We had the good fortune of connecting with Sofia Silva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sofia, how do you think about risk?
I would say that risk in my life has played the role of a shadow, it is there always following me, and it is accentuated every time there is more light in my path. But then I just try to make the shadow mine and go on. I think we can all set a goal and analyze the pros and cons, but I feel that by facing the path day by day to reach that goal, the real challenge and risk lurk. Personally, taking risks has led to precious experiences in my life. And yes, before making a decision, of course, I am dying of fear because I do not know the path that awaits me, but I try to enjoy it once the fear phase is overcome. It is always lovely to look at the whole experience because it leaves you with a rich lesson.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I will try to summarize in a few lines. I started as a video editor and animator in 2005; I did advertising, video production and filmmaking for twelve years. It was a great experience because I had the opportunity to meet many places and people with beautiful stories. Today I am dedicated to the study of plants, the Kichwa language, and illustration. In general, I feel that what has moved me in my career is the need to tell stories. Nature has marked my path. I grew up surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, jungles, and since I was a child, my grandfather took us with him to hike in the hills, while my grandmothers had their little gardens. Later, with my work in filmmaking, I shared a lot with indigenous communities of the Amazon and Afro-descendants of the Ecuadorian Coast and Andes. Many of those people have become friends who have been present to this day. In 2011 while I was still in filmmaking, I grew curious about watercolor, so I decided to join the plein air paintings from the Watercolor Museum Munoz Mariño in Quito and the Urban Sketchers UIO. The idea was to capture the city’s architecture; but, I would instead draw women for some reason. A friend of the group encouraged me to continue with that search. Another essential key to my work is the learning process of the Kichwa language; it has led me to new ways of seeing modern society and the relationship with nature and indigenous communities. Also, given the lack of material for learning the Kichwa language, I find myself making a small game so that children and non-Kichwa speakers can learn the language. I think 2016 was a crucial year in my path. After spending a year in Argentina doing a certification in documentary filmmaking, I went back to Ecuador. Back at home, I showed my short film (BO) at a festival and started applying to different jobs and film festivals for BO. I came across the reality that the jobs I was used to doing were not available due to an economic crisis in Ecuador. I was unemployed, so I took my painting hobby to another level. I started creating stuff to sell and assisted in painting murals. It was tough at first because a wall was a format I was never used to, but then I figured it out that “if I see the monster as big as it is, it is going to eat me. Instead I need to crumble the monster”. So when I had to paint a character 4 meters high, it was easier if I think about the character as a head, as a hand, as a foot, and concentrate on each part at a time, instead of thinking of it as the giant character that it was, this is what I mean by crumbling the monster. When I moved to the States, I was already in the painting path, so I saw the city from that perspective; some doors open at Visual Gallery and Chicano Art Gallery, which I’m so thankful for. Also, I got a job at the Zoo doing art; I learned a lot from my managers and coworkers, who were always open to sharing what they knew. Working there helped me overcome the language barrier and cultural differences. With time I just came to peace that culture is stuck with each of us; we just have to be open to learning from each other and share on both sides, and my accent, oh well! There are funny mistakes that come with it; over time, I got less “self conchas” and just start speaking; if any, the other person is always welcome to ask if they didn’t understand or use google translator. When I make art, I try to recognize nature’s value; I try to tell stories from the wild’s healing and magic power through herb women, women who transform into animals or who are accompanied by their totem and their inner power. Being a multifaceted artist has helped me with my purpose of telling stories and adds value to my work. But at moments, I was harsh with myself because I felt I wasn’t concentrating in one specific area, and I thought that wouldn’t take me anywhere. But now I understand that all that knowledge is tools, and it is a blessing that I have more tools to create. More than proud, I would say I am thankful for the heritage that my grandparents gave me, for the experiences that I carry in my heart with nature that has given me so much, and for having met precious people wherever I have gone. I want to tell through my artwork that we all live and belong to the earth and the universe. Each one of us is no superior to the other; we all have our unique paths. We are all alive. Respect those different lifestyles, from the tinies animal, vegetal, fungus to all the human shapes. For this I am grateful to San Diego because of a great community that cares about natural medicine, and respects other ways of living. I would also like to point out that we all have the ability to observe what is happening around us, we have the senses that transmit that wisdom to us, we have our intelligence and our internal voice. That inner voice will take us where we should be and push us to create beautiful things that will have a voice of their own. It is a personal decision to shut it up or accept it—what better time than now to get up and start creating.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is where the desert meets the sea. Hiking and some activities by the ocean would be on the itinerary. I would pick Cedar Creek, Torrey Pines, La Jolla Cove, to name a few. Always acknowledging the Kumeyaay land we are on. A picturesque place to visit is Old Village, once there I would share some spooky stories. Chicano Park and Varrio Logan are on the list because of their history of resistance. To eat, I would pick up some California burritos at El Zarape or Colimas and have a nice picnic at Balboa Park. I would also invite my friend to some Conchas and coffee at El Dia del Cafe. I think it is interesting to visit the bridge by the border to contemplate people’s powerful flux coming and going. It is interesting because it manifests the illusion of the frontier. To close the day and assuming it is a full moon day, I would take my friend to the cactus garden in Balboa Park to look at the moon, and as in the act of teleportation, I would go to the beach to close the day with a beautiful Californian sunset.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh! It’s a tough question. Always thankful to my beautiful husband for his unconditional love and support. Big Thanks to my family and friends, know that I feel blessed to have you. I want to give a shoutout to artists from the San Diego Zoo. A talented crew when it comes to art. They do a fantastic personal jobs behind the scenes. I want to shout out to some groups that have been important, especially during the pandemic: to GraffiTodas (Latin American Network of Women and Dissidents in Urban Art) for the sisterhood. To Sketchbook Club Tijuana for holding space and keep our creativity going. To Covid Sketchers and Wattana Khommarath, whom we created art with during the pandemic.