“Paleta is Choice as Possibility” an Interview with Artist Rebeca Flores by Monique Quintana

Now, more than ever, I am encouraged and inspired by interdisciplinary Latinx artists. The pandemic has brought organizers in art discourse communities to become creative with curating art. Utilizing virtual exhibits, we can see the possibilities for what art can do and how far it can reach. 

Rebeca Flores is an artist from my hometown of Fresno, CA, California, and uses visual art and writing to interrogate its body politic. I was intrigued by Flores’ recent Paleta installation in the CARAVANA exhibit housed at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco. The exhibit explores the Central American diaspora through the work of second and 1.5 generation of artists. Flores elaborates on her installation and her creative life here. 

Photo by Richard Lomibao
Photo by Richard Lomibao

Monique Quintana: What is the title of your piece, and how did your participation in Caravana come to be? What are some practical ways for artists to connect with projects like this? 

Rebeca Flores: My piece is called Paleta y El Paletero. It’s a sculpture and video installation. The paleta sits side by side a moving video of a paletero. The video is in the shape of a circle, the paletero riding his cart away from the 5 feet paleta. I was asked to join by one of the exhibit curators, Fátima Ramirez, and the exhibit is still on view by a virtual tour on SOMArts.org

MQ: Can you reflect on the placement of your piece in the exhibition?

RF: The exhibit is called CARAVANA: Mobilizing Central American Art (1984-present) curated by Fátima Ramírez, Mauricio Ramírez, and Josué Rojas. It’s a map, como like, this is what we know so far. The piece is part of the “Hope & Future” section of the exhibit, which I thought fit nicely because Paleta is about the feeling of contentment you receive when you eat or even see a paleta. Paleta is choice as possibility.

MQ: Your paleta installation is bright orange. Can you elaborate on the color choice and how the color harmonizes with the other works in the exhibit? 

RF: I decided on the color orange honestly because it made me happy thinking about the color itself being that in the world, and the exhibit itself is a field of colors. There is so much life and boldness that I think paleta adds another place on the map. 

MQ: The paleta is associated with summertime. What does summertime mean to you, and how do you create differently in the summer? What do you lament at the end of summertime?

RF: I lament that at the end of summertime, the sun will be gone too. During the summer months, I like to be out of the house, and because of the simple fact that I see more things, I get inspired to work visually. I’ve been a student for most of my life, so summertime is this planet you get to visit for a short while before returning to earth where the school is. So, when it came to creating Paleta, every choice I made came with the question, does this give me joy? Paleta then becomes home to that summer possibility, a choice, will you stop the paletero and give yourself joy? Sí o no? 

MQ: I’m aware that you’ve made a lot of collage artwork. While your paleta piece has a different scale, I imagine there might be similarities in the process. What are your favorite low-cost/sustainable materials to work with when collaging? What kind of questions do you begin with when approaching a collage piece?

RF: Yes, Paleta is a different scale. Paleta came because I needed to see large joyous work. I think all of us during this pandemic have experienced grief at different levels. Paleta helps me place the joy back into place. Reminding memory and the self that it is still possible.

Collages offer this relief as well. I like to collage with items that remind me of home because it helps me create a point of view. Every time I see an item that gives me this feeling of memory returning to me, I try to take a picture and then send it to myself, creating a collection of pieces to work with. I use photoshop, but there are plenty of apps that do the same thing, and then I work in the application to play with everything. Though nothing beats the feeling of working in real life, so sometimes I go to my parent’s garage, I look in my room, go to thrift stores, go to a home improvement store, sometimes go walking through an alley. I try to find things that interest me, and then I play with the items and try to see what route it creates. 

MQ: I remember once you tweeted that you take issue with the idea of the writer-artist identifier because writers are artists. I value that conversation because community, hybridity, fluidity, and experimentation are essential to me. Who is another interdisciplinary writer that you find aspirational, and why?

RF: Yes! There are no limits on ideas, right? I like Guillermo Gómez Peña’s poems and his self-portraiture work. It’s the idea of creation in literary form and then visually showcasing the self and how they work together to create an expansive body of work. I find this so enduring, and it helps me imagine how, as an artist, collages and sculpture are ways to showcase the self visually. It’s sort of like a reimagination of me– of a part of my memory, self, love, pain-shaped visually. While writing stories is a different kind of structure, it’s a building of words. Peña offers how this multitude of selves can be created, and I think that’s sick. 

Rebeca Abidail Flores is a Salvadoreña and Mexican American artist from Fresno, CA. She teaches, writes stories, and makes collages. She has an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and can be found skateboarding around or at floresrebeca.com. Twitter: @becafloress Instagram : @vatopose

 Monique Quintana is a Xicana from Fresno, CA, and the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019) and the chapbook My Favorite Sancho and Other Fairy Tales (Sword and Kettle Press, 2021). Her work has appeared in Pank, Wildness, Winter Tangerine, and other publications. You can find her book reviews and artist interviews at Luna Luna Magazine. Her writing has been supported by Yaddo, the Sundress Academy of the Arts, the Community of Writers, and the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat. You can find her on Instagram at moniquequintana.com.Twitter : @quintanagothic Instagram : @quintanadarkling

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