Paola Mejia, Reaching, Mixed media, 2019

My past work has broached the topic of immigration and the undocumented community; more specifically, my mother and my interpretations of her experiences. A collection of artworks, derived from this idea were created through the implementation of various artistic styles. My AP Studio Art class pushed me into unknown boundaries that allowed me to create this series including my piece Reaching. As a beginning artist, I had automatically developed the idea that art was confined to traditional media and realistic depictions. However, the process of creating these artworks has expanded my view of art-making and the role I play. 

To create Reaching and similar works, I started the process by developing a deeper understanding of how I define immigration. For inspiration, I relied on observing various political posters and art where shape, contrast, and space played a prominent role. After doing so, I translated my personal meaning through visual methods. I took various photographs of my mother and used them as a reference for creating my work. In the end, this not only assisted with visual proportions but created a more personal connection. Some of my pieces on this subject were created on acetate paper. Several layers of acrylic paint were needed to create solid colors but I particularly enjoyed this process because I took more care in developing shapes and angles. Furthermore, the acetate allowed me to add newspaper clippings in the creation of the background. Using newspaper clippings furthered the meaning of my pieces because I connected my interpretation of immigration to the experiences of others.

Paola Mejia was born and raised twenty minutes away from the bustling city of Atlanta. In the suburbs, her mother shaped her outlook not only on Hispanic culture but also on immigration. While Paola herself was born in the United States, her mother was not. The risks of being undocumented were understated in her home and as such both the fear and the significance of being undocumented were concealed. As she grew older, her fear of being separated from her mother grew more and more powerful. She witnessed the struggles her mother faced obtaining jobs where citizenship status was irrelevant but she never gave up despite outside pressures. 

In high school, Paola began to take visual art classes. Originally, she used traditional media and approaches to creating art. However, she became aware of how creative works could be used to express political messages and visually demonstrate a story. She wanted to become an artist who could reflect on personal issues and reach a broad audience. 

One of her works derived from the subject of immigration, titled “Undocumented” was displayed in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in the Spring of 2019 for their Awakened Showcase. Furthermore, she is a recipient of the Art Star Award, a Dekalb School District award, which was obtained in the Spring of 2018.