Elsa Muñoz

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Elsa Muñoz
I didn't always know I wanted to be an artist. In fact, until I was 18 I didn't even realize "artist" was an actual profession. I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in a neighborhood called La Villita (Little Village), a community predominantly composed of working class Mexican immigrants. My parents arrived in Chicago in 1977 after spending 12 years in California working as crop pickers and on factory assembly lines. Little Village was and is a typical inner city neighborhood with inner city concerns: gangs, crime, overcrowding, a compromised public school system and, at least in my memory, an overarching feeling of bleakness. But something very fortunate took place here--- my mother, who had no formal schooling herself, instilled in me a love for reading. And it was through books that I began to realize there was a world beyond the invisible walls of our troubled neighborhood. Looking back now, I know that this is where the proverbial seed was planted. Coming across poetry in schoolbooks gave me my first experiences with beauty and introduced me to the universal themes of our collective human experience. In a very literal sense, poetry untethered me from the limits of my surroundings. And this is when I realized that beauty mattered deeply--- not only as a salve from ugliness, but as an introduction to a deeper conversation with ourselves, the world around us, and the vast uncertainty within and beyond those borders. I would go on to take a required art class in my 3rd year of high school. I was not a natural talent, but I enjoyed it enough to take another class my senior year. By now I had decided that I wanted to become a psychologist, so when my art teacher asked me if I had considered any art schools, I was confused by the mere idea of schools solely dedicated to art. "Nope, I'm going into psychology," I responded with confidence. So imagine my surprise when only a few months later, I was sitting in a Psych101 lecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I was overcome with a sudden urge to run. I remember hurriedly taking notes in a crowded lecture hall one morning when a rapid wave of anxiety washed over me. Following immediately after, as strange as this sounds, I felt a loud "NO" reverberate throughout my body. The message was so urgent I couldn't ignore it. I dropped out of college the next day, completely unsure of what to do next. The next five months were a blur. I sat alone in my bedroom, unable to even think of an alternate plan. Finally, one day, a sketchbook and pencil ended up in my hands somehow. And after just a few clumsy marks on the paper, I felt a profound sense of relief. I decided to listen. I scheduled a walk-through at the American Academy of Art shortly thereafter. I remember walking nervously down the halls, peering into drawing rooms and feeling not quite sure if I belonged. Finally, we reached the Oil Painting 1 class on our last stop. I had never painted before, but the smell of the room and the sight of paint stains all over the floors felt warm and inviting. My guide ended the tour by carefully pulling out an in-progress painting from a drying rack for me to see. I could hardly believe such alchemy---colors, shapes and lines coalesced to somehow form an exquisite, almost-breathing face. It was magic. My heart quickened as I was overcome by this same sense of joyful discovery that had first broadened and deepened my world in childhood. And once again, I decided to listen. Born 1983, lives in Chicago, IL, USA Education 2006 Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, American Academy of Art, Chicago, Illinois Solo Shows 2016 The Unknowable, The Union League Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL 2014 Sea and Landscapes, Zygman Voss Gallery, Chicago, IL 2013 Transience, Zygman Voss Gallery, Chicago, IL 2012 Still: Paintings for Blanca, Dubhe Carreno Gallery, Chicago, IL 2011 Claro y Obscuro, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2010 Sublime Nature, South Suburban College, South Holland, IL 2010 Introspection, Dubhe Carreno Gallery, Chicago, IL Group Exhibitions 2015 Chicago Paints, Ohio University of Art and Design, Athens, Ohio 2015 La Muerte Niña, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2015, Nuestras Historias, Stories of Mexican Identity from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2014 Border Crossings, Expo Chicago at Navy Pier, Chicago, IL 2013 She Divided the World into Thirds, North Park University, Chicago, IL 2012 Memorias y Sueños, Cliff Dwellers Club, Chicago, IL 2012 Ways of Making: Painting, Governors State University, University Park, IL 2012 From What I Remember/ From What I Forget, Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA 2011 Dia de Muertos XXV, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL 2011 Get Real, 33 Collective Gallery, Chicago, IL 2010 Centerline, Zhou B. Arts Center, Chicago, IL 2009 Around the Coyote Spring and Fall Arts Festival, Chicago, IL 2009 Milwaukee Arts Fest, Chicago, IL 2009 Growing up CAD, Chicago Art Department Auction, Chicago, IL 2009 Behind the Wheel: A Celebration of Feminism, Framing Mode Gallery, Chicago, IL 2008 The Artist Project at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 2008 Frame Warehouse Artist Weekends, Evanston, IL 2006 Little Village Arts Fest, Chicago, IL 2006 Perspectives on Immigration, Beverly Arts Center, Beverly, IL 2006 Day of the Dead: Rooted in Tradition, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago, IL 2006 State of the Art, The Tavern Club, Chicago, IL 2006 Bachelor Graduating Exhibition, American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL Print and Reviews 2014 “Elsa Muñoz Sea and Landscapes,” Recommended, Newcity Art, November 2014 2013 “30 Under 30” Art Business News, November 2013 2012 “Good Art on View in Chicago,” Paul Klein Art Letter, April 5, 2012 2012 “Elsa Munoz @ Dubhe Carreno Gallery,” IPaintMyMind, April 12, 2012 2012 “Elsa Munoz at the Dubhe Carreno Gallery,” Examiner.com, April 7, 2012 2011 “Top 5 of Everything 2011: Art” for ‘Claro y Obscuro’ at NMMA, Newcity Art, December 21, 2011 2011 “Elsa Muñoz’s Claro y Obscuro,” CBSnews, October 17, 2011 2011 “Elsa Muñoz/National Museum of Mexican Art,” Newcity Art, Aug 23, 2011 2011 “Elsa Muñoz — Interview,” Chicago Art Magazine, July 12, 2011 Collections National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL — “Drifting Sun,” 2010 Private Collection of Martin Castro, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2011-) Awards 2006 Sick Child, American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL, Annual Juried Student Exhibition Best of Show, Alex and Lynette Ross Award First Place, Fine Art 2005 Natalie, American Academy of Art, Chicago, IL, Annual Juried Student Exhibition Best of Show, Alex and Lynette Ross Award Award of Excellence, Fine Art Award of Excellence, Student Choice Publications 2015 The Female Complaint, Shade Mountain Press, cover art featuring “Copper Vessel,” 2012 2011 Manifest Gallery First International Painting Annual, Cincinnati, OH 2009 O&S Magazine (Volume 2 Issue 4, 2009)