Elizabeth Peña, Not Just a Costume

Painting of an individual wearing a blue dress and mariachi hat surrounded by traditional Mexican symbols. There are cacti, a piñata, pinto beans, a snake, etc.

Elizabeth is a Mexican-American artist raised in Houston, Texas. They graduated from Rhodes College in 2023 with a BA in Studio Art. Their work is inspired by the memories and experiences from growing up in a traditional Mexican household as well as the frequent visits to their father’s home in Guadalajara, Jalisco. In addition to trying to honor and celebrate their culture in the work, the artist contends with the aspects of tradition and the roles that they are unable to conform to. The figure and the body are important aspects of the work, with the figure often utilized to depict a grappling with the self and the multiplicity that comes with identity.

"Not Just a Costume" is 11x14 inches acrylic on wood panel. Their artist statement that accompanies this piece reads: "Through painting, I create depictions of self that explore different aspects of my identity. By creating floaty, cognitive spaces, I am able to address the complexities of my identity and its conflicting history and present. I often feel disconnected from Mexico while in the United States, yet that disconnect is what makes me want to hold my culture tighter and claim what I can. The portrait is an exaggeration of identity. Distortion of the body depicts the need to twist and conform to the rules and expectations of my surroundings. While choosing the imagery, I was drawn to food, symbols, and elements of tradition that I thought were easily recognizable as relating to Mexican culture: the corn on the cob, the Mariachi hat, the pinto beans, the eagle and the snake, the piñata, cacti, Pre-Hispanic artifacts, etc. I use these stereotypical objects to poke fun at the idea that I need to be Mexican enough for myself or for others."