As part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, De Colores hosted artist Eilen Itzel Mena ’13 on Sept. 24. Mena spoke to students in the School’s new Multicultural Center about her journey to Hotchkiss and her evolution as an artist.
Mena is an Afro-Dominican American artist, writer, and community organizer originally from the South Bronx. Her visual arts practice synthesizes Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and African Diaspora spiritual frameworks through interdisciplinary work. She serves as a co-director and creative collaborator for Honey and Smoke, a global artist community and platform focused on creating space for artists to meditate on the important themes of our time through themed seasons. It is a conceptual project that explores these themes through new media and interactive digital content. She is also a principal member of Zeal, a Black artist cooperative, creative agency and studio that creates infrastructure for Black artists to thrive.
Mena was encouraged to attend Hotchkiss by Jennifer Levitt '00, who was a teacher at her public school. Once in Lakeville, Mena further developed her identity as an artist. After graduating Hotchkiss, she earned her B.A. in fine arts from the University of Southern California.
Mena spoke extensively about her work, which is colorful and often childlike in its simplicity. Her art often involves the process of breaking down and compiling different aspects of her identity, and the process of healing childhood and adult issues. She uses bright colors that allude to sacred colors in the traditional religion and system of divination she follows that is practiced throughout Nigeria and African Diaspora. View more of her work here.
She advised students who are just starting their artistic journey that at Hotchkiss they are already on solid ground, and they have many opportunities to explore and grow as an artist. As they mature, they will have to pivot, but "probably the most important consideration to make when you move forward after graduating is to be true to yourself,” she said.
“You are already on your path by being at Hotchkiss. Don’t ever feel that you are stuck. You can always make your own path. It is hard, it’s not easy,” she said.