In Midst of Pandemic, Local Barrio Logan Artist Goes Digital

by on August 12, 2020 · 4 comments

in Culture, San Diego

Soni López-Chávez Pays Homage to Community Empowerment With A New Digital Art Series

By Roberto ‘Rob’ Camacho

For many artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered an absolutely devastating blow to the creative and performing arts. In a profession already often filled with strife and hardship, even in the best of times, the pandemic and the subsequent economic shutdowns have been a daunting, almost seemingly insurmountable obstacle for many artists, musicians, and creators to overcome.

San Diego’s creative art scene, of course, has been no exception to this alarming trend. Especially Barrio Logan’s art and cultural district, whose residents, artists, and creatives have taken a disproportionate hit over the past several months. With many galleries, studios, and music venues throughout the region still shuttered, artists in the neighborhood and all across San Diego have been cut off from the events and spaces they’ve relied upon in the past to reach clients, showcase their art and bring in income.

While virtually all artists having been forced to adapt to these new sets of challenges and circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and its residual after-effects over the past several months, ingenuity and inspiration the era of COVID-19 have manifested an explosion of creativity and innovation in a variety of unexpected ways. With San Diego bursting at the seams with creativity, perhaps no one has this time as creatively and meticulously as local artist and business owner Soni López-Chávez.

Soni López-Chávez

Since March, Soni has embarked on an ongoing art series, dedicating her time to creating a series of digital art pieces using her platform as an artist to highlight street vendors, the Black Lives Matter Movement, immigrant rights, Indigenous sovereignty, women’s rights, mental health awareness as well as LGBT issues. While the series covers a wide variety of different topics and causes, the overall encompassing themes all revolve around the empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Soni López-Chávez was born in Cuitzeo de Abasolo, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Immigrating to the United States with her family as a child, she has since worked as an acrylic painter and a muralist in San Diego. For the past decade, she has dedicated much of her time to curating local art shows, curating group art shows in San Diego’s art scene.

Since 2013 she and her partner Chris Zertