For our first visit of the New Year, Art Ready students braved record cold temperatures to arrive at Brooklyn’s Army Terminal building in Bay Ridge. This colossal former military supply base now houses an artist residency program through the organization Chashama, which includes the colorful studio of artist mentor Maia Cruz Palileo.
A multidisciplinary artist whose work is largely inspired by personal experiences of home, family, and migration, Maia immediately immersed the students in her own artistic process by having them sketch “life maps.” After students shared their resulting drawings of places they’ve lived, schools they’ve attended and influential people in their lives, Maia transitioned to sharing her own life map to explain her path as an artist.
After realizing her post-college 9-5 job as a gallery assistant was no longer satisfying her (though it gave her valuable connections in the art world), Maia went to graduate school at Brooklyn College to dedicate the necessary time to her studio art practice. She emphasized the importance of the “artist mentors” who took her under their wing in this MFA program. She was fortunate enough to receive an unrestricted grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation that enabled her after graduate school to continue renting a studio and paying for art materials while working only part time. The Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace program helped Maia learn the business side of working as an artist. Today, Maia teaches art extensively with the Joan Mitchell Foundation to support her creative work.
Maia’s work is characterized by expressive portraits, domestic scenes, and varied colors and patterns that evoke different emotional states. Some of her imagery is inspired by her Filipino heritage and places she and her family have lived, including the American Midwest. Maia also likes to experiment across different media, translating her drawings into richly textured sculptures, prints, and video animations. She has created large-scale installations for gallery spaces, and collaborated with theatrical performers and musicians.
Maia encouraged students to do a lot of drawing in order to “warm up” when making art, and emphasized the importance of “visual research” behind her work. She believes students should choose her as a mentor if they want to similarly experiment with different art materials to reflect on their lives and the world around them.