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Artist Doris Arellano's colorful sneakers. Artist Doris Arellano's colorful sneakers.

Artist adapts to pandemic, turns to sneakers as new medium

The athletic footwear bears themes related to Oaxacan traditional culture

After Covid-19 restrictions across Mexico indefinitely closed nonessential businesses, Oaxaca artist Doris Arellano Manzo made a decision: a canvas is a canvas — it could be stretched over a wooden frame or stretched over a pair of athletic shoes.

Like other artists worldwide who are succeeding at beating the pandemic’s economic challenges to their careers, Arellano is learning to adapt — to be less conventional and to think quite literally a bit smaller: she now paints her art on sneakers.

Arellano has been painting sneakers since July, when she and her daughter Frida, a communications and social media professional, realized that Arellano needed to reinvent herself and her art to adapt to the fact that museums and galleries would probably remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Since then, she has been creating artwork on her new, tinier form of canvas. Her latest collection of work, all painted on athletic footwear, is entitled Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

This latest collection features shoes with colorful abstract designs in bright cempasúchil orange, with lush floral wreaths and, of course, featuring the iconic, skeletal Catrina.

Doris Arellano Manzo
Arellano decided she needed to reinvent herself and her art to adapt to the fact that galleries would probably remain closed for the foreseeable future.

“Since I love to paint, I can paint for you on a large canvas just as well as I can on a small [one],” she recently told the newspaper Milenio. “As far as I’m concerned, while you have me here with my paints and paintbrushes, I’m thrilled.”

Each pair of shoes is unique, she said, “because it’s all done by hand, not by machine.” She describes her style as “traditionalist contemporary,” and says she is drawn to evoking the rites and customs of Oaxacan traditional culture.

When she began her first foray into sneaker painting in July, at Frida’s suggestion, her sneaker art was Guelaguetza-themed. The Guelaguetza is a traditional Oaxaca cultural festival that had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic.

She said both sneaker collections are homage to the Oaxaca rites and traditions that couldn’t take place in 2020.

In some ways, she said, the enforced isolation of the pandemic has been a huge challenge for artists like herself, but in other ways, it’s actually been familiar.

“The work of an artist is a bit enclosed,” she admitted. “We go out when there are exhibits, when we have to go introduce ourselves in public or do interviews.”

Still, she said, the pandemic caught the art community flatfooted.

“Artists don’t have a way to show their work during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s all been halted, and we have to go back and look for new formats for the public to see what we are doing.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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