Senior studio art major Alejandra Ruiz and her art piece depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe from her collection “Tonantzin.” This is one of many paintings where Ruiz depicts religious figures. (Graphic created in Canva and photo taken by Rodrigo Martinez)
Senior studio art major Alejandra Ruiz and her art piece depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe from her collection “Tonantzin.” This is one of many paintings where Ruiz depicts religious figures. (Graphic created in Canva and photo taken by Rodrigo Martinez)
Rodrigo Martinez

BIPOC artists at Sac State bring color and culture to the world of fine arts

Artists imbue personal stories of religious upbringing into dynamic paintings

A wide array of artwork lines the walls of Kadema Hall, the art department at Sacramento State. In an industry that has historically excluded Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Sac State’s fine arts department is bringing diverse artists and their works into the limelight.

R.W & Joyce Witt Gallery viewers can expect to see artwork that critique religious upbringings and challenge societal norms in the hall. 

Vibrant depictions of the Virgin Mary, bright blue and green luchador masks and icons of Filipino culture are just some of the many pieces that have been displayed in the gallery. 

The State Hornet spoke to several BIPOC artists featured in the gallery carving out a space for diverse artistry in the fine art community. 

Keith Lapuz

Fourth-year studio art major Keith Lapuz creates paintings that center on his personal experiences of growing up in the Filipino community.

One of Lapuz's favorite pieces shown in this collection is his painting, "‘Ako'y Pinagpala," a piece with intricate imagery and bright colors that highlight Lapuz's upbringing and how he feels about his community’s culture.

“The pieces in the gallery talk about how I grew as a person by internalizing my experiences with my culture, religion and different ways of coping,” Lapuz said. 

The vibrant, colorful aesthetic he integrates in his work contrasts the somber topics he portrays.

Lapuz said his personal experience with Filipino culture has inspired him to create art that focuses on corruption in the Philippines or growing up with a toxic family.

Creating these paintings gives Lapuz an outlet for self-expression, and when people appreciate his culture and identity through art, he said he feels seen and heard. 

“I believe coming to terms with these subjects is essential to truly understanding what it means for me to be a part of the Filipino community,” Lapuz said. 

Lapuz said a defining moment for his art career was when his family openly criticized his choice to become an artist, which pushed him to prove his family wrong.

“Ever since I became an artist here at Sac State, I was surrounded with such good, passionate and driven people,” Lapuz said. “I have learned so much about myself and art being around this environment and I don’t regret pursuing art.” 

Lapuz’s work is bright and bold with the direct purpose to highlight his culture and connect with viewers, but some artists on campus aim to create a space for minorities in the art community that are underrepresented. 

The world of fine arts is often isolating to underrepresented communities. Artists from these communities are challenging this isolation by creating works that tell their own stories.

Alejandra Ruiz

Senior Alejandra Ruiz is a studio art major who dreams of creating a space for Mexican artists in fine art.

"Whenever I go to museums or galleries, I never see depictions of my culture or images that I can relate to," Ruiz said. "It is my goal to create work to exist in those spaces that are predominantly taken up by white, male experiences." 

Ruiz's upbringing as a Catholic is evident in her work, with religious and cultural motifs seen in many of her paintings.

Ruiz recently got to display a collection called “Tilichero” in the Witt Gallery of paintings that feature Catholic iconography.

Some of Ruiz’s paintings have depicted luchadores fighting, her friends as saints and the Virgin Mary with a luchador mask which is called “Tonantzin.”

Ruiz said she does not create from a predetermined source of inspiration. The meaning behind each piece is as much about the creative process as it is about the finished product itself. 

"I don't purposefully try to convey a message to the audience," Ruiz said. "I like to make art that's sort of up to interpretation as well." 

While artists like Ruiz use religious iconography as a focal point in their work, others are inspired by their faith to create compelling pieces.

Amari Moore

For senior studio art major Amari Moore, creating art is a deeply personal process that reflects what she values most, which is faith and family. 

Her work does not have overtly religious themes, but she said she views the artistic process as a way to deepen her own religious devotion. 

“These paintings serve as a direct resemblance of my heart,” Moore said. “Jesus and my family are my heart, so it’s very special for me to do and to see.” 

Moore cites her family as a major source of encouragement, as her parents and siblings all possess artistic talent. 

Discovering her own passion for painting and drawing has allowed Moore to feel more connected to her family and the Black artist community on campus.

“You don’t see many Africans on canvases, and I want them to have that experience seeing themselves as a figure on canvas,” Moore said. 

Moore noticed how rarely BIPOC individuals are depicted in fine paintings, so many of her portraits feature her family as subjects.

“Though painting people with brown skin comes natural to me, I step back and see many other canvases painted with portraits of fair skin people,” Moore said. “My paintings serve as a statement of, ‘Black people are here too.’” 

Moore said she was able to create art with her sister Bryana Moore, who graduated last fall. Their collaborative exhibition, entitled “In Tune,” was displayed in the Witt Gallery at Sac State earlier this year. 

“It’s pretty dope.” Moore said. “It’s a good experience. That’s my sister, you know, a very close best friend.”

Moore said collaborating with her sister strengthened their bond and revealed their unique creative approaches across different mediums. 

Further expanding her versatility across mediums, Moore has started making collage paintings with her original poems, utilizing visual and written aspects  to showcase a more introspective side of herself. She is frequently inspired by Maya Angelou’s poems

“It’s a humble experience being more vulnerable in my art, showing my poetry,” Moore said. “This is part of being an artist, you know, you can’t just keep secrets or hide too much.” 

While many artists create for deliberate political reasons, Moore prefers to depict what she finds beauty in and leave the message open to audience interpretation.

“I hope that all I do and create is an inspiration to all people of color,” Moore said. “I hope that it allows people to connect and be more aware of themselves and their feelings.” 

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Mia Huss
Mia Huss, A&E Staffer
(she/her) Mia is a graduating senior majoring in political science and journalism. She has worked as a freelance journalist covering local government in her hometown. This is her first semester with The State Hornet.
Jocelyn Hill
Jocelyn Hill, A&E Staffer
(she/her) Jocelyn Hill is a third-year transfer student from Orange County majoring in political science and journalism. This is her first semester at The State Hornet, where she is excited to be joining the Arts and Entertainment team. She is passionate about politics and social justice. In her free time, she enjoys running, drawing or binge-watching a new tv show.
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