Artist Snapshot: Maria De Los Angeles

Exploring the mind and habits of an artist in twenty-five questions

Maria De Los Angeles interview
Maria De Los Angeles with her mural Valley of Dreams, in Glen Ellen, California. Photo: Ryan Bonilla

At what age did you decide to become an artist?

I was always an artist. I decided to make it a profession in 2011. After graduating from Santa Rosa Junior College in California, I moved to New York City. In 2013, I graduated with my BFA in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. The investment clarified my intention and was reaffirmed by getting my MFA at the Yale School of Art. In 2015, I took my diploma and moved back to New York, and now I work here while living in Jersey City. I have a studio at Mana Contemporary that I share with my husband, artist Ryan Bonilla

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?

I am the second artist in my family: my cousin is a pianist in Mexico. But he and I are the first generation to make art a way of life. All parents worry if their kids will make it financially, but everything is working out so far. It was the right choice. My family emigrated to the US. My siblings and I endured the immigrant experience, and so being an artist is a gamble. Most careers are, but art has great potential and risk. I believe, as I am an immigrant, that risk and hope are part of my DNA. So here I am. If my siblings want to be artists, too, I will support that. My siblings always believed in me. I believe in their achievements, too. 

Who are your favorite artists? Maria De Los Angeles interview

I have many favorites: Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall, Gustav Klimt, Joyce Kozloff, Diego Rivera. 

Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?

David Bowie.

Art book you cannot live without? Maria De Los Angeles interview

Books on botanical illustration.

What is the quality you most admire in an artist?

Perseverance. I think being an artist is about authenticity. That comes from being confident, beyond what the art market values. 

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I keep a sketchbook to develop my painting ideas. Sketching is like thinking for me. It’s very fun to just draw for fun. 

What’s your favorite museum in all the world?

The Met

What’s the best exhibition you have ever attended?

The Morgan Library had an exquisite exhibit of Picasso drawings a few years ago. It showed his drawing development from childhood to his later years. 

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

An immigration lawyer.

Did you have an artistic cohort that influenced your early creative development?

I had and still do: a few mentors in Santa Rosa, California, mostly older artists who acted like my teachers. An art collector by the name of Jack Leissring is one of them.

What is one thing you didn’t learn in art school that you wish you had?

How to handle the business side of being an artist. I wish to have learned more about writing, too, particularly how to write grants, and how to express the intentions in my work.

What work of art have you looked at most and why?

It’s a hard question to answer. I love Marc Chagall’s work. I have spent many hours looking at his work in person and in books or online. 

What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?

I love fashion, garments and how they are made. I find clothing very interesting. 

Do you listen to music in your studio?

Yes, it helps me paint. Sometimes, I listen to politics or the news, but it gets a bit depressing. 

What is the last gallery you visited? Maria De Los Angeles interview

I recently saw a new show at the Vito Schnabel Gallery. That’s the last show I saw: works by Lance De Los Reyes

Who is an underrated artist people should be looking at?

I rather not answer this question as it’s so quantitative. I think people should look at art regardless of the artist’s fame. Look at the art because of its merit and quality. 

What art materials can you not live without?

My brushes. Watercolor paper.

Do you paint every day?

I would say I paint about four days a week. I like taking breaks. Sometimes it is good not to make anything. I think there is more to life than just making art. I like being out in the world. 

What is the longest time you went without creating art?

The longest time I spent without creating is two weeks. I think one can spend many months not knowing what to make or having a creative block. I experienced creative lows in art school. 

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?

I draw.

What are the questions that drive your work?

A balance of the color, political, symbolic, the personal, and universal. Time. How long can I keep my audience feeling surprised? Edge versus line. 

What is the most important quality in an artist?


What is something you haven’t yet achieved in art?

I have achieved freedom. I hope to keep it. I have everything I need and am happy. Creatively there is always more, but I like to be spontaneous about it. Not knowing what I will make next is part of the freedom. 

What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?

Accessibility to seeing new art as it’s being made. Exposure. 

MARIA DE LOS ANGELES  (@delosangelesart) teaches “Figure Drawing” at the Art Students League of New York.

Related posts