Digital artist Soni López-Chávez (@soni_artist) is as first-generation immigrant who was born in Cuitzeo de Abasolo in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in San Diego, California. She worked as an acrylic painter and a muralist while also being a full-time preschool teacher. In 2020 she and her partner were forced to close our gallery due to rampant gentrification and statewide COVID-19 shutdowns that effectively shuttered all shows and galleries across the state. During the global pandemic, she made the decision to transition from acrylic painting to focus on digital illustration. “Born out of the isolation during the darkest days of the pandemic’s lockdowns, I began creating a series of digital art pieces celebrating the empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable communities,” she tells HipLatina.
Inspired by her Chichimeca heritage and lived experience as a first-generation immigrant, her art covers her Indigenous ancestry and her bicultrality lived expereicnes. She aims to raise awareness to issues through her art and use her platform to counter negative, preconceived stereotypes, and to empower historically marginalized communities. With an Instagram following of more than 120K followers, her art resonates with thousands who feel seen through her work.
Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?
I feel that every Latina that has come into my life has taught me something whether it was on purpose or not. To be strong, to be loyal, to stay focused and driven, to stay positive, to give myself slack. I’ve learned so much from each one of them.
If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?
María Félix. She was such a chingona who stood in her power regardless of the gender roles back then.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Your life is your responsibility.
Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?
My dad. He didn’t understand what an artist was and yet he still bought me art supplies. He never pressured me to do things I wasn’t interested in.
How do you stay connected to your cultural roots?
I visit my hometown as often as possible and when I am not there I keep connected by prayer, meditation and ancestral practices.
What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
I wish people understood how powerful art is. Art is a multifaceted phenomenon, serving as a reflection of our innermost emotions and the world around us. It evokes feelings, from joy and sorrow to anger, creating a bridge of understanding between diverse groups of people. By transcending languages and cultures, art becomes an invaluable asset in fostering unity and peace.
What motivates you?
The beauty and magic in the simple things motivates me. Like the hummingbird that visits me everyday, the rainbows I see every morning from my suncatcher sticker, the sun on my back, the smell of fresh tortillas from the grocery store next to my home.
How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?
My professional art career began in 2020 after my partner and I were forced to close our gallery due to rampant gentrification and statewide COVID-19 shutdowns that effectively shuttered all shows and galleries across the state. Following the unceremonious closure of our gallery and in the midst of an isolating lockdown, I made the pivotal decision to transition from acrylic painting to focus on the exciting new realm of digital illustration. Born out of the isolation during the darkest days of the pandemic’s lockdowns, I began creating a series of digital art pieces celebrating the empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable communities.
What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?
My greatest professional achievement is that I have been able to make my art my full time art career. I still can’t believe it sometimes.
My greatest personal achievement was traveling alone. I traveled solo a few years ago even though I was so scared to do it. It was the best experience I ever had and that helped me so much in my healing journey.
What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?
I would love to publish a book and buy a house. I hope to achieve these goals by starting a book draft and continuing to practice my skill. I will also work on as many projects as possible and save for my casita.
What pop culture moment made you feel seen?
When the Frida movie came out. That was the moment when I felt seen! I saw a brown artist that dealt with so much emotional and physical pain and was still able to pursue her passion and be successful at it. She looked different and her art was different. She was unique and embraced it.
How do you practice self care?
Self care has been my priority for several years now. It’s been a big part of my self love journey. My favorite ways to practice it are to cleanse, pray, draw, meditate, cook, wash my hair, nap, take walks, read, and listen to music.
Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:
Oh man it’s going to be hard to just pick a few! There are thousands of talented people out there that can always use more love.
@spirit_printing_services for their printing services
@caircoalition for the work they do for immigrants
@marcellakroll for her healing work
@Youngmer for her art
@xpress_it for the work they do in the community
Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:
I am having such a hard time selecting my favorite, it’s almost impossible. Only because there are so many that I love. They are all my favorites!
@blackwolffleathershop for her leather work
@sd_bodyink_ninfap for her tattoo work
@elpuestosd for their gift store
@santa_aroma for her wellness goods
@_gaiachild_ for her healing work