1.

Stopping by for a Drink, 2020, Acrylic on Paper, 19 x 24 inches.

 

Statement

I wanted to start this show with a sense of reflection, introspection and beauty. I wanted to tap into a sense of myself and my {inner} reflection. I am inspired by the energy that is Oshun, an Orisha who represents divine femininity, beauty, love and the reflection. Oshun who is manifested through fresh water and honey {bees}. I am also very interested in exploring my reflection and comparing the ways in which I see myself to that of how the world sees me. In this work I purposely explore the reflection outside of the mirror or the phone. A reflection in nature. A reflection that’s of the earth. A reflection in fresh water. A puddle that’s touching the earth and is surrounded by living beings, organisms and ecosystems. Bees exploring life and pollinating. In this work we see a mark of presence of the protagonist. An assertion of existence from a bird’s eye view. A point of view that sees characters and their environment. A point of view that is of a higher plane and consciousness. -Eilen Itzel Mena

2.

Womb at the Pit of a Waterfall, 2020, Acrylic, Oil Sticks, Sequins on      Canvas, 44 x 48 inches.

      Statement

         In my work, I depict moments of revelation and self-understanding. The symbolism in my practice stems from the natural environment and the spiritual, ancestral, meditative and dream realms that make up my everyday life. This work takes imagery from a meditation. In this meditation, I encountered a healing waterfall, but before I placed my body under it, I swam to its pit, to uncover what was in its depths. In dream symbolism, bodies of water often represent the subconscious and emotional planes. Under the waterfall I saw two whales. Salt water creatures in a fresh water environment. Beings that were comfortable and adaptable in this new ecosystem. Afterwards, I swam to the surface and was met by a hawk. It signaled for me to go under the water. An animal that sees from above and all angles, from a higher plane and different consciousness. The works in this show exalt the natural environment by showcasing its divinity and my/our spirit's relationship to the complex ecosystems surrounding me/us. I place characters outdoors in order to express introspection in open space, signaling at the necessity of freedom for true growth. In these energetic settings, the Black spirit isn’t arrested. The Black imagination and aesthetic thrive because these realms emit a frequency of freedom and healing. -Eilen Itzel Mena

3.

Faith & Ritual, 2020. Acrylic, Oil Sticks, Sequins on Canvas. 48 x 26 inches.

Statement     

        Birds are heavily represented in this body of work. In the Ifa tradition, they are a manifestation of Iyami, the witches, the mothers. EXTREMELY powerful divine femme energy that not only protects but also vindicates and brings reckoning to those who need it. An homage to the way femme energy is heavily involved in the redemption of the world we all inhabit. Different birds are also often used in ritual throughout the diaspora as offering/sacrifice. In this work, I depict a dove in transition. Transition from the earthly realm into the next, highlighting African spiritual practices while also signaling to the ways we’ve connected doves to spiritual energy, death and transformation in Western symbology. In this work I also depict the sky in transition as well. Coming from light to dark. The twilight zone, shifting from day to night. A time of day where we are forced to be in the in between. Force to see two worlds meet. Did you know that a rainbow can appear at night. They are called Moonbows or Lunar Rainbows. The light just had to bend the right way. With enough fluidity, we see a spectrum of light scattered across vast darkness. - Eilen Itzel Mena

4.

Flight of the Hummingbird, 2020, Acrylic, Oil Sticks, Sequins on Canvas, 44 x 48 inches.

     Statement

 

     I created this work during the protests in May and June. I wanted to showcase a world flipped upside down, but still recognizable; a world where everything was out in the open. I chose a desert. An ecosystem so vast, expansive that takes in the screams of the sun. Similar to the dystopian ecosystems that we are all bearing witness too. In spite of the heat of this moment and what’s felt in this work at first glance, I wanted to showcase pollination, fertilization that leads to new life. The potential for new life is always present where it seems as if life doesn’t exist. Brave worker Bees hover over a burning cactus simultaneously underscoring looting and rioting and still bringing forth work that needs to be completed. Thank you essential workers. The hummingbird, is a creature so small, but powerful, being able to consume up to two times it’s body weight in water per day. It carries this load well. This protagonist in my work is scaled up. It reminds us that what seems small, is still mighty. What moves fast and seems invisible is still and present. It can no longer we ignored. - Eilen Itzel Mena

5.

The Beginning, 2020, Acrylic, Oil Pastels on Paper, 19 x 24 inches.

