START THE PRESSES! ALYNN GUERRA HAS FOUND HER VOICE
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY JANUARY 26th, 2012
Are artists born or created?
Asked about her childhood, Guerra describes herself as a “solitary” child in Mexico City – and art was definitely not in her plans. Her father gave her construction toys and she credits him with contributing to an innate sense of curiosity about the world and her desire to always be building something. She wanted to be a scientist and “Electricity” was her first choice for an elective in middle school. It wasn’t until “Art” became her only choice as an elective in high school that she explored art. Much to her surprise, she discovered artistic talents.
Artists may be “born this way” – and yet without exposure to the arts, they might never have the opportunity to emerge.
When does one own their artistic gift?
This is the moment in an creative’s life where the “the brush meets the palette.” Upon graduation from high school, Guerra was faced with making a choice between pursuing a path of science or art, and it was a self-described agonizing decision. Science had always been a given; she had come to art in the proverbial eleventh hour of her secondary education. Heart won out over head, and art won.
She began studies in graphic design, and after five semesters of studying commercial art, discomfort set in. “I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I did not want a career in advertising art. I was afraid that if I chose to pursue MY art, I would starve.” So she called a time out and decided to head for the hills…literally. Her university offered a course in painting and the campus was located in the mountains. It took her months to figure out how she was going to tell her father she was no longer interested in graphic design. “I was afraid of the judgment and disapproval that would follow. To my surprise, and delight, my dad said ‘Go for it’ – and I did.” There was only one remaining obstacle. Guerra didn’t feel she was called to painting. She knew she was called to be an artist, she just didn’t yet know how…yet.
An artist owns their gift when they come to this realization: to starve one’s body is to be without food; to starve one’s soul is to be without art.
How does someone with artistic talent discover the gift’s best means of expression?
One day she stumbled into a printmaking shop. “For the first six months, I didn’t like what I was producing, and I think it’s because I didn’t have anything to say, but I loved the process.” She was also very good, and when she took hand-crafted journals to the Office of Trade in Mexico City, samples of her work sent to the United States received attention. Mass production was the way to profitability, so Guerra moved from her home in Mexico and set out for a facility in Georgia. Six months later it was time to move on again. Through a friend’s invitation she arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On her first day on Division Street in 1999, she met a gallery owner and printmaker, and they remain best friends to this day.
Six months later, and after moving to a Community House (Co-op), she found her voice. While planting a garden she was made aware of the genetic modification of seeds. She voraciously consumed every bit of information on the subject. As she learned how it would impact the people of Mexico, other countries, and people without a voice or a choice, a new voice for social justice emerged and her printmaking art came into bloom.
Sometimes discovery of our gift’s best means of expression comes, quite literally, by happy accident.
Social justice has become a resonant and re-emerging theme in her work. The use of “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) figures is an elegant blending of cultural roots and message. “I create art to help me understand and assimilate my everyday life tribulations. In my work you will find a broad range of themes: my ludic (read: playful) approach to civilization, images of cultural and political history, and images that echo my own life experiences.”
As a little girl in Mexico City, Alynn Guerra loved to build things. And, in her Red Hydrant Press Studio in Grand Rapids, she is building a body of work that speaks deeply to the struggles of life, art and justice to find expression. Start the presses! This artist has found her voice.