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This Oaxacan Artist Is Turning Sneakers Into Her Canvas For Día De Muertos And The Results Are Incredible

As the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to a halt economies and countries around the world, it’s also helped shutter the businesses of artists who rely on galleries and street markets to sell their creations.

Mexico is one of the world’s hardest hit countries and artists in the country have had to get creative to find new clients and customers amid a global pandemic.

However, with the rising popularity of bespoke sneaker collections, one Oaxacan artist seems to have found the winning formula.

A Oaxacan artist has made sneakers her canvas and she’s highlighting her culture in this new medium.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

Mexico has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus-related restrictions have indefinitely closed millions of businesses across the country as tourists stopped coming to the country.

As these restrictions have impacted the livelihoods of millions of Mexicans, many have been forced to get creative. For one artist from Oaxaca, Doris Arellano Manzo, the choice was clear: a canvas is a canvas — it could be stretched over a wooden frame or stretched over a pair of athletic shoes.

Like other artists worldwide who are succeeding at beating the pandemic’s economic challenges to their careers, Arellano is learning to adapt — to be less conventional and to think quite literally a bit smaller: she now paints her art on sneakers.

Thanks to the pandemic, Arellano felt she needed to reinvent herself and her craft.

It all started in July when Arellano and her daughter Frida – a communications and social media professional, realized that Arellano needed to think outside the traditional. It was obvious that museums and galleries would likely remain closed for sometime, so how else could they bring her art to her clients?

“Since I love to paint, I can paint for you on a large canvas just as well as I can on a small one,” she recently told the newspaper Milenio. “As far as I’m concerned, while you have me here with my paints and paintbrushes, I’m thrilled.”

Each pair of shoes is unique, she said, “because it’s all done by hand, not by machine.” She describes her style as “traditionalist contemporary,” and says she is drawn to evoking the rites and customs of Oaxacan traditional culture.

Her Día de Muertos collection is garnering international attention.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

Arellano’s latest collection features shoes with colorful abstract designs in bright cempasúchil orange, with lush floral wreaths and, of course, featuring the iconic Día de Muertos Catrina.

The collection was timed perfectly since so many are looking for non-traditional art amidst a very non-traditional year.

Her latest collection of work, all painted on athletic footwear, is entitled after the celebration she’s commemorating, Día de Muertos.

She says her collections are an homage to traditional Oaxacan festivities that couldn’t take place in 2020.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

In addition to her recently released Día de Muertos collection which has been very popular, Arellano has created art with other Oaxacan themes.

In fact, when she first began her art-themed sneaker collection in July, at Friday’s suggestion, her sneaker art was based on the enormous festival of Guelaguetza. The Guelaguetza is a traditional Oaxaca cultural festival that had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic.

In some ways, she said, the enforced isolation of the pandemic has been a huge challenge for artists like herself, but in other ways, it’s actually been familiar.

“The work of an artist is a bit enclosed,” she admitted. “We go out when there are exhibits, when we have to go introduce ourselves in public or do interviews.”

Still, she said, the pandemic caught the art community flatfooted.

“Artists don’t have a way to show their work during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s all been halted, and we have to go back and look for new formats for the public to see what we are doing.”

It seems like 2020 has been the year of handcrafted sneaker lines.

Although Arellano is working hard to infuse her own culture into her art and her new sneaker line, she isn’t the first to do so. Just this year Nike released its take on the traditional holiday with a Día de Muertos-themed sneaker collection that had fans of both the holiday and the sneaker company excited for.

Then we got news that Bad Bunny was releasing a custom Crocs line – which flew off the shelves and are now selling for more than four times the original retail price. Plus, recent rumors say that Bad Bunny will also be launching an Adidas collaboration at some point in early 2021.

People have long been obsessed with bespoke sneaker collections, but thanks to the pandemic people are looking for new ways to support artists and satisfy their shopping cravings. We can’t think of a better way than by supporting local Indigenous artists like Arellano.

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