What defines an artist, especially in the midst of a digital age where anyone with enough finesse in Adobe Photoshop can claim the term, is consistency and an authentic, unapologetic drive. That along with flawless branding.
An artist today can create for art’s sake still, but making one’s work receive praise and acclamation while still creating with social and political intent behind the work—that’s different. That's difficult.
That’s what make Esperanza Rosas, better known by her artist name of Runsy, one to watch.
The 22 year old Mexicana, who’s finishing up her undergrad degree at the University of Illinois—Chicago, always knew she wanted to create since a young age. Like any young person who claims to want to dedicate the rest of their life to art and creation, she was scolded from elders and her peers from doing so. So she went into studying criminal justice.
“Once I started taking [required] sociology classes I realized, wow I hate the system,” Runsy reflected. “The system is bogus, they don’t like people of color, they don’t like brown people like me. They don’t want to see Mexicans like me advance.”
Her realization of the world around her is what encouraged her to step back into her art—and believing in herself as a creator.
“I thought—the way I think is going to help me change things through my art.”
Rosa's work is unapologetically Mexican—but in a way that sets herself apart from a hub of Latino artists in Chicago. Her work features traditional Mexican symbols such as calaveras, cowboy boots, and more but not in a trinkety, consumerist way. (Unlike a Frida Kahlo keychain for example.) Her illustrations are honest depictions of not just being a modern Mexican but also a modern Mexican woman.
“At first you could have asked me ‘Why did you draw a skull?’ And I would have answered you ‘Because I think they’re pretty.’ At first my stuff wasn’t really conceptual and that was really kind of a problem—if I can’t explain what my art means I’m not doing anything positive for myself,” said Rosas. “So when you see my work with the color pink I’m reclaiming the color and all of the gender stereotypes that are already put out there to separate [women from the art world.]”
Though her professional career is booming—she’s been featured in galleries and shows all across the country and is constantly jet-setting between shows and school and back—being a young, female in the industry has brought her more annoyances more so than challenges.
“Someone told me ‘You make really good art, if you want to sell out just post a selfie of yourself to make it easier to sell stuff,’” she recalled. “I don’t make art to care about how I look, I don’t need to post a selfie. If I walk around in a garbage bag that doesn’t matter—my talent is what matters. Don’t tell me my stuff isn’t good or that I can’t sell my stuff without a selfie. Do not objectify me. I’m as talented as a man, I’m as talented as anyone. I’m a person.”
Though social media outlets like Instagram or Twitter can often cloud the authenticity of who’s who in the art world, Runsy is overall grateful that these different platforms exist.
“The way you’re viewed on the internet is how you’re going to get opportunities. What you put out there is what you’re going to get back,” she said. “ A lot of people don’t see the internet on that spectrum and see it rather on a smaller scale, like ‘Yeah I’ll get Instagram followers, I’ll get this’, but where do I want to go next with these opportunities? Social media is really great because it’s like a form of art—it’s like you’re doing your own gallery on the internet.”
But that doesn’t mean that it often gets crowded in the art sphere of the web.
“It’s helped a lot of artists get a lot of opportunities but it’s also been abused in people that aren’t really talented and that don’t really care about art are using it to their advantage to act like they do. It’s a balance of what you do and how you’re using it.” she reflected.
Though Runsy proudly reps Chicago as her home, her goals for the near future will hopefully take her out of the Midwest.
“I feel like I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve been here for so long,” she said regarding Chicago. “I gotta meet other people and then I can come back. You can’t make new opportunities if you’re not reaching out to other people. You can always reach out to people but if they’re not seeing your face, they can just as easily forget you.”
Runsy has her hopes set on relocating to Los Angeles in the next year (warm weather! sun!) as well as launching a print and digital publication with her best friend and releasing her next highly anticipated zine titled “Mexicana”. But as for her career, the one thing she wants more than anything is simple:
“I want to be in a museum!” she firmly stated. “That’s my ultimate goal. Whether it’s LA or Chicago or New York I need to make it to a museum because brown people aren’t meant to be in them. I love it here but it doesn’t really make a difference to me where I am I just need to be inspired by different places and people.”