Longmont artist Grace Gutierrez put up an exhibition “Con Flores” at the Firehouse Art Center that showcases portrait paintings that reflect her deep exploration of identity, femininity and the vibrant colors inspired by her Mexican heritage.
Embarking on the path of art, Gutierrez encountered challenges along the way. When reflecting on her artistic journey, she acknowledged that the maturity and discipline she has developed over time undeniably enhanced the depth and richness of her present artistic pursuits.
“In order to make art and be creative, you have to experience things and make mistakes. For me, I needed to be more responsible and disciplined, and I’m glad I have that now,” Gutierrez said.
The exhibition at the Firehouse Art Center distinguishes itself in Gutierrez’s body of work, deviating from her typical meticulous planning. Curated with some pieces left unfinished, it unveils a compelling theme centered around female figures and flowers.
Gutierrez found herself questioning the prevalence of these elements in her art, pondering the underlying themes and motivations that led to their prominence. This introspection served as the genesis of the exhibition.
“Flowers, in general, symbolize themes of growth and change,” Gutierrez said. “Flowers persist to grow even when things are tough and times are hard. I relate it to the female experience or any marginalized individual. You can’t try to kill flowers, but they always grow back.”
For Gutierrez, capturing the essence of a human being through portraiture is the most challenging yet rewarding aspect of her art. Her preference for painting people she knows allows her to delve into the intricacies of their personalities, bringing out the elements she truly admires.
“Capturing a human is the hardest thing in art. I just love painting faces,” Gutierrez said. “I usually choose family members. In this show, it’s all women — people I relate to, people who inspire me. I want to bring out their beauty to inspire others.”
Gutierrez’s paintings burst with vibrant colors, an indication of her deep connection to Mexican culture. Painting with these colors comes naturally to her, and she is drawn to them effortlessly. The bold hues, including hot pink and lime green, serve not just as a visual spectacle but also as a powerful statement of belonging and pride.
“I like to play with classical poses that Western or European art made popular, but often Mexican and Indigenous artists are left out of classical art. I want to take ownership and say, ‘We belong in the art world,’” Gutierrez said.
Longmont serves as not just a residence but a wellspring of inspiration and support for Gutierrez. Her strong familial connections form a significant anchor, creating a sense of belonging and community.
“Definitely family. I have a big family here. And my partner is also from here, and his family’s here,” Gutierrez said. “The Firehouse has also been so amazing to me. I interned there, I used to work there, too. They provide so many opportunities for artists, and that is a draw for me in Longmont. There are so many things for artists to do. The art community is really thriving.”
Gutierrez’s connection to Longmont is a tapestry woven with threads of family, community and artistic collaboration. Her art not only reflects her personal journey but also speaks to the resilience, growth and beauty found in the intersections of diverse experiences within the welcoming embrace of Longmont.
“Especially when I reflect on my culture and how my culture influences my art, I love that Longmont is so diverse,” Gutierrez said. “It celebrates the diversity within the community, celebrates Mexican culture. Lots of Mexican business owners. It’s cool to see people like me thriving and contributing.”