A new series by Chicago-based artist Liz Flores explores familial roots and community through minimal portraits in a palette of deep, warm colors and neutral tones complemented by blues. In Ni De Aquí, Ni De Allá, which translates to “from neither here nor there,” Flores uses the anonymity and ambiguity of her figures to explore the connections between generations and the human desire to position oneself within an ancestral context. “This work is a direct reaction to the question ‘What are you?’” the artist says. “In the U.S., you don’t always feel like you are American enough. But then at the same time, you may not always feel Latina enough. You live in the in-between.”
Born to a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, Flores describes deepening her understanding of this liminal space during a recent collaboration with The Jaunt, a travel project that sends artists to various locations around the world. She traveled to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she joined her aunt and other family members for the first time without her parents. She explains:
I spent the next few days at their home talking with her about the differences in living in the States vs. Mexico, how the family in the States has changed, and the difficulty in keeping traditions alive. During this conversation, she mentioned how it can feel like you are “ni de aquí, ni de allá” and that became the title and theme of my show. It was a moment that felt like an evolution for me, not just as an artist gaining inspiration but as an adult, making connections with my family members not through my parents but on my own.
That moment followed a trip to Cuba a week earlier to visit her mother’s family when she talked with her cousins about the same feelings of belonging.
These moments culminate in Flores’ solo show, which is on view through the end of the year at Vertical Gallery in Chicago. Fourteen acrylic paintings center on the artist’s signature color-blocked figures, whose bodies bend and join each other in abstract compositions. Elongated limbs and hand gestures imply movement through clean, graceful lines, and puzzle pieces on the threshold of fitting into place reference broader themes of identity and kinship. Works like “Fresca y Atrevida,” for example, are more personal and reflect Flores’ affinities with Cuban culture by finding a blue zunzuncito, the world’s smallest bird that’s native to the island nation, as it prepares to land on the tip of the woman’s finger.