We had the good fortune of connecting with Kiara Aileen Machado and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kiara Aileen, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
There are many books that have made me reflect and have had a huge impact on my life. Just a few books that have been incredibly insightful have been: The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, Disability Visibility by Alice Wong, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, and Women Writing Resistance by Jennifer Browdy.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I believe that we, Central Americans, should have the ability and platform to tell our own stories. I identify as Central American, as my mother is from Guatemala, my father is from El Salvador and my great grandmother was from Honduras. Through this cultural framework, my work brings into question the absence and exclusion of Central American folx from mainstream U.S. & Latinx narratives as well as institutions that have been built around the exclusion of POC folx while simultaneously profiting off of them. The challenges and discrimination I’ve faced as a Central American woman have equipped me with a broader perspective to recognize the power that comes with representation and the validity of one’s experience and identity. Through my work I am able to highlight the erasure experienced by Central American folx. My paintings serve as documentation of our existence, a means of healing from trauma, and empowering our identities through visibility.

The challenges and discrimination I’ve faced as a Central American woman, from experiencing ignorance and racism within institutions and society has equipped me with a broader perspective to recognize the strength that comes with solidarity . Due to growing up with Central American erasure in a diasporic era my work explores intersecting identities, culture, and the importance of solidarity in a visual narrative. In recognizing the privilege of U.S. citizenship, I understand that I have a U.S. based lens to my Central American experience. Although, I do struggle with identifying as “American,” due to the fact that my parents left their homeland because of the U.S.’s intervention in Central American political issues. For these reasons I interweave cultural artifacts such as worry dolls, textiles and foliage that connect to Guatemala, El Salvador, and California. Being constantly deprived of feeling included I am incredibly thankful for being able to physically take up space with my paintings in what are normally white dominated spaces. In my artwork, I am consistently questioning how I can narrate these traumatic experiences without merely profiting off of these traumas. Rather, my intent is to criticize the lack of inclusion, solidarity and proper representation with my work. I am proud to be able to create paintings that serve as documentation of our existence and go beyond our trauma. El Salvador and Guatemala are the muse, pride and influence of my work.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A fun time for me is working towards social justice and fighting against oppressive systems. I would invite my friend to Black owned independent bookstores, Like Eso Won, Malik Books, Reparations Club, or Cafe Con Libros. For food we would support local street vendors or stop by Patria Coffee Shop in Compton. For fun we would hold conversations around the benefits of defunding, dismantling, and abolishing the police and ice.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not have the success I have today without the support of my community. Beginning with my family, I recognize the privilege in being supported by my mediate family and their unconditional love and support towards my practice. Being a daughter of immigrants, I know how hard my parents have worked, from crossing multiple borders to come to a country that also caused most of the distress that ultimately led them to migrate in the first place. I have also had the honor of being surrounded by radical minds that have influenced many of pieces and my view on the world. Thank you to WOC for putting in work towards grassroot movements. Works by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Langston Hughes, Rigoberta Menchú, Frantz Fanon, Janel Pineda, and many more creative minds that have paved the way and have put in countless hours to put essential work into books, poetry, and literature to expand ideas and have validated experiences where I’ve felt misunderstood. I am forever grateful for femmes, trans women, Black women, Indigenous women, and all the folx who have given their lives that have allowed me to feel confident enough in myself to pursue a career in art and begin the process of healing from generations of trauma through my paintings.

Website: www.kiaraaileen.weebly.com
Instagram: @Kiara_Aileen_Arts

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