Statement

 

The Odu Ifa houses the ethical teachings of the Yoruba tradition. It carries the sacred text of the spiritual and ethical teachings of Ifa. It mentions key players such as Orunmila, Ori, Orisha and other spiritual entities as well as teaches us about character and the human condition. It houses 256 Odus (scriptures) each with various verses. The first Odu, Eji Ogbe speaks on intention, patience, rest, peace and to give deep consideration to the consequences of things. It speaks on leaning on the ancestors for guidance. It speaks on friendship, commitments and promises. It speaks on showing up, having good character and doing the work. In this work I highlight  the Ifa marking for Eji Ogbe, a circle with eight dots, 4 on the right and 4 on the left. This work depicts a moment of revelation, truth and understanding - A moment of realizing that one must intentionally show up, do the work, understand eventual reactions/consequences and have faith that those who came before are here to support. This is the beginning. -Eilen Itzel Mena

6.

In Case of Emergency, 2020, Acrylic on Paper, 19 x 24 inches.

Statement

       The symbolism and imagery in my work stems from the natural environment and the spiritual, ancestral, and dream realms that make up my everyday life. These sacred spaces are the grounds upon which I process and bring meaning to personal revelations and subconscious messages. In this work I depict an scene in a dream I had a few months ago. It occurred during the beginning of the protests in late May, early June. In the dream I witnessed a large group of people running away amongst chaos. The environment was desert like, dusty, dry and brown. I ran with the crowd and suddenly stopped at an interesting sight. I witnessed a giant Black Owl perched on top of a fire hydrant. A nocturnal creature out during the day. It stood still and pronounced during this chaotic scene. I looked up the dream meaning for owls: To see an owl in dream symbolizes your expanded awareness or some magical virtue. The owl sees what is happening in the unconscious areas of your soul and thus it can bring you wisdom and insight about your hidden feelings and experience. I looked up the dream meaning for a fire hydrant: To dream of a fire hydrant represents an emergency option that you are aware of, but never use. Often times we don’t tap into our selves for answers. Deep knowledge of self should always be used as a form of defense. -Eilen Itzel Mena

7.

  Ogbe Iwori, 2020, Sequins on Canvas, 36 x 37 inches

Statement

A couple of months ago, as I was drifting into subconsciousness and going into a deep slumber, I close my eyes and immediately saw a farm. My far sighted vision was blurred while my near sighted vision was clear. All of a sudden I see a chicken  walk on by; but this wasn’t just an ordinary chicken. It was a black and white chicken. A chicken with an all white coating, but with black outlines. I immediately got up and started drawing it on my iPhone. I woke up the next morning at 5:55am. The synchronicities I’ve experienced during this quarantine have been ver powerful. Chickens in the Ifa tradition are sacred birds for multiple reasons. They are often sacrificed in ritual. Birds also represent Iyami. The mothers. The witches. EXTREMELY powerful divine femme energy that not only protect but also vindicate. I then looked to the Odu Ifa book to see of any Odus (scriptures) speaking on this energy and it’s ethical teachings. Ogbe Iwori stood out! It pointed me to the energy of the hen, hard work and abundance. After mocking it up on my iPhone I transferred this work onto the canvas. I decided to re-create this piece entirely out of sequins and to sew this piece by hand with no machines. The process of moving through the digital (iPhone) and analog (Canvas) worlds physically reflects my relationship to the spiritual, ancestral, and dream realms that make up my everyday life. This is important to me because it shows their streamlined relationship. It shows me the way information can be transferred through different spaces, while still retaining its original energy. This work is an homage to my great grandmother Dora, a seamstress and a mother to eight children. 

-Eilen Itzel Mena

8.

Eres Mi Flor, 2020. Acrylic, Oil Pastels on Paper, 19 x 24 inches.

Statement

Love is a reoccurring theme in this show. Love of nature, love of spirit and love of self. With the introduction of this work in the sequencing of the show, a shift occurs from the external exploration of self to internal exploration of self. This work is an ode to love and support. It highlights a moment where a flower, acting as a self portrait is hot, depleted and thirsty. A moment where the external environment isn’t conducive to the growth of the flower. Where the flower’s external discomfort is seeping in. A moment where a cry for help is expressed. At times I often feel overwhelmed emotionally and spiritually, thus leading to a sense of tiredness and thirst. Thirst for something cool, for peace, like water. This work’s title , Eres Mi Flor mimics a phrase my partner @avilasanto often says to me in moments like this. Eres Mi Flor, You are my flower, right before he proceeds to hand me a cup of water. His loving phrase and subsequent action quenching my thirst and providing me with peace and coolness. 

-Eilen Itzel Mena

9.

Cooling Elixir, 2020. Acrylic, Oil Pastels on Paper. 19 x 24 inches.

