From mural tours to sculpture gardens, viewing art by bike allows many to imagine and dream of worlds past, present, and future. In addition, riding can allow ourselves time to meditate and ideate. Within these contemplative moments, many creatives find inspiration. This past spring, PeopleForBikes had the opportunity to meet up with experimental artist, poet, writer, and Mexican-American creative Diana Lizette Rodriguez to hear how the bike helps her unlock new ideas to engage with in her work. Our conversation follows below:
A peak into Rodriguez's studio.
We meet at Boxcar Coffee Roasters to pick up some iced teas on this hot spring day. Since Rodriguez's bike was stolen the previous summer, she's been using Boulder's BCycle Bikes to hop around town to run errands or go on fun rides with friends. But before heading to her nearest BCycle station, Rodriguez takes us inside her studio - not visible on this tour.
Entering, paintings, sculptures, installations, and assortments of collected items inhabit the walls and shelves of her studio. Color, words, death, life, motions, and emotions abound.
To the left lies a piece covered in cloth. Rodriguez comments, "This is a new piece I’m working on. I don’t know where it’s going. It feels familiar. This is something that I’m currently working on, but I don’t like looking at it. It’s something new. It’s very colorful and it just doesn’t feel right yet. So I didn’t want to show it."
Directly adjacent to the covered piece are paintings apart of Rodriguez's "Womb::Wound" series. "In December I did 10 pieces. A womb wound series. The two words, in a sense, come together and also sound very familiar. One summer, I participated in a writing project where we discussed language in all of its complexities. One of the things that came up was the womb and the wound and so I continued to work through that idea... The series is a collection of paintings inhabiting the approximating between both words. Each painting is done with the realization of the first wounding happening within the womb, and with the relationships between pain, suffering, healing, and time."
Thick acrylics and plaster texturize her painting "Fig" - the top painting in the photo above - whilst passionate strokes and marks create feelings of conflict and emergence.
"This is a poem that I had written for my manuscript... I created it while I was taking my first visual art class. Painting was never a set medium for me. It was for fun. But my teacher said - well you're a poet, do something with words. So I took this piece of canvas and just started painting a poem I had written. I then started asking 'how would the letter look in giant letters?' 'What comes up?' 'What doesn’t need to be seen - while it's still there?'"
Looking around the room, there are a variety of once live organisms mixed in with inanimate objects. Flowers, shells, bottles, roses, bugs, books, etc., all inhabiting a space in accordance to inklings of organized chaos. Rodriguez remarks, "I don’t mind chaos. I kinda love it. For me, I’m getting to a point where I want it to be organized chaos. It depends what I’m working on. When I’m writing, I want things to be nice or tidy. When I’m painting I want things to be thrown around. Allowing spontaneity - like I just spilled this red paint, or dropped these words - allowing that to come into my work is important."
As we leave, Rodriguez tells me about another series titled "La Cigarra en los Retoños" which she created after "I would go on bike rides and even short walks around my neighborhood (in San Antonio, TX) and bring back palms - and start tying the palms together and hanging them. I wanted to start working more with living things. Working with fragmentation and decay and impermanence."
Bringing in elements from her Wound::Womb series, Rodriguez expands more writing, "La Cigarra en los Retoños is a collection of poetry, paintings, film, photographs, installation & undocumented fragments. A formulated manuscript that gathered the unprecedented times, magnetic revolution, The Jack Kerouac Summer Writing Program, and great resilience Artists continue to endeavor. I would like to recognize the great inspiring Cecilia Vicuña, for her work has been a leading reflection to my own and has exhilarated me to many depths. The movements Vicuña sustains a dismantling of the patriarchy, oppressive systems, a release of indigenous culture, and expanding language that moves to those realms of liberation in its purity. This manuscript is an unveiling, an archival document that follows the ideas of private & public, it is an intimacy as something that presses upon like a letterpress machine leaves an impression, a wound, womb, a surveillance, an idea of inappropriate intimacy, an art as gift & a suddenness of isolation. It is a private act coming into public, an attempt to liberation."
