It’s funny I felt inspired to draft this post about visual artist and best friend for life Luisa Baptista because while I tried to pick which Lu story to share, she tagged me on IG when she posted a photo I took of her back in 2000. That photo, I’m mostly sure (approx: 95% certainty), was taken May or June of 2000. I was still developing all my own black & white film then, it was right before we were Resident Advisors for EF International School, and there was some sort of chill afternoon performance or something cool happening right there. I remember Kelley Wells showed up shortly after this and we hung out.
There’s a vault of Luisa memories. There’s the birthday she got drunk on two sips of Rolling Rock and introduced her head on the corner of a desk and never has a group of 21 year olds sobered up so quickly to assess a possible, serious medical situation. There’s the trip we took to Zion National Park in Southern Utah and spent the entire day in a tent, in a crazy thunderstorm, fighting to keep our fire lit and roast hot dogs in foil. Of course I’m laughing hysterically as I try to type this because I’m sure there were other memorable parts of that camping trip, but all I can remember is how much we laughed over feeling so unfortunate. How much bad luck does someone need to have to go camp in the desert and get stuck in a rainstorm the whole time? Ask Luisa.
The stories could keep on coming, as has and could our art. Luisa’s art has been part of my life since I was 18 years old; we took photography classes together and shared an art professor, so it seems only natural that the same way eating something for life creates a certain preference for your flavor palate, so does the development of creative lives. Luisa has taught me how to appreciate the freedom of being fully immersed in any piece that moves my soul. It could be the smallest detail like a line, shadow, or splash of color.
The piece Luisa is currently working on is for the City of Yonkers, Westchester County. She was excited for her proposal to be accepted, to have the gift of painting a new public street mural in a municipal parking structure for the people of her hometown. I had the opportunity to help Luisa lay some groundwork by taping and priming for the project; it was a different experience than just showing up and helping out like the mural in the Bronx (which if you still have not gone, you should – it’s heart-stopping to see from the 6-train), this was the first stage of what goes into creating something that draws people in to engage with your vision.
Without a doubt, it would not be a Luisa Adventure if she did not do something that had me laughing at her expense, like forget a whole bunch of materials at home and having to retrieve, leaving me to pick the music we worked to for about three hours. I received a lot from this experience, like how to prepare for big projects, make checklists, double check them, and that various brainwaves playlists really are the best aspect of self-improvement I’ve integrated into my daily habits. This valued quality time with Luisa also taught me to fearlessly go forward, ask questions every step of the way, take notes, and leave myself open to learn new lessons, to see the world as if for the very first time, to transform my brain to a sponge and deconstruct all I thought I knew.
To see Luisa’s latest street art mural, take the Metro North Hudson Line to Yonkers. Five minute walk up to the municipal parking lot; it’s at the west entrance & elevator. Her first street art piece can be found on the corner of Westchester & Thieriot in the Bronx. Unbelievable how close Olmstead Avenue is to that corner and the memories the year I lived in Castle Hill brings back. Most are good, some were not, but spending time on that corner this past winter, painting at sunset, being watched by random spectators, mostly neighbors, wasn’t about the past. It was a most humbling present moment and memory.
Luisa is as humble as she is spunky and loves to share art. Not the mural all by itself, but inviting her loved ones to be part of the process, paint in her lines, paint outside the lines, help her sort out where she thinks she wants to go next with a space, and taking all the time in the world to chat with any person who stopped to admire her work. Lu answered questions, asked questions, learned about the community she was painting for and gave a great gift of an original quote for them to personally take in and hopefully pay growth forward starting with smiles on their faces.