Michelle Hackney is a mother of five originally from El Paso who is promoting her new bilingual book Mama’s Leche alongside illustrator Mia Ortiz. Michelle is originally from El Paso, and currently resides in Las Cruces. Michelle explains that above all else she is a mother of five, and this is where her purpose and motivation come from, allowing her to do her best work.
Living at the border has greatly influenced both Michelle’s and Mia’s work because it has shaped their ideas of family. Michelle and Mia are cousins who grew up in a big, lively, loud Latino family, where support for each other is unconditional. Michelle recognizes the bond with her family as something that is very common to the EL Paso community. For her part, Mia explained that she greatly looks up to the women in her family who have translated a sense of power and determination into her and her work.
These two cousins put the book Mama’s Leche together because they were lucky to both be pregnant at the same time and this allowed them to build a strong bond between them. They both wanted to share the “sacred bond that a mother and child create through breastfeeding,” from the baby’s perspective, to others. Their goal was to show support to other woman by trying to normalize breastfeeding and erase the negative stigmas attached to it. Mia shared with us that they found a way to collaborate with Michelle’s words and her ink drawings to share their special bond and their bond with their children through the baby’s perspective.
When it came time to illustrate her book, Michelle immediately thought of asking her cousin for help. “I gave Mia my story and asked if she’d take a crack at some drawings, she got right back to me with the most sincere images.” Michelle says that Mia’s simplicity in her drawings yet het ability to draw so much emotion caught her attention. Michelle recalls crying the first time she saw the illustrations because someone had managed to put her words to images. You can definitely see the love and respect that they have for each other, and if you talk to any of them, they have nothing but the kindest words for each other.
Talking about the border community and El Chuco, Michelle is quick to say that El Paso is very unique because of the local talent, in all areas. She truly believes El Paso is a mecca for art because of the many seriously talented and gifted artists.
For those of you who need tips on what to do around town, Michelle recommends eating as much Mexican food as you can, because nothing else in the nation compares! She also recommends experiencing the serenity of the desert and taking advantage of our beautiful mountains. She encourages people to go hiking through McKelligon Canyon, Scenic Drive, Transmountain Road, Aztec Caves, and Waco Tanks.
Overall, Michelle really encourages people to go out there and enjoy their city and their culture, and while you’re at it, you can go say hello to her at Chuco Relic (one of her favorite places in town) on November 26!
"If I can bring out joy in others and give someone a reason to be proud of our region, I'll have achieved the highest of heights."
Gabaldon, an extremely talented artist who does a lot of El Paso themed artwork, first started to paint in 2012 but had been doodling for years in the margins of books and note pads. Gabaldon didn’t get into color and painting when he took a “drink and paint” class with his wife. He remembers his first experience painting as “freeing and eye opening” because he had complete control of the paint and the brush to do anything he wanted. With each piece that he painted his passion began to grow, and soon he saw himself teaching himself from his own vision. Having spent hours working and learning, Gabaldon feels like he is finally hitting a stride in his work and his artistic voice shines through.
Gabaldon has been doodling for years and this has greatly influenced his style, as he prefers “the odd and the silly.” When he was growing up he was very into The Far Side, FoxTrot, Marvel Trading Crds, anything Sega, and afternoon cartoons and all of these influences can be seen in his artwork today. The desert here is also a source of inspiration for Gabaldon because of all the bold colors in the landscapes and our skyline. Apart from these two things, Gabaldon told us that the people that he meets at events are a big inspiration to him. The act of meeting someone who wants to decorate their space with his art is a humbling feeling that helps him push forward with his work.
The desert serves as a great source of inspiration for Gabaldon because of the landscapes and vibrant colors we have all round us. He chooses to paint El Paso themed paintings because we are surrounded by all this color and Chuco flavor. He believes that the spirit and the culture of the border is everywhere and can be seen by everyone no matter their perspective. So while some people may choose to say that we have no green or vibrant colors, just brown, Gabaldon chooses to see the color that is simply amplified by the brown surroundings.
