a few other quotes that changed my life. She once said:

"In order to heal the wound, we first have to reopen it."

Yet another call to take a step towards healing.

In 1997, I wanted to do an art exhibition exploring sex positive feminism. And so I emerged into the art world with an activist art exhibition at Galería de la Raza, in San Francisco, California, called "My Life as a Comic Stripper," in which I used the cartoon as an editorial to comment on the politics of exotic dancing. The show was controversial and received mixed reviews. Over time, I realized that the only way to motivate myself to make art, was to define it as activism. I wasn't sure I liked that. Do I want to spend the rest of my life fighting something through my art? Can it be less political and more spiritual?


In 2006 I began to distance myself from activist art. And this was very scary. Because most of my friends were leftist radicals like me and I didn't want to disappoint them. It was they who took me into the art world and stood by my side when I was attacked by conservative right-wing radicals. I felt a loyalty to them and leaving meant having no protection, support, or art world family. In 2007, I had lost a well-known gallery representing my art in Los Angeles due to the recession. And I finally lost my inspiration as an artist. I was struggling in my marriage. I didn't like myself back then and I felt suicidal. I was disillusioned and resisted therapy, because I was too vulnerable, fearing that it would throw me into a dark mental hole that I could never get out of.