Q&A with Artist: Angélica Becerra

By Janel Preciado and Citlalli Chávez

Each year, the UCLA Labor Center commissions an artist to create a poster for the UCLA Labor Center banquet. This year, local artist, scholar, and artivist Angélica Becerra created the unique poster design showcased at the banquet back in May. We interviewed Angélica to learn more about her work, activism, and inspiration.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I come from a family of makers in Jalisco, Mexico where I grew up for the first decade of my life. I began to paint when my aunt, a painter and architecture student herself had to babysit me. Later in my life as a PhD student, my art pieces rose out of my personal community organizing. The first portrait was done in haste for an event flyer that an organization needed in 2014 and I lent my creative skills to help them promote their event. Soon after that, I realized that those of us who identified as queer and of color, lacked images of our own queer and or activist of color elders. We often found the words of Gloria Anzaldúa or learned of Silvia Rivera later in our lives. I decided to paint the fierce womxn I didn’t grow up hearing about, in hope that they would help my queer siblings grow into loving themselves whole.

2017 UCLA Labor Center banquet poster created by Angélica Becerra.
“I identify as a pansexual Chicana artivist, and with that comes a responsibility to make work that honors all of these parts.”

What is your creative process?Most of my portraits begin with research, learning about the activist I’m painting influences which colors I choose. Then, I sketch and paint a watercolor portrait, scan it, and add a quote that I feel best represents their vision of social justice. I wholeheartedly believe in my work as a healing salve and self-care practice, as well as a way to preserve a queer activist politics alive.

“I wholeheartedly believe in my work as a healing salve and self-care practice, as well as a way to preserve a queer activist politics alive.”

Tell us a bit about this collaboration with the UCLA Labor Center.

My activism made me consider the collaboration with the Labor Center as a natural progression of my own work that is compatible with my own practice. I am the daughter of someone who has been active in a union and uses those spaces to advocate for worker’s rights, which helped inspire the poster. My inspiration was the banquet’s theme, Power and Unity. I had access to the Labor Center archives and I looked at photographs of people who have been involved with the Labor Center. Every person in the poster is drawn from a photo from the Labor Center photography archives.I imagined the demonstrations and protests I’ve been to where señoras marched with their kids and big purses and organizers holding signs. There are always contingents at every march and power and unity in organizing the demonstrations. I also wanted to incorporate my style which is very colorful and graphic.

“Every person in the poster is drawn from a photo from the Labor Center photography archives.”

Now for some fun, personal questions, If you were a taco, then what taco would you be?

That’s easy! El Pastor!

What’s your favorite dance move?

I’m a terrible dancer. I am a good cheerleader.

What’s your favorite element?

Water. I have a deep connection to water, particularly rivers. I’m from San Juan de los Lagos and I remember going to the river with my family and playing by the river.

Would you be a cat or a dog?

I wish I could be a dog but to be honest I’m more like a human cat.

Which celebrity would you be for a day?

Anthony Bourdain! I would eat a lot and eat well.