Rolling down the bike paths of Boulder, Rodriguez shares how the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine impacted her work, "When COVID hit, I found myself going on bike rides around my neighborhood. During these rides, I decided that I wanted to make my work easy, because I want people to understand that there is a lot going on right now. So I would go on these bike rides, take a picture of a trash can, take a picture of a tree that had a string on it, and present them as “ready made installations.” Drawing inspiration from famed French American Dada-Artist Marcel Duchamp."
We stop at a tree - which once held a variety of tires - that was apart of Rodriguez's "ready made installations" series.
We then pull off to a dried creek bed, where Rodriguez demonstrates creating art of impermanence. Round rocks, cockle-burs, leaves, dirt, and twigs are gathered together on nature's canvas to create a small installation.
In talking about her inspiration, Rodriguez reflects "I enjoy going on bike rides around Boulder, or wherever I am residing at. When I'm riding I am not looking for any specific inspiration but I always carry a small journal or film camera. I gravitate towards things that call me and that can be a pattern on the sidewalk or a leaf that has fallen from the tree onto a puddle of water. Sometimes when an unexpected scene finds me and it does something, it creates a feeling that is captivating, pleasurable, and it evokes a word, sentence, or angle to capture a photo. And the things that call me are different each time and it all depends on the time of the day, my mood, whether it’s cold or hot, destination or no destination, and how long the ride is. Sometimes and this is most times I go riding aimlessly without any thoughts or persistence to find anything. And I believe that to ride with an emptiness that can be filled with anything is the reason why I let many things be my inspiration. I was recently told that true inspiration is within and I have been sitting with this for a while now, wondering how the external and internal inspiration is always working together."
Rodriguez snaps a photo of her impermanent nature installation.
Parking the bikes at a BCycle Station, we make our way to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMOCA).
This month, the museum exhibited artists John Torreano and Nyeema Morgan.
As we walk through the gallery spaces, Rodriguez shares her experience working at Gemini Ink - a non-profit youth-focused organization aiming to teach the craft of writing to people of all skill levels so they can bring their stories to life. "I recently had the opportunity to interview Ebony Stewart - an internationally touring poet and performance artist... [who] has a curriculum where she is using certain language to speak to the black experience, with emphasis on gender, sexuality, womanhood, and race, with the hopes of being relatable, removing shame, healing minds, encouraging dialogue, and inspiring folks in marginalized communities... I really enjoy that there are certain individuals who are coming to schools that are teaching a curriculum and teaching children about white supremacy and colonialism at that age is amazing."
"Ebony Stewart has this quote "We poets write because we also do not know when we’ll become extinct.” This really resonated me as a poet myself and also going through so many forms of extinction with manuscripts I’ve written in the past… So I really just sat with that. How as artists, can we prevent extinction from happening and perhaps stop moments of violence."
Talking on initiatives to create more inclusive spaces for creatives, Rodriguez remarks "Every system is already pushing certain individuals to not participate because they didn’t go to college or they haven’t watched this one film, because they didn’t get a degree in film studies or they didn’t know this - and its ridiculous. I feel that it's so necessary to bring these walls down... Imagine how many people would really want to create but don’t have the time to because they need to focus on other things. And that brings me sadness. However, I'm excited to be in spaces - like Gemini Ink - where we're moving towards a shift where we’re hiring people who don’t even have a resume because they’ve never done any work like this or haven’t had the opportunity to be exposed or even allowed to be part of this system... I care about the work. I care about what makes you happy. What you find important. What little thing do you know that I don’t know. I really just want to hear you. What do you care about. I think it’s important to know someones work. I think it’s intimate."
As we leave the museum and begin our ride back, we touch on one final subject - manifesting. "Writing is good form of manifesting. If you want something - write it down! Art has been a way to manifest some of the ideas I’ve been working through. Art and creativity are my spirituality. But now I don’t feel that spiritual anymore. It's not the right word for what I’m doing with my art. What if we just brought it down and said that god is art. There is some sort of spirit there that is invoking us to create."
As human beings, we are creatures made to ideate, create, and craft. As I return home, I reflect on my conversation with Rodriguez and imagine ways to allow for peoples needs to be met so they can harness their inner creative drive.
To see more of Diana Rodriguez's work, head over to https://dianalizetterodriguez.myportfolio.com/work
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- Isaac Novak
PeopleForBikes Content + Design Coordinator