Artist of the Week

Susan Aparicio

January 9, 2024

Susan Aparicio is a southeast Los Angeles native, working in the mediums of stained glass and video installation. As a daughter of Mexican and Honduran parents, Aparicio’s work is inspired by Latinidad, 2000’s pop culture, and her familial upbringing. Her style blends themes of commodification, with the nostalgia and emotions that cut through the superficiality. Her work has been exhibited at NADA Miami, LaPau Gallery, Charlie James Gallery, the California Museum, the Hudson River Museum, Texas Tech University, and California State Dominguez Hills, among others. Aparicio was a resident at Caldera Arts Residency and the Artists’ Cooperative Residency & Exhibitions (ACRE). She earned dual BA degrees in Studio Art and Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia in 2018. She then earned her MFA in Art from UCLA in 2022. She is currently based in Pasadena, CA. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Susan Aparicio. I grew up in southeast LA and come from a Honduran Mexican upbringing. I am a visual artist working in the mediums of stained glass and video installation. I’m a 90’s baby and 2000’s kid. I grew up loving bling, pop, celebrity, and reality tv. 

What catalyzed your interest in art? 

I’ve always had an interest in craft. Growing up, I would check out craft books from the library for things me and my sister could make that week. I didn’t follow art though until the second half of my time in undergrad at the University of Virginia. I have a Bachelor’s in cognitive science, but in my third year of undergrad, I saw my friend doing a drawing assignment for her art class. I thought that that was cool and I didn’t know UVA had an art program. The next semester I took Drawing 1, since I had the extra space in my schedule for classes and it filled a general elective. I really enjoyed the process and the expressiveness in art class so I continued taking more and more classes, was able to graduate with a dual BA in Studio Art, and pursued art as my career after graduating. I mainly worked in video art in undergrad and loved animation and video effects bringing my work to a playful realm, being able to collage different realities in the video space. Around the same time, I took a stained glass workshop at Pasadena Stained Glass Supplies one summer, where I learned all the basics and made my first project. I really loved the process of working with glass and creating something beautiful with my hands, since at school, everything I was creating was digital. I love playing with light, in both stained glass and video. 

New Text: Where Have U Been? 2022, stained glass, solder, lead, glass paint, 43 x 15 in

What are the overarching motifs in the art you make?

I play with themes of the material world and the natural world. I play with icons of wealth and bling, diamonds, dollar signs, and pop culture. I also play with images of the skies, stars, aliens, and outer space. I find myself in the middle of these themes and using stained glass to bridge these different worlds. Stained glass and its holy iconography connects to the otherworldly and unknown, but it also has a quality of bling and shine that is attractive in the material world. 

What/who influences your current work?

My work is influenced by my family, my family stories, beliefs, and superstitions. My dad’s stories about the supernatural led me to look at the world with wonder and gave me a greater perspective about the unknown around us. I am also heavily inspired by the aesthetics that I grew up around in southeast LA, and in Mexican and Honduran cultural aesthetics and music. I grew up around Catholicism, which also resonates with my connection to stained glass, and loving the quality of light and story in my work. Los Angeles is really inspiring to me as a city that balances light and darkness, a paradise that we struggle to afford. 

A Portal for a Happy Family, 2023, stained glass, solder, lead, glass paint, 23 x 30 in

Describe your current studio or workspace.

I work from home and use our second bedroom as a studio space. I’m pretty organized and try to be pretty efficient with the space that I have. Stained glass involves a lot of tools and supplies. I bought this huge work shelf that fills up one of our walls to put all my supplies on and also have a couple peg boards that hold tools. My husband is an engineer and also uses the studio space for his projects, where we can also collaborate on some projects that involve 3D printing or electronics. 

Aparicio’s home studio

What is one of the bigger challenges you struggle with as an artist? How do you cope and how does it inform your practice?

One challenge is the cost of materials needed to make my stained glass pieces. Glass is expensive, with prices increasing each year, in addition to the cost of solder, foil, and other supplies. The price of glass depends on color, texture, and manufacturer so I have to carefully plan out my glass selections with a budget in mind for colors and scale. I try to be efficient with my glass choices, while also trying to make the piece fit with my vision. I design my pieces in Adobe Illustrator, which is a large part of my creation process, and it really helps to plan out colors and scale far in advance. Using Illustrator also matches my style of clean lines and graphic style design. I also like to hang multiple pieces together with chain, which helps give a larger scale to my work and connects with my love of charms.

What have you been reading and listening to recently?

I like reading sci-fi when I can, I recently finished Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. It’s a really fun book about connecting with an alien and using engineering and science to save each other’s worlds from extinction. 

Lucky Tears, 2023, stained glass, solder, lead, chain, 96 x 36 in

Who are some of your favorite artists?

So many, but one that was influential to me early in my art practice was Shana Moulton. I was shown her work in undergrad in New Media class and she was really inspiring for my video work, installation, and overall thinking. She is so creative in the worlds she generates in her videos, and her mix of practical and digital effects have inspired how I like to play with video layering. I was in awe of her installations and how she plays with video projection, living in a world of wonder. 

Favorite quotes/mantras?

World is decay, life is perception.

Arrival, 2023, stained glass with artist’s wood frame, 24.75 x 48.75 x 0.75 in

What do you collect?

I love to collect little charms and trinkets and I add them to a shelf in my apartment. It feels like I’m building my own little altar of things that connect to my spirit. My family likes to collect trinkets that symbolize luck, wealth, or health, and the more charms filling your space, the better your chances. 

Cygni, Centauri, and Aquarii, 2023, mirror, stained glass, LED light panel, 16 x 12.5 x 12 in

Interview conducted & edited by Natalie Toth. All photos courtesy of the artist.