Gabaldon remembers the time he went to Santa Fe to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and how he was impacted by her paintings of Cerro Pedernal. There were so many views of her favorite mountain and this got him thinking, "I bet she could have painted that view over and over and over again and it would never be the same". This got him thinking of our beloved Franklin Mountains, and how he could try to capture their beauty for years, and yet he would still find more beauty that needs to be captured in a painting. He continues to paint El Paso because it is constantly changing and even though he continues to paint our surroundings over and over he doesn’t feel like he captures it correctly. This serves as motivation to keep painting in the hopes of capturing a piece of its spirit.
As for Gabaldon’s wishes for his artwork, the main one is that people experience joy from seeing his work. He hopes that the beauty and spirit of El Paso that he is trying to capture is seen by others, and that they can find joy in the “healing aroma of desert rain” he loves so much. He hopes that his artwork can help instill some much needed community pride of our amazing city.
You can go follow him on Instagram as @gabaldonart and see his amazing artwork!
I recently went to Golden Goose Tattoo Shop to talk to Joshua Perez a.k.a Cuidado con el Tren! He is a talented artist here in the Sun City who happened to do an art show along side "dotdotjulio" at Dream Chasers Club a few months ago. Not only does he do art shows, but he also does graffiti, murals, tattoos, and much more. You might recognize his art work featured in the Pizza Joint restaurants and Tinman bars around town.
He has been doing art for as long as he can remember. He was that "one kid in class always drawing stuff." In high school, Joshua got really into street art and graffiti. Never in his mind did he believe that he would be doing art for a living. Graffiti was something that he worked on and slowly improved, but once he got the hang of it, he did it professionally and even did some murals. Joshua did not stop there, he kept improving his skill and eventually he started getting paid for commission.
When I talked to Joshua, he told me a story about him and his mentor (who is a tattoo artist) who one day while they were painting trains told him that he could be his apprentice. Joshua was very happy about it since it was something he had been wanting to do. He mentioned that although graffiti was fun while it lasted, he enjoys tattooing since it is still fairly new to him and he has fun doing it as well. He said "I was tired of painting my name over and over and tattooing has allowed me to do something different." With that being said, Josh continues to improve his tattooing as well as creating new designs.
In the past, Joshua has worked with Dream Chasers Club and I asked him whether he was planning on doing another art show in the near feature. He recently had one at ODE Brewery and he mentioned that he might be doing another one with Jam (owner of DCC) this upcoming year. Joshua mentioned that the art shows can get a little hectic due to the fact that there are deadlines and many things to get done, but he still enjoys doing them.
I asked him whether these next exhibitions will have a certain theme to them and he mentioned "my style is always changing and I'm trying to find my own. I do more of the illustrative stuff, but I am all over the place so it's hard for me to settle down and do one theme. My art work at my shows are all different styles." What he said is true, his artwork speaks for itself and after seeing it, I can absolutely agree.
To conclude our conversation I asked him about his fascination with trains, considering that he posts about them and his Instagram name is "cuidadoconeltren". He said that the reason why he loves trains so much was that his grandparents lived next to one of the train crossings. "As a kid I would hear the train coming and I would beg them to let me go see them. When I got older I actually started painting on trains and it was exciting because there was that adrenaline rush of 'oh shit I shouldn't be here' in the train yard and it can be dangerous at times." He mentioned that it was fun for him to graffiti trains with his artwork because he started seeing the trains with his artwork all over the country and people took pictures of them and posted them online. "I was obsessed with painting more trains and seeing them out there."
He also added that his son, now, is also fascinated by trains and he loves seeing them go by as well. It now makes sense to see why Joshua has an affinity with trains and why it sometimes translates into his artwork. Below are a few examples of some of the work he has done (except for the self-portrait):