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Meet Maria V

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria V.

Maria, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It feels like I have traveled a very long road to get here but I have not arrived at my destination. I am still on a journey. This journey began when I moved from a small village in Mexico to San Antonio, Texas in the year 2000. My whole world was turned upside down, but at the same time, many opportunities came with this new life. I enrolled in high school right away and I discovered art. In Mexico, I was not exposed to galleries or museums. My little village was far from any major city and moving to a metropolitan area was a big change. I was always playing catch-up, as the saying goes. But I was young, full of energy and curiosity to learn about the world. After high school, I made another move across the country to go to college in Columbus, Ohio. I had to adapt to yet another very different culture from Texas and Mexico. But I made it. I graduated from college. It was a dream to accomplish such a goal. My parents never even learned to read and write, and there I was, holding a bachelor’s degree in art.

Unfortunately, the U.S. went into recession just as I graduated college and the bright future ahead of me suddenly went dim. As time passed, I felt like I was sinking into an abyss of unrealized dreams and lost opportunities. But it was hard to let go of the dream. I worked so hard to go to college and navigate unknown waters alone, how could it be lost?

I wasn’t the only one struggling and trying to survive the recession, though. I read an article about a former classmate who volunteered for AmeriCorps and then went on to graduate school. She seemed to be on the right path and I decided to do the same. I was then living in Austin, Texas. The weather in Ohio was getting to me. Working with AmeriCorps was a life-changing experience. I got to work with other immigrants from all over the world. Learning about their lives and their stories was relatable as well as rewarding. I met great worldly people who helped me get into graduate school. Now, I am at the University of North Texas as an MFA student. It has been a very long and rough road, and it seems to continue to be challenging. 2020 is a year for the history books for all of us.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has definitely not been smooth. The U.S. was known as the land of opportunities. I am an immigrant, and opportunities are scarcer for people of color. I believed in the American dream. I learned the language. I went to college, I adapted to the culture, and yet, I always felt like I was a stranger to everyone else. I was always reminded of my darker skin tone. It never made sense to me why there was such an emphasis on the color of the skin.

It all feels like a lifetime ago. Looking back, I feel that I have a unique perspective on things. I have gained unquantifiable experience throughout my life, regardless of the struggles. My story is not unique. There are many, many other people from other lands pursuing their dreams in this country. We still believe in the dream, but most of all, we believe in ourselves and our strength to make it through.

The time in graduate school has enabled me to reconnect to myself again. More specifically, to the young girl, I was back in the year 2000. I was full of dreams and courage. Perhaps I am coming into my own at last. Art-making, as a form of expression, has allowed me to have my voice heard. And I feel as though I speak for others who share the same story.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
My own story has had an influence on my art-making process. In my art practice, I investigate illusion and immersion in relation to the environment. By definition, an illusion is not real, and yet, the idea of the illusion pervades history. My research focuses on the land and the idea of territories. I am interested in the meaning of an elusive reality in a digital/virtual form, the experience, and the role of the audience in a work of art, whether that be digital, two-dimensional, or a three-dimensional form. I use maps and data in my attempt to answer questions about social structures, identity while generating questions and questioning my own role as an artist and the effect I have on the environment. Art-making appears to me similar to that of a scientist who is in constant search for answers to the world’s most curious questions; several times a day, I arrive at the realization that there may not be an answer and yet I cannot stop searching for one.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Right now, the future feels very uncertain. I want to remain optimistic but it is very hard. Everyday there is something new to worry about. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. Maybe we can take this time to really assess our own selves and really think about what’s important. I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, but I know that there is more out there. I am not going to let 2020 bring me down.

Something I am looking forward to is finishing graduate school and traveling to South America. There is so much to see and explore. I love being out in nature. It makes me feel free. I especially love the mountains. I call myself an artist but I love geography, geology, anthropology, and anything to do with the earth. I am fascinated by rocks and minerals. Perhaps in my next life, I will be a geologist, but as an artist, I am everything I want to be.

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