Featured Image: Nineteen-year-old artist Serena González begins work on a new embroidery project in the CVAD building on April 26, 2019. Originally from San Antonio, González said she is very spiritual and likes to represent that in her paintings and other artwork. Photo by Samuel Gomez
Serena González dresses in a Mexican embroidered shirt and flips through her artwork, including hand embroidery, paintings and iron-on patches. The artwork she creates resembles culture, identity and spirituality, where “oppression and identity translate” for González.
One of the pieces include the “Chicanx starter pack,” a hand embroidery displaying a Hot Cheeto bag, Nike Cortez shoes, singer Selena, a concha — Mexican sweet bread — and more. The piece took about 12 hours to make.
“Hand embroidery takes a long time and a lot of patience,” González said. “It was something I came to while in high school and love it.”
González, a UNT business sophomore, brings light to Chicanx cultural, political and spiritual elements through art on social media. Through art, González said she has accepted aspects of herself she previously denied due to her unconscious assimilation into the American culture.
“Finding a voice through art and letting it represent is really strong and beautiful,” González said. “Seeing other people, other Chicanx people relate, that brings us together.”
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, every Saturday González and her family would play Loteria, a popular Mexican game, where she indulged herself into the culture. Being influenced by her city and culture, González started focusing more seriously on art during her sophomore year of high school. One of González’s first art pieces was a tribute to 14-year-old Jesse Romero, who was shot and killed by a Los Angeles police officer in 2016 for running away and dropping a gun that fired after tagging graffiti with a group of friends, the Los Angeles Times reported.
González, for an art project in high school, had to create a public art piece relating to street art. González chose the topic of police brutality and graffiti, displaying a portrait of Romero and a chalk outline of his body. Within about five minutes of her piece being on display, it was taken down by a campus police officer and teacher at her school, González said.
“Even though it got taken down, it formed a conversation,” González said. “That’s exactly what I wanted.”
González said kids from Romero’s school reached out to González to thank her for her contribution to his life. Erica Wall, a close friend of González, said the public piece of Romero caused a lot of conversation at the school they attended, Winston Churchill High School.
“The art piece of Jesse Romero she made was a big statement,” Wall said. “It was one of those things that makes you uncomfortable but in a good way. It’s so uncomfortable and necessary that it’s moving.”
Sarah Naselli, González’s mom, has been a supporter of González’s art since the beginning.
“Serena is really passionate about art,” Naselli said. “She has an art platform to give voice to the community and Chicanos and that’s inspiring to me.”
One of Naselli’s favorite pieces by González was a self-portrait in watercolor, outlined by acrylic painting and collage pictures. Surrounding the portrait in collage letters says, “WHERE’S MY AMERIKAN DREAM?”
González started selling her artwork at vending events in San Antonio, such as First Friday Artwalk, and has showcased her work at The Movement Gallery.
“When I found out the impact art can have on people that’s when I knew I could do something,” González said. “Especially if we can re-examine ourselves and look at a different perspective.”
González said dialogue is important to her, and that her job is to try to get people talking about injustices that are happening in the world.
“I hope to educate people, bring them together, have dialogue,” González said. “I always want people to talk about what I’m creating with their opinions and have them open their eyes to a bigger perspective.”
Though now at college, González sells her work from 2018 on Instagram through PayPal. González also has a YouTube channel called Serenzs that she started to showcase art and fashion. González’s YouTube channel ranges from a tutorial of how to make easy embroidery for beginners to a Chicanx fashion lookbook.
González said she chose to study business so she could learn to market her work and eventually be a full-time creator with her own business. However, with the start of college, González said it has been difficult to find time to create art, but she would like to start creating again and sell her work here.
An inspiration to González is Frida Kahlo, who she said inspires her to be more radical, empowering and herself. González said she wants to showcase her identity, but not be limited by it.
“Though I am Chicana, I don’t want my work to be confined,” González said. “I want it to be my own.”