Artist of the Week

Astrid Terrazas

April 21, 2022

Taking the form of painting, illustrated ceramic vessels, and mixed media sculpture, Mexican American artist Astrid Terrazas’ (b.1996) symbolic work re-writes worlds. Her visual language merges dreamscapes, Mexican ancestral folklore, lived experiences, and unearthly transfigurations in her own personal range of recurring motifs that function as artifacts of protection and evoke universal metaphors of transformation. Working in an illustrative, highly detailed style and often adorning her canvases with talismans, charms, and threadwork, Terrazas’ multimedia paintings resemble a visual dream diary full of transient figures, archaic symbols, and illogical narratives. Terrazas describes painting as “a process of finding and burying”, using her coded visual lexicon to deepen the emotional and psychological experience. For Terrazas, painting is akin to incanting: a process of casting spells and weaving new healing narratives to transmute histories.

Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m a painter and a tenant’s rights organizer.

What does Painting offer you over other mediums? 

There’s an immediacy to it. Each brushstroke builds on its predecessors and boldly declares itself. My main practice used to be ceramics, and the painting process couldn’t be more different. In ceramics, there are precise steps, exact temperatures, and long wait times. The kiln has to cool, the kiln has to heat up, your piece might explode, it might drip, you might hate the way the glaze oxidized. I love the gentleness that comes with painting, slow layers, each revealing a piece of the narrative. 

“someone will make a Saddle out of your falling hair”, 2021, Oil paint on canvas & Cochineal pigment, 60″ x 60″.

Can you talk about the narrative and process you went about painting “Someone will Make a Saddle Out of your Falling Hair?”

It might be the first time I’ve intentionally depicted myself in a painting. It’s about rebuilding your world after being hurt. Taking pain and transmuting it into triumph. The horse, pinned down by my weight, is skinned raw, its muscles exposed–vulnerable. I’ve won this round. I made my pigment for this one, the horse is all painted using cochineal (gifted to me by Ektor Garcia). He’s painted in blood, weeping, hopefully thinking about his actions. 

Your use of value and the depiction of transparency shape the dreamlike and ethereal quality of your works. It feels like you’re blurring the lines between dimensions. What’s your intention with creating transparent shapes and figures? 

I tend to treat painting as a personal folktale journal, and that helps keep me interested. I like to story tell what’s happening in my life in a non-direct way–casting a light haze on the actual happenings of my life and community within invented or fantastical worlds. The intent is to create different stages of consciousness, a dreamlike fluidity that connects past and present. Similar to a dream, the meaning is understood only if looked at peripherally. 

“Alternative methods of communications; dancing ants,” 2021, Oil on canvas, 60” x 60”.

What’s your favorite bug? 

When I was little, I thought that every single surface on the earth was covered in ants. I think I was misunderstanding germ theory and the concept of microscopic beings. I was obsessed with ants and desperately wanted to be one. I thought their way of working together was just incredible. I loved A Bug’s Life and wished I could be small enough to crawl into an anthill. I would leave little offerings of food outside of them, so they’d be able to meet the grasshopper’s requirements and not have their home destroyed (if you know, you know). I remember telling my mother that I found it sad that I could never actually hug her because there was always a layer of ants in between us.

Now I know that’s not true, but I still really love the way they communicate, the way they form structures with their bodies, for the greater good of the colony, and the way they have distinct roles. Some are in charge of the graveyard; they bury ants and transport their dead, and some feed the babies. It’s a really sweet community. I <3 ants.

How do you mean to portray or characterize the relationship between humanity, the natural, and spiritual realms?

We exist within it, and we’re the cause of its expedited demise. Human individualism will be the end of us.

My paintings are hopeful antidotes to reality. 

“Agotamiento,” 2022, Oil on Canvas, 30″ x 24″.

Tell us about “Leave a Light On”! 

It’s an ode to the founding member of the tenants union that I’m a member of. She is the most hardworking, selfless person I know–almost to their detriment. Very much a “burning the candle on both ends” ethic. In the painting, she’s depicted sourcing wax from her own body (ear) and creating new life out of it. It’s about putting your all into causes you care about, and also about how we must give ourselves time to rest.

“Gates of Heaven,” 2022, Oil on Canvas, 74″ x 54″.

What’s the story behind your handle @KillYrIdols?

I made my Instagram sophomore year of high school. It was 2015 when everyone still used the premade filters on their photos. I was at home and listening to Sonic Youth and the song Kill Yr Idols came on, I just used that as my username. I didn’t know that it was gonna be my display name but it just stuck around. Even when I switched my account to be more specific to my paintings and my art practice it didn’t feel right to change it to my name. I have Kill Yr Idols tattooed on my leg as well. It’s pretty funny….some people think that my name is Killy Riddles, it’s most definitely not.

I didn’t create it out of the belief of “killing your darlings” or “killing your idols” and learning to be the person you want to be/looking up to yourself…it’s just a Sonic Youth song.

“la casa del Diablo, SE RENTA,” 2021, Oil on canvas, 59″ × 78″.

How do the spell-like powers of your works shift depending on where they’re displayed?

I’m not sure if they activate for everyone. The enchantments are meant to come from within, you have to spend time with the piece, repeat the title over and over “THEY WROTE IT FOR ME! THEY SANG IT FOR ME!” THEY WROTE IT FOR ME! THEY SANG IT FOR ME!” THEY WROTE IT FOR ME! THEY SANG IT FOR ME!” It’s up to the individual to decide how they want to interact with my work. Similar to therapy, it only works if you, the viewer, put in the work.

Upcoming Projects?

I’m currently working towards my first solo show. It’ll be at PPOW this September. Looking forward to the June 6th opening of 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone at the Aldrich Contemporary. Plus, I’m learning to build a fountain.



Interview composed and edited by Joan Roach.