Our newest Affiliated Artist is Sofia Victoria Gonzalez! Sofia finds inspiration from her natural surroundings and uses processes of sewing, staining, and color to explore her sense of place. Read the Q&A below to get to know the newest artist in the Alliance family!
Get to know our newest Affiliated Artist, Sofia Victoria Gonzalez, on today’s special Q&A blog post! Sofia finds inspiration from her natural surroundings and uses processes of sewing, staining, and color to explore her sense of place. The Climate Science Alliance team was honored to feature Sofia’s presentation in our recent San Diego Climate Summit. You can watch her presentation “Creating Natural Watercolors” here, and participate in the Interactive Activity here.
Climate Science Alliance (Alliance): Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?
Sofia Victoria Gonzalez (Sofia): I have! I grew up in a very creative home and was always encouraged to create art. As an only child, art became my best friend and was always there to keep me company. I became more serious about my future as an artist in college and continued to pursue a creative career while studying to receive an MFA in studio art. For me, making art and connecting with other people through art is my happy place. It is where I feel comfortable and curious and willing to take risks. I will do anything I need to keep this side of myself alive and well.
Alliance: You've said, "As a maker, I feel a frantic urge to record the places I have known..." Does climate change influence your art, as it leaves its mark on the land?
Sofia: I’ve found that my textiles are my response to climate change and change in general. I think natural dyes are a way to remember a place and record it in an almost frantic way, so that I can always remember the colors and place within a specific time. I’ve done a lot of work about home and where I live, whether that is where I grew up or in Arkansas, and I have different associations with those places now, too. The colors I create allow me to see all of the places I’ve been while still allowing me to be present in the place I’m currently in.
Natural dyes also connect me to the changes in seasons and the effects of climate change. For example, this year the Oxalis (sour grass) bloomed far earlier than in the past as we had warm weather soon after the rain this winter.
I used to feel like because I’m an artist, I had to do something directly to help solve climate change. But, ultimately, that is a heavy burden for someone to bear. Eventually I learned that in many small ways I can do my part; that’s when I adopted the natural dyes as a way to bring people’s attention to their own neighborhood. Climate change is a global problem, but my practice allows me to put it into perspective and recognize that climate change impacts that one plant you love or the park you walk your dog in. I think that helps make the issue feel more focused and real for myself and others.
Alliance: What drew you to making and using natural dyes in your art?
Sofia: I first discovered natural dyes while attending graduate school at California College of the Arts in 2015 in a course with natural dye master Sasha Duerr. The class was called “Spring Gleaning” and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of color in our neighborhoods. I originally started graduate school as a painter, using primarily acrylic paints as my medium, but quickly switched to a return to textiles. I was growing concerned about the impact the materials I was using to create my work had on the environments I loved and was representing in my paintings. I grew up quilting with my mom and sewing and crocheting with my Abuela. Learning about natural dyes in graduate school brought me back to my past of making with textiles and I never looked back. I fell in love with the process, the fabrics, and most deeply, the colors and the plants.
Alliance: Do you have a favorite dye at the moment? If so, what was it made from?
Sofia: My ultimate favorite dye plant is the pomegranate. I feel a deep connection to pomegranates. They are symbolic of home and my mother to me. My mom grew up on a farm in Tracy, California and her grandmother had huge, old pomegranate trees on her land. I grew up with a pomegranate tree in my backyard in Marin that we planted when I was around 8 years old I think.
I now spot them wherever I go and when I do, I feel connected to my mom and to my home. I recently moved to South Park and I continue to spot more and more pomegranate trees. I have recently used the fallen red pomegranate flowers to create a warm mustard yellow dye. The color created from pomegranate rinds is so variable. It can range from a rich chartreuse green to a rusty red and dark blacks. I love its potency and vibrancy.
Alliance: What advice would you give to a Climate Kid?
Sofia: My advice would be to pay attention to the things that bring you joy. I encourage everyone I teach, from age 3 and up, to stay curious and creative. When we ask questions and observe the world around us, we can become better stewards to our environment and others.
Alliance: Anything else you would like our partners to know about you?
Sofia: The shelter-in-place orders came out in the middle of my artist-in-residence at Art Produce in North Park. While in residency, I created “Portraits of North Park,” large, layered sculptures made out of silk dyed with the plants in the Art Produce garden and the surrounding neighborhood. The sculptures are very physical – they have a smell and physical weight to them that doesn’t translate as well digitally. The pieces are available to view online here: https://sofiavgonzalez.com/About
We hope to hold a safe, in-person exhibition of the artist-in-residence works at Art Produce this September-October.
You can purchase a digital natural dye recipe book online at my online shop, in addition to naturally dyed goods, like face masks, bandanas and art pieces, here: https://sofia-v-gonzalez-104001.square.site/
Sofia V. Gonzalez is a Northern California native currently living and working in San Diego, California. Raised in Marin County, California, Sofia is inspired by her natural surroundings and uses processes of sewing, staining, and color to explore her sense of place. Sofia received her MFA at California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2014 where she focused on furthering her skills in textiles and natural dye techniques. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States including California, Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Sofia teaches natural dye and studio art courses and is passionate about creating a sense of community and environmental appreciation through visual arts and textiles.
Online Shop: https://sofia-v-gonzalez-104001.square.site/
Learn more about our Affiliated Artists program here: