Artist Interview: Issis Macias


Who is Issis Macias?

Hello, my name is Issis Macias. I am an emerging artist living and working in Madison, WI. My creative journey as a self-taught, first generation Mexican American artist from Los Angeles, California is deeply rooted in community and the diverse array of artists that I have encountered throughout my life. In late 2020, following a layoff from a local nonprofit, I boldly embraced my artistic calling, transitioning from a 20-year water resources career to a thriving professional artist in Dane County. My art is an unfiltered expression, driven by raw intuition and emotion, a dance of colors, textures, and lines that breathes life into the canvas. In surrendering to this process, I echo the voice of my soul, forging an intimate bond between the artwork and me.


artist's hand covered in blue and green paint against a painting of blue and green paint


How would you describe your artistic style? Who are your major artistic influences, and how do they impact your work?

My artistic style can be categorized as abstract expressionist. As an intuitive painter, I use acrylic and oil pastels on canvas to explore the interplay of color, shape, and markings to achieve emotive expressions. My work is characterized by a contrasting pictorial structure, often composed of squares and rectangles, conveying visual unity. 

My major artistic influences are Helen Frankenthaler, Joni Mitchell, Sam Gilliam, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Their distinct styles, large-scale paintings, and use of color inspire me to be bold, take risks, and share my art with the world.


small child standing in front of a painting with blue and pink paint


Can you walk us through your creative process from idea to finished piece? How do you overcome creative blocks or challenges in your work?

I usually start a painting with a color in mind. The color can be inspired by daily life, walking in nature, admiring the lakes, listening to music, or my daughter, Inez. I primarily work with acrylic and oil pastels on canvas by using free-form methods of smearing and scraping paint with canvas keys, wedges, and bare hands to externalize my emotions; staining canvases with acrylic pours also allows me to invoke play in my creative practice. 


What themes or concepts do you find yourself constantly exploring in your art? How has your artistic vision evolved over time?

As a Mexican American artist with a non-traditional background, I draw inspiration from core formative memories and experiences that continue to move me. Visually and viscerally these tend to inform my use of vibrant colors, the intuitive way I apply paint on canvas.


Can you highlight one artwork of yours represented at our gallery and stories behind it? Are there any specific projects or collaborations that you are especially proud of?

As an emerging artist, I firmly believe in the power of collaboration. One of the most fulfilling experiences of my artistic career so far was exhibiting collaborative artwork alongside fellow artist Rodrigo Carapia at the Overture Center sponsored by Latinos Organizing for Understanding and Development (LOUD) in February 2023. Our independent creations were superimposed, creating a fusion of our unique styles and perspectives on being Mexican. This endeavor celebrated the reunion of art and culture, inspiring viewers to reflect on their own heritage and the power of artistic combinations.

I was also selected as one of the five finalists for the prestigious 2023 Forward Art Prize. As a creative mother, first-generation Mexican American, and self-taught artist, this recognition touched the depths of my soul like a bolt of electricity. I am overwhelmed with deep feelings of gratitude, particularly towards the co-founders of the Women Artists Forward Fund, Brenda Baker and Bird Ross. Thanks to their vision and passion for the arts, women artists like myself are being recognized and supported in incredible ways.


artist standing in front of her painting with red, purple and pink paints


How do you see the role of art in society, and what responsibility do artists have in shaping cultural narratives? Have you ever used your art to address social or political issues? Do you believe art should serve a purpose beyond its visual appeal?

Through collaborations and individual explorations, I understand the power of art and hope to inspire others to self-reflect, heal, collaborate, and build community. Through my art, I found my voice and can speak with a confidence that I never knew I had. As a current participant of the Bridge Work Program with Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL), I’m excited about the new artwork I will create for my first solo exhibition at ALL later this year and to engage the BIPOC community.


What are your short-term and long-term goals as an artist? Is there a particular milestone or achievement you aspire to reach as an artist?

My short-term goals are to paint more and continue to participate in group exhibitions throughout Dane County. I’m also preparing for my first solo show at the ALL in fall 2024, which is a huge achievement! Moving forward, a big dream of mine is to have a solo show in Los Angeles, my hometown.


What emotions or experiences do you hope viewers connect with when they experience your art? Is there a personal story or memory often embedded in your work?

Abstract painting allows me to surrender to the canvas and colors. It’s a spiritual process in which my mind quiets and allows my soul to speak in textures, colors, and lines. My hope is that I inspire a connection between viewers and my art, encouraging moments of contemplation and introspection.



Do you have any rituals or routines that you follow before or during the creation of a new piece? How do you find inspiration in your daily life?

My approach to art is a meditative process where my intuition directs every stroke of color. Before beginning a painting I make sure my work area is free of clutter, and paints and brushes are within reach. Music is part of my process and some of my favorite artists include Nina Simone, Cate Le Bon, Devendra Banhart, and Natalia Lafourcade. 

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