Led by guidance received in her dreams, MFA@CIIS graduate Lola Victor has moved, painted, and published beyond borders.
My inquiry as an MFA candidate into my own narrative as an artist and a person was the seed that developed into my MFA project, propelled me into a post-graduation international relocation, landed my murals international space, and got my writing published in CURIOUS Magazine. All of these things were led by guidance and visions from my dreams. It has been a journey that is ever-unfolding.
My deep passion for art that connects people across borders and connects them to the realization of their highest dreams became clear to me through my studies at CIIS. As I was mentored and guided to delve deep into my own narrative, I uncovered my passion, inspiration, and deep calling to make art from my context of growing up in a border town. I began to clearly understand that when I make art, I set out to make projects that weave together and connect my stories and dreams with those of my neighbors, my ancestors, and women across borders globally.
Many things thereafter began to unfold. For example, I leaped into traveling between Mexico and the USA. I decided to explore the San Diego/Tijuana border, making as many connections, murals, paintings, and writings about the paradox of borders as possible.
I began writing about my experience of embodying the paradox of borders, and merging this with other accounts of injustices, challenges, and emotional aspects related to borders and crossings, especially for women. These writings became the basis for my MFA Project and eventual book, an international and collaborative collection of art and writings called Whispers Through The Wall.
After I graduated these explorations continued. They became richer, denser, and more magnetic. I began receiving many symbols and messages in my dreams, telling me to follow my own ancestral trail, to deepen my work through this continued inquiry, to move to Mexico.
So I listened. I leaped. I moved to Mexico.
I landed first in Mexico City, a volcanic city, and certainly the largest I have ever lived in. I was offered to work on an artist-run cultural project to educate people about Xochimilco, the only area in the city that still has floating Aztec canals. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site significantly endangered by pollution and lack of protection. My goal was to create a coloring book both as a local educational tool and an international fundraising tool, spreading awareness through art and interaction of the importance of protecting the beautiful water, flora, and fauna of this area.
Then I began to paint murals in the city, big ones, full of dream imagery, symbolism, and animal magic. I met artists and muralists that inspired me with their boldness, and their courage to rappel from great heights and paint the city alive (like Maria Antonieta Canfield).
Soon after I completed a handful of murals in the city, I got the pull to move south, closer to nature and water. I began to make plans to migrate towards Mayan and Mixteca lands — cultures centered more around astrology and the moon — another pull toward making art within and about more feminine energies in the world. The state of Oaxaca is one of the regions of Mexico with high reports of violence against women and notions of “machismo.” These affect the daily lives of the women who live here.
Then I got the message in my dreams again:
“Write about your journey! Honor your ancestors. Honor the women who have led you here. Honor the women in the world in your writing.”
I was experiencing so much movement and newness that I didn’t always remember to put out as much as I took in. But the dreams kept coming to remind me. My ancestors were alive in them. I began to prepare for my move to Oaxaca.
In my writing, I wanted to honor those ancestors, the women I was meeting and inspired by, and the mother earth and feminine energy that I was making art to protect. I wanted to use my personal experience as the container within which I was bringing together and sharing all of these beautiful, valid, and worthy parts of a much greater story than mine alone.
I wrote the short story “Lola is a nickname.” This story confronts readers with what it means to be a woman in this bordered world, by exploring the lineage of a single name: Dolores. It includes personal aspects of dream-reality, symbolism, and ancestral connection, and touches a greater truth of how powerful it is to be a woman in this world.
“Lola is a nickname.” was selected to be featured in the 2020 Womxn’s Edition of CURIOUS Magazine. It is available for purchase in print and digital here.
You can support my journey of art unfolding across borders by subscribing to my Patreon. Here you will receive exclusive gifts and updates on my next project in Oaxaca, based on bringing awareness to the daily disappearances of and violence against women.
Lola Victor is a writer, dreamer, muralist, and a graduate of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Writing at CIIS. She’s currently based in Oaxaca, Mexico. To read more from our alumni, follow MFA@CIIS on Medium or Instragram, and check out our new podcast, Meaning Making.