Zitlali Yunuhem

:: AGE

29

:: LOCATION

Chicago, Illinois, USA

:: MEDIUM

I am a mixed media artist. Currently, I have been creating painted paper mache sculptures. Drawing and writing have always been important parts of my work. Silk screening, video and photography also make up my "artistic toolbox."

:: IDENTIFIES AS

For many reasons I have always had a hard time with this question. How do you identify all the beautiful parts of yourself and not feel the times they were used to justify violence against you? I was born in Mexico. I am a womxn. I am brown.

As a womxn, why do you think it is important to create?

As a brown immigrant womxn creating art is a form of resistance. As in any other field, biases based on race and gender are used as violent and oppressive obstacles towards mainstream success. To create art as a brown womxn specifically, is to say that no matter what the game is, you’re still going to play.

What has been your proudest moment as an artist/creative?

I organize art events for the children and families of the West and South sides of Chicago. We collaborate with community organizations in the area and provide fun and free art events. My proudest moments are when I can foster collaboration between people and communities.

What do you like to listen to while you create?

I like to watch a lot of bad TV when I’m creating. My brain sometimes works too fast thinking of different ideas. If I can distract my mind, my hands will just work, they know what to do.

What is your earliest memory of making art?

I started drawing real young, before I could even talk. I drew what I was witnessing. As common as recreating the womxn in magazines and as frightening as documenting domestic abuse. Through my drawings, I recorded the messages of the world trying to tell me of what kind of womxn I might be. And I redrew them.

Do you have any words of advice for young womxn/artist/creators out there?

Work to redraw your world. The same way you create art, recreate your environment into what you want to see. It just takes practice.

What social issues do you care about most?

I care about the undervalued children of the world. If we can start with strengthening them, they will carry on the fight. They will grow with love. They will grow to abolish these oppressive systems.

How do you make time to create?

I try to identify what is stopping me from creating. Then I work to get rid of it. It’s definitely not easy but always worth doing.

How does your mental health affect your work?

My work helps tell my story from a very specific experience. My life has had many deep traumas that have shaped the kind of person I am today. My art serves as check-ins from my higher self to my earthly self asking, “what’s going on?”

Who are your influences/inspirations?

The womxn in my family are my biggest influences and inspiration. From my grandmothers, to my aunts, cousins, mother and sister. They are all very strong badass womxn, la magia indigena.

Zitlali, words can not begin to describe the admiration we have for how you use art as a form of resistance, a way to honor where you came from, and inspire young people and strengthen communities. The way you breathe indigenous magic into your work reminds me of ancient Aztec work, my own grandmother, and how there is nothing like strong, Mexican roots to keep us grounded as we redraw our environment. Tu estás magia.