“The desert’s cool because it has this sort of blank-canvas vibe,” muses artist Sofía Enríquez, sitting in a hip Palm Springs coffee shop. While she speaks, it becomes clear that the painter, muralist, and designer is still learning how to savour the opportunities and recognition she’s received recently. Enríquez’s colourful, swirling art—which references her Mexican-American background and “intercultural identity”—could be found at the 2019 MISMO Coachella Music and Arts Festival, where a large-scale installation of her vibrant paisleys played a prominent part in the event’s atmosphere. And just recently she posted a picture on Instagram of Queer Eye’s Tan France sporting one of her custom-made trench coats.
Despite all these notable achievements, Enríquez’s inner instinct is only just starting to stray away from that of the constant critic. “It goes back to the reason why I’m creating,” she says. “Something’s not going right—to fix it, I started making.”
Enríquez studied at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, but her road there and during her studies was not a smooth one. “I’ve always been into art since I was a kid. In middle school, I started experiencing depression; I didn’t know what it was, I just thought that’s how life is,” she reflects. “In order for me to find myself, I started dressing fucked up—according to others—and at first I was offended by that, but then I started taking pride in it.”
Her artistic leanings moved into creating all manner of art for various school projects, and to apply for Otis, she sent them “everything I made in high school,” including her prom dress. While attending the post-secondary school, Enríquez finally found a place to indulge her creativity that she felt was missing in her home of Palm Springs, but adds that she had to “drive back to the desert on weekends to clean houses … Making the work wasn’t hard; it was life outside of school that was the most difficult part.” But like anyone destined for greatness, she kept the course.
Enríquez’s determination prompts a question about prioritizing—something most creatives will admit to having difficulty managing. “Sometimes the priority isn’t as fun as that one cool little ugly thing I’m making for the sake of me being excited about it,” she says with a laugh. The work ethic she adopted from her family, and from not being born into the type of monied privilege that her schoolmates did, remains with her today. Yet there’s been a healthy shift in her thinking towards being more kind to herself, which ultimately benefits her work. She used to rely on meagre meals and over-caffeination, working around the clock. “Now, I’m starting to meditate once in a while, and change what I’m eating to something that’s supposed to be good for you, not just quick,” she says. “And straight-up taking a break! Taking breaks is so much more helpful than not. I’m of more service to myself and I get more done.”
This realization is an important one for Enríquez, whose pursuits and plans show only forward momentum. Highlighting her experiences with depression and negative self-thought, she has identified a more positive way forward: “Now I have to use my creativity for a good purpose, not to cover stuff up or hide behind it.”