This work is continuation of the the last work, Eres Mi Flor. It showcases what happens next after the flower that was uncomfortable with its external and internal environments gets nourished. Here water is a healing modality that is exalted - it’s sacredness expressed and highlighted through the sequins. It serves as a magical elixir that is cooling and brings peace and nourishment. All elements that are integral to the living being’s development and growth. -Eilen Itzel Mena

10.

Lagrimas, Milagros y Amor 2020 - Acrylic, Oil Sticks, Sequins on Canvas - 30in x 44 inches.

Statement 

I wanted to capture a moment of healing from pain caused by break up and unrequited love. A pain that is deeply felt and expressed in a myriad of ways. In keeping with African Diasporic spiritual practices symbology I highlighted a heart with horns an thrones. A small object that people pray with asking for it to heal from love’s pain. This item is then left at churches in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. In this work I depict a release as well, a release of pent up emotions, pain and sadness through the rain and a female peacock’s scream. In Orisha traditions Oshun is the deity that represents divine feminine energy, fresh water, the self image and love. Love in its purest form. Obatala is the Orisha of peace, clouds and forgiveness, he who molds the human body out of clay inside of the mother’s womb for the soul to be housed and protected. With this work I leave you all with a poem I wrote two years ago: Cry, so that the clay that makes up your body softens, and doesn’t harden.

-Eilen Itzel Mena

11.

Better Days to Come, 2020. Acrylic, Oil Sticks, on Canvas. 50 x 60 inches.

Statement 

I stray away from a technical painting approach and apply mark making techniques reminiscent of childhood brushstrokes and image making. I leave room for abstraction and fluidity of understanding different frames, shapes, and figures. It is important for me to create imagery that grounds the viewer in visually fluid, innocent and safe spaces that allows for a deep contemplation of the complex topics expressed in my work. Simultaneously, I underscore the power and potentiality that lies within a childlike point of view. In my spiritual practice, children are more connected to the realm of the ancestors, therefore their point of view is highly regarded and spiritual. 

My color palettes often come from sacred color combinations in Ifa, Santeria and Candomble. As an Ifa practitioner, I am often inspired by the semiotic language of African traditional religions as well as Afro-Diasporic religious practices. In this work I employ various colors and objects associated with Orisha so that they can be in conversation with this self portrait and support the main character. A main character dealing with weight gain, acne and a potential loss of its self image. Strokes of green and blue and a sword represent Ogun, a rooted Orisha that protects and guards. Floating cowry shells and dollar bills signal to Aje, the Orisha of abundance and wealth. A rainbow, a manifestation of Oshumare, the Orisha of abundance, and fluidity. Elements composed in a way that is still within reach. Smiley faces acting as a mark of presence of the ancestors as well as a mark of separation from the body. A heart and strokes of yellow above the main character’s Ori (head/consciousness) double as a flash of Oshun and a sunny sky superimposing strokes of white paint and communicating with the clouds - Obatala. Both supporting each other in this work as their relationship is a sacred one. A dynamic of love, peace and healing.

-Eilen Itzel Mena

12.

The Mothers, 2020. Acrylic on Wood Panel mounted on Cinderblocks, 6 x 48 x 60 inches.

Statement

My multimedia process begins with studies on my iPhone’s markup feature. I stretch a canvas, photograph it and sketch the work on top of the photo using markup. Afterwards, I paint on the canvas following the digital study, switching from digital to analog and vice versa. The process of moving through the digital and analog worlds physically reflects my relationship to the spiritual, ancestral, and dream realms that make up my everyday life. This is important to me because it shows their streamlined relationship. It shows me the way information can be transferred through different spaces, while still retaining its original energy. It reflects the ways ancestors transmit energy and provide paths for epiphany. This work was inspired by a photo of girls from the Dahomey Tribe. Their energy felt so strong and powerful to me and made me think of the Iyami. The mothers. The witches. EXTREMELY powerful divine femme energy that not only protect but also vindicate. Birds also represent Iyami. I wanted to represent these beings in a surreal and figurative way when compared to the other works in this show. The Mothers on my maternal ancestral lineage are very powerful. I come from a group of women who raised their children and then grandchildren after they’ve outlived their daughters. My great great grandmother Bartola lost her daughter Dora and then raised my grandmother Mayra when Mayra was 15. I was lucky enough to grow up with Bartola until I was 6. Helping to bathe her and run mini errands for her. My grandmother Mayra lost her daughter and my mother Kenia, and began to raise me and my siblings when I was 9. In the mounting of this final piece I particularly wanted to highlight my mother. Kenia Nuñez was an architect by trade in the Dominican Republic. I honor this ancestor in my work through her creative practice most specifically a material she employed to create houses - cinderblocks. Cinderblocks that serve as a foundation to a foundational structure, the home. The home, the nest, a place where mothers thrive and set the tone. -Eilen Itzel Mena.