Xochi Solis' mixed-media wall art layers on vibrant colors and forms
Tucked behind some oak trees in a cul-du-sac in the Cherrywood neighborhood sits the converted garage studio of Austin artist Xochi Solis. Youthful in appearance, enthusiastic yet unhurried, she is quick to welcome you into the white-walled space full of paint supplies, collectibles, natural light and varied piles of scrap paper that's served as the birthplace of her layered, colorful compositions.
Organically shaped, bold and dynamic, her artwork — perfect piles of mixed-media and color sometimes applied directly to a wall — has steadily gained a devoted body of fans from collectors to art blogs. Solis thinks of herself as a painter first, and her abstract, paint-and-paper pieces (big and small) have resonated.
Her process begins with paint, exploring colors and organic "blob" shapes, emphasizing brushstrokes with gouache. Then, following color instincts, and mixing materials like house paint, acrylic, acetate, colored paper, mylar and found images on museum board, she layers. She steps back, and repeats until it feels right.
An early art history lesson in middle school made an impact on her future work: Learning about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera was the first time she saw art and tradition merge. Growing up with a creative graphic designer mom and a musically minded educator dad meant a colorful home inspired by their Mexican heritage (she is a second generation Mexican-American). Solis affectionately recounts being surrounded by cantaloupe-colored walls and music as a kid.
Today, she listens to music while she creates her work, and experimenting with color continues to be a common thread. From her heritage to music to exploring her surroundings, Solis finds her inspiration from anything and everything. On the surface, these compositions seem like simple mixes of found objects and paint, but they're also an abstract reflection of her experiences.
"The interconnectivity of being an artist isn't different than other professions. It's all tied together, tied to your vision of what you want to do in the world. It all comes back into your work. Everything you see is something you can use," says Solis. "I synthesize whatever I see into what I'm making. I just want to see and experience everything."
Along with a thriving art career, Solis has also had great experience with jobs in the arts. She's worked as an art instructor, a gallery assistant, and was the executive director of the 2009 Texas Biennial. Currently, she acts as the director of events and public programming at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas. She describes her job as "getting to do all the fun stuff," like running new media series, lecture series and planning parties. She's the catalyst between the VAC and the Austin community, continuously encouraging, connecting and energizing.
As if a full-time job and a thriving art career weren't enough, Solis is also a member of MASS Gallery, an artist collective founded in 2006 and recently relocated to 507 Calles Street to a 1500 square-foot gallery primed for experimental art, musical performances, openings and more. She also recently mentored a young artist in The Contemporary Austin's (formally AMOA) Advanced Young Artist Program, which currently has a show up at The Jones Center downtown.
If it sounds like Solis must either have figured out how to clone herself or live without sleep (possibly both), she admits she has a hard time saying "no." But "no" is what you'll get if, after spotting her artwork on a popular blog (like Design for Mankind, Beautiful Decay and Daily Candy to name a few), you ask her to slap one of her pieces on a canvas and ship it your way. She prefers if you call her and tell her what it is that you like about her work.
Currently, her work is showing in a variety of spaces across Texas. You can catch her work in two group shows, "Variations in Color" at the G Gallery in Houston through July 28 and at the Advanced Young Artists Teen Artist + Mentor Exhibition at The Jones Center downtown through September 1. July 27 marks the opening of a solo show, "Volcanic Eruptions" at the Murphy Street Raspa Co. in Alpine, Texas.
For Solis, her work may be a playful exercise in color and form, but it's also intentional. And this summer, Xochi's taking three weeks off from her busy life to attend a short residency program to learn about natural pigments and paper and cloth dying techniques through the Arquetopia Oaxaca program in Oaxaca, Mexico. It'll be three weeks that will undoubtedly add even more colorful, rich layers to her art.