Meet the Artist: Emilio Suárez Trejo

“Art is reality reshuffled.” Robert Rauschenberg

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

When you move around a canvas of Emilio Suárez Trejo, you can see how he’s re-imagining the world. In unskilled hands, an accumulation of text, photographs and found objects would simply be just that. In the hands of this young artist, the collection becomes an intersection of art and everyday life.

I met with Emilio at his new studio space just east of Centro Historico in Mérida. It’s here we looked at his work, discussed his influences and talked about his life as an artist.

How long have you been working as an artist?

From a young age I have always been drawing, and I knew that someday I wanted to have a career that involved drawing. I graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida in 2010 with a degree in Visual Arts and have been working to find my own voice as an artist ever since.

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

A ‘career as an artist’ is often an oxymoron to many parents. How did your parents respond to your decision to follow this path?

Well, my father is a lawyer and so of course he wanted me to be a lawyer as well. Both he and my mother were skeptical of my choice, not understanding what ‘being an artist’ means. I believe that it’s important to do what you love, and I think they’ve come to see that doing what I love means a lot of hard work (smiles).

So at 28, are you able to support yourself as an artist?

For the first few years it was a bit of a struggle. After I graduated, I did residencies in Veracruz and Cuba that helped me develop, but more importantly, showed me that I could actually have a life as an artist. When I returned to Mérida I began teaching privately, and I now teach oil painting at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. I feel I’m a very lucky man in that I have the freedom to work on my own pieces and the opportunity to teach others.

©Emilio Suárez Trejo

What do you love most about teaching?

When I teach, I’m as much a student as my students are, in that I’m always learning something… I find that very gratifying. For that reason, I ask them to call me ‘Emilio’ instead of ‘maestro’. Rather than teaching how to paint, I teach them how to feel, and give them the tools they need to express themselves.

How do you find time to work?

I’m always working. If I’m not working on a piece I’m thinking about a piece. Teaching is simply a complement to that. I paint everyday and my students know this. I try to teach the importance of establishing a painting practice because that is the only way you will find your true voice as an artist.

Who has influenced you as a painter?

Before I went to University, I hadn’t studied much art history. As a student, I learned to appreciate historical artists from my own culture but I became fascinated by contemporary artists like Marcel Duchamp, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the New York artists from the 50s, 60s and 70s like Robert Rauschenberg.

Have you ever been to New York?

No, but if I could travel anywhere right now, it would be to New York—to see the work of the artists I most admire. I saw Rauschenberg once in France and I realized then how important it is to see the art itself—not just in photographs—to see the paint on the canvas, the emotion in the work.

This is your first year on the Artist Studio Tour. What are you most looking forward to?

I’m a little nervous but also excited. This is the first time I’ve had a studio of my own and I think it’s a great opportunity to meet people who haven’t seen my work, and to hear their opinions. I am most interested in building relationships and hope that one day, this studio can become an ‘art lab’ of sorts—a place of learning, experimentation and inspiration for others, and of course, for myself.

Emilio is one of 36 artists in 29 studios participating in the Merida English Library annual Artist Studio Tour February 17th from 10 am to 5 pm. Information on the tour, the artists and where to buy tickets is available at




Meet the Artist: Viviana Hinojosa

This interview was conducted in December 2014

“My friends think I’m crazy because I live alone with six cats”, laughs Viviana as she scoots them from my feet. “What will they say when I tell them I just rescued two kittens, only days old, that were dumped in a box on the sidewalk? Am I just to step over them? Now I am their mama and that is the way it is.”

Viviana in her studio ©Ric Kokotovich

Viviana in her studio ©Ric Kokotovich

This is how Viviana Hinojosa is—direct, strong, convicted, clearly compassionate, and as evidenced by the room I am standing in, a very talented painter.

We are at her home/studio for an interview and she immediately apologizes for the mess. All I see are canvasses—propped on chairs, the floor, on an easel. Next to her easel in the dining room is a giant square high top table literally covered in drawings. Viviana has been busy.

©Viviana Hinojosa

©Viviana Hinojosa

What do you love about being an artist?

I love the freedom it gives me and the different perspectives I get of the world, of reality, of everything around me. When I am drawing and painting I have to examine things in a different light, try new things if they aren’t working. By looking at things differently I broaden my preconceived ideas. Art has helped me to become less rigid.

How long have you been an artist?

I have been painting seriously for about 15 years now. I started with oil paint, which is my favorite medium, but then I experimented with acrylics. I recently started exploring drawing with charcoal. I’ve always drawn within the context of the painting, but over the last year I have created a distinct body of work that is purely charcoal and pencil. I am missing the colour!

What music do you listen to when you make art?

I find it difficult to concentrate if there are lyrics. I like medieval music a lot and I especially like Mozart.

Do you have a routine when you work?

I try to be disciplined with my hours. I usually work through the morning for 4-5 hours, have lunch and then I sleep in the afternoon. I am religious about my siesta! I work again from 6 to 10 or 11 pm. Usually.

Where were you born and why do you live in Merida?

©Viviana Hinojosa

©Viviana Hinojosa

I was born in Mexico City and lived in Puebla. I was tired of living in central Mexico and wanted a smaller city, close to the sea. Some acquaintances invited me to spend a month in Merida and I liked it very much and decided to move here. To live well in most big cities you have to have a full time job and a full time job means no painting. Merida allows me to have the lifestyle I have and is a very supportive community for artists.

What do you hope people experience when seeing your work?

©Viviana Hinojosa

©Viviana Hinojosa

Joy. Somebody told me once, “you make me laugh”, and it was the best comment for me. It’s true some of my new drawings, because they are in black and white, are dark and a bit creepy because they relate back to the stories I am drawing. But many of them have a sense of humour, even if it’s dark. Not everything has to be whimsical and joyful but I do like a sense of humour and I hope people experience that when they look at my work.

When did you know you were an artist? Was it a person or event that inspired you to paint?

I was always very imaginative. Although I was raised with a twin sister, I loved playing on my own and creating my own worlds. Fortunately my parents were always supportive and encouraging. When I decided to study literature, which I majored in, they said ‘Go for it’! It was then I decided not to have a normal life and I became a painter. (laughs)

So literature led to painting and then painting led back to literature?

©Viviana Hinojosa

©Viviana Hinojosa

I think my painting has a lot of links to literature. My painting and drawing has a very of narrative quality and my paintings are always telling a story. I’ve never been far away from literature and working with writers has been an awesome experience for me.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

We are presenting the Ephemera Project in January at Galeria La Eskalera. I have been collaborating over the past few months with Mexican writer Mina Polen, illustrating short stories, originally published as tweets. We are publishing a book and Mina has designed jewellry, some based on my drawings. I will also be on the 2015 Merida English Library Artist Studio Tour.

Who is your favorite artist, living or dead, and why?

Hieronymous Bosch. His images are so strange and fantastical. When I discovered him I was fascinated, and now I see links back to his art in everything I do.

©Viviana Hinojosa

©Viviana Hinojosa

If you could say one thing to people when they look at art, in a museum or a gallery or a studio, what would it be?

Enjoy it. Kind of like poetry, you don’t necessarily have to understand it. Just enjoy it for what it is.
Footnote: Despite a Herculean effort in Vivi’s part, the little kittens did not survive, but neither did they suffer.