Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, the artist Majo is a vivacious painter with a bold style and a knack for storytelling that she weaves into every piece she creates. A Kansas City transplant, Majo works regularly on collections dedicated to the culture and stories of her native Latin America. We recently sat down with Majo to talk about her art, community and life in the Midwest.
Kansas City Spaces: When did you first come to Kansas City?
Majo: In 2000. My mother said to me, “Why don’t you start exhibiting your work in American galleries?” Up until then I had always done pastels and small pieces. But my mother told me “Paint big.” I went to an art gallery in Leawood. I brought in a large painting—I only wanted the opinion of the gallery owner—but she sold the painting in 15 minutes! I thought, “My husband is going to kill me! He thought I was only going to get it framed!”
KCS: What inspires your art?
M: I take a lot of my inspiration from Latin American culture, especially the people of the Andes. When I was living in Santa Marta, Colombia, I had the opportunity to meet some of the surviving people of the pre-Colombian tribes and see their artwork—pottery making, weaving and intricate metal works in which they weave gold throughout. It inspired me. I took the idea, made it larger, and put in on canvas to create an abstract and contemporary interpretation of Latin American culture. In my family, storytelling and sharing stories are part of what we do. I carry that over into my art.
When I first painted my collection, El Dorado, I thought it would be too dark, too bold, too Latin American for Kansas and Missouri. But people absolutely loved it! After that I realized I can tell the stories about who I am and share my passion about where I come from, because when that passion comes through in my painting, people appreciate it and, even if they’re from the Midwest, they can relate to the story.
KCS: What has been your favorite part about living in the Kansas City area?
M: To me so far, the people in the Midwest have been amazing. I run into so many people that have my paintings, and when I meet them, they always tell me their stories and share their reactions about my art. The stories they tell me, I call it the last brush stroke. It’s the finishing of the painting.
KCS: Giving back to the community seems important to you. Care to elaborate?
M: I think all artists have the power to help people through our art. I realized there is a need out there, so I decided to start donating food each time I finish a painting. A couple of months ago I began supporting a local food pantry at Bishop Sullivan Center, which provides groceries to in-need Kansas City families each month. This past year I was also honored to have my art featured on cell-phone cases with Red Dirt. Every time a case is sold, $5 goes to water.org, which helps to provide clean water to those around the world that need it. It’s a great feeling, when I’m painting, to know that food will be provided to a family, or to know that my art is helping to supply clean water to someone in the world.
I have also become involved with Medical Missions Foundation. This past February I was their featured artist at their fundraising event “Art for the Children.” I created a painting inspired by the work that Medical Missions does to save and change the lives of children around the world.
KCS: What are your plans for 2015?
M: This year I am going to complete Muses and Warriors, my most ambitious and hardest collection ever. It will be dedicated to women who have been a source of inspiration throughout history and during my own time. For example, Malala Yousafzai is someone whom I admire for her passion and strength to fight for others. For most women, the right to have an education is something we are born with; but for her, fighting for this right almost cost Malala her life.
Majo’s art is available at the Eva Reynolds Gallery in Leawood.