Melanie Cervantes is a Xicana activist-artist whose role is to translate the hopes and dreams of justice movements into images that agitate and inspire.
Melanie’s work includes black and white illustrations, paintings, installations and paper stencils, but she is best know for her prolific production of political screen prints and posters. Employing vibrant colors and hand-drawn illustrations, her work moves those viewed as marginal to the center -- featuring powerful youth, elders, women, and queer and indigenous peoples.
Melanie’s training as an artist began with her mother and father. She learned color theory while helping her mother select fabric for school clothes at Los Angeles swap meets; and she developed some of her technical skills by watching her dad repurpose neighborhood junk into her childhood treasures.
Melanie built on this knowledge by studying library books, designing and constructing her own clothes, and forging friendships with other creative people. At UC Berkeley she received formal training in Ethnic Studies, and in 2004 graduated with a Bachelors Degree. Melanie fuses what she learned from this interdisciplinary study of racialized peoples, her art skills and her strong decolonizing politics in order to become a powerhouse “artist of the people”.
Her most revered mentor is her partner and fellow printmaker Jesus Barraza, with whom she formed Dignidad Rebelde, a collaborative graphic arts project that translates storiesof struggle and resistance into artwork that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it.
Melanie has exhibited at Galería de la Raza (San Francisco); Woman Made Gallery and National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago); Mexic-Arte and Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (Austin, TX); and Crewest (Los Angeles). Internationally her art has reached Mexico, Thailand, Slovenia, Palestine, Venezuela, Switzerland, Colombia, Africa,India and Guatemala. Her work is in public collections of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, the Latin American Collection of the Green Library at Stanford, and the Hispanic Research Center at the Arizona State University as well as various private collections throughout the U.S.
Melanie currently works full-time a Program Officer at the Akonadi Foundation which supports movement building organizations working to finally put an end to the structural racism that lies at the heart of social inequity in the United States. She holds a BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.