We had the good fortune of connecting with Marisa Avelar and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marisa, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born and raised in Houston, TX. I am the daughter of an immigrant from El Salvador – who has a Masters in Theology and is a very political, well read, poetic, and deep thinking man – and a Mexican American mother who was into music and the arts, and who has a lot of charisma and dynamism. Both were teachers. They had a big impact on how I see the world and they taught me to look at it differently. I also grew up between two cultures; I learned to be proud of and embrace my Latino culture as well as growing up an American. This background has helped me to get to know myself and the strengths and struggles of my ancestors, making me the strong, unique person I am today.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been told that my art is feminine and edgy, two things you would say about me as a person. I’ve also been told that my work is full of color, life and creativity. I think it’s something I push for in everything I do. I am always trying to challenge myself and am not afraid to experiment and fail sometimes. There was a moment in college when I was working on some new pieces and I was scared because I didn’t know what I was doing or if it worked. I shared this with my painting professor and she said that’s a good thing. It was ok to keep pushing myself into unknown territory and my professor fostered an environment that made it safe to experiment. She would sometimes rein me in or guide me toward a direction that made what I was doing work. Ever since that freeing moment I am fearless when taking on new directions creatively. I may not know where it will go but I always enjoy the play that goes into it and the new surprises that come along. Professionally as a graphic designer, I have worked very hard at my craft. I research current trends and design history, try to improve my skills, gain more knowledge and I genuinely want feedback when something isn’t working. This was how I was trained as a fine artist as well, to have a critical eye and be honest about when something looks good when it doesn’t, because in the end if I lie to myself I am doing my client a disservice. I really push for excellence in what I’m doing and am not always satisfied with the first thing I put down. What I would like the world to know about my brand and story is there is more than meets the eye. I hope with the diversity of my skills, people can see that you don’t have to be labeled or tied down by anything. You can be yourself and follow your passion and people will appreciate you for that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston is such a fun, eclectic city and there are lots of hidden gems and not so hidden too. We would of course hang out at my old stomping ground, the Montrose/Museum District. Breakfast at Snooze A.M. Eatery, it’s such a fun place and delicious creative choices for breakfast. It’s a Colorado based chain, they opened a location in the Montrose not long ago and I had so much fun there and you can’t go wrong with the choices for breakfast. It has kind of a retro laid back diner vibe, yet modern so it’s definitely my style. We would then hop over to the Menil. I always have a wonderful time at the Menil and it’s FREE. One of my favorite hidden gems that not many people seem to know about are the Cy Twombly Gallery and the new Menil Drawing Institute. The Drawing Institute has a really lovely courtyard as well to sit in and enjoy a peaceful moment. Then we would quickly head over to the MFAH’s new Glassell School of Art. I am in love with the new “Cloud Column” sculpture housed there by Anish Kapoor and the rooftop view. I went to the Glassell school as a child, my father would take me there for drawing classes and I have great memories of us exploring this cooler place than the suburbs I grew up in called “The Montrose/Museum District”. Who knew as a young adult later in life I would work in the same building as a graphic designer for the MFAH. After that we will head for a quick lunch in River Oaks at the Rice Box. It’s a really fun, laid back and awesomely designed place for Chinese take out. They are always playing “Big Trouble in Little China” on the screens and the place looks like it’s out of “Blade Runner”. They started out as a successful food truck and moved to brick and mortar. The owner went to my high school, Clear Brook and am really proud to see a fellow alum following their dreams and becoming a success. Love their sesame chicken! Later, we would head to the Heights and visit my friends at the wonderful boutique & local shop, Hello-Lucky. This is a heights staple and Teresa the owner has cultivated a great community and unique place to shop. I always leave with something I have to have from there. After that, a quick coffee at Antidote where we would hang out on the patio and visit for a bit. For dinner, head over to Ninfa’s on Navigation. I always have to get my Mexican food fix, and Ninfa’s is the classic best. Lastly, evening tiki drinks at Lei Low in the Heights. I have several great memories there with friends and its a laid back fun place to hang out. They have such a wonderful and creative selection of Tiki drinks, you can’t go wrong. I will continue to say and do believe one of my favorite spots in the city is The Orange Show. It’s such a unique place and I am a huge fan of the annual Art Car Parade. No other city has such an eclectic and fun variety as Houston.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely would not be where I am without people who supported, pushed, spread the word, shared their expertise or took a special interest in me. Organizations that have really helped me along the way are Houston’s AIGA Chapter, in particular Robin Tooms. My friends at the Aurora Picture Show, in particular Andrea Grover, Delicia Harvey, Mary Magsamen and Rachel Tepper. At the MFAH, Marian Luntz and Tracy Stephenson and former head of Publications, Diane Lovejoy and Phenon Smiley. In college, my many mentors included Patricia Walker, Peter Smith, Jessica Hines, Margaret Eccles, Dr. Julie McGuire and Jane Hudak. I don’t know if you see a theme here, but strong women have always lifted me up and mentored me. I also credit many wonderful men who have also given me a chance but throughout my life there have been several key women who took a special interest in me and have guided me as a young designer and artist.
Other: My Etsy Shop where I sell my Holiday and Decorative Work: https://www.etsy.com/shop/YarnDreamsShop