We invited the NY-based illustrator, Ariel Roman, to draw something for us that would inspire attention to the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students in Mexico. It is an issue we wanted to address through a silent but active piece of art. Roman created this little campaign for our social media outlets. From our studio to hers, we posed some questions to her about her artistic influences and dedication to addressing social issues.
Tell us about the symbols you chose.
When creating this piece, I started by looking over images of protests in Mexico. I was speculating the way in which others may be digesting this: How are Americans reading this socio-political situation? How are members of the Mexican diaspora reading and reacting to this? To what extent do people who feel no connection to Mexico responding to this?
I wanted to create something that was influenced by what I was seeing in the media, while also picking up on familiar imagery. The disappearance of the 43 students is part of a very large, convoluted web of the narco-police-political drama.
What has been so insane to me through all of this are the number of mass graves uncovered-- the lives of the 43 almost become symbolic when you start trying to quantify the thousands of lives disappeared and buried. Candles, milagros and mounds are all part of mourning, covering and remembering. The hashtags are really what ties this piece to the 43 students, but I hope that people are able to read this and discover for themselves how interconnected we all are to this story.
Why did you decide to animate it? Could it live as a series of still frames?
In reality, it is a series of still frames, but I think they work best in motion together. The crumpling and smoothing of the paper mimics the rhythm of a heartbeat, and the torn paper is meant to read as a discarded letter or a ransom note.
I chose to create an animation because I did not find it suitable to make a single, iconic image. There are so many people responding to this on the Internet, that it felt proper to make something for the Internet.
You are an illustrator who isn’t afraid to take on complex social issues, where does this value come from and what is your inspiration?
I'm not sure I specifically chose complex social issues, or if what I am drawn to is inherently socially complex. It's hard to say whether that comes from the way I was raised, or how I have experienced the world, or some combination of both. But I am consistently curious to know how and why.
We always want to elevate other artists, where would you like to see your work in the world?
Victoria Beckham once said, "I want to be as famous as Persil Automatic."
I'd like to be as visible as Ariel detergent.
Tell us about the materials you use and your process in creation.
Drawing, music, and reading are at the center of everything for me. I go between my drafting table and my desk -- and I always have some sort of soundtrack put together. Most of my pieces start as drawings. A drawing might turn into a series of photos, an animation, an object, a print for a shirt, a playlist, etc.
I am systematic in the way that I work, stemming from years of teaching. Ideas are often turn into lesson plans -- perhaps my way of figuring out how to clearly explain, express, and share.
My aesthetic is heavily influenced by my background in printmaking, and also by punk culture.
What is your hope for this artwork?
I think there are many emotional nuances being shed in response to the disappeared students in Ayotzinapa. What is inspiring to me is the range of expression-- theater, poetry, music, graphic imagery, etc. I can only hope that this piece resonates within the larger stream of expression, helping to maintain the momentum towards radical change in Mexico, and eventually, here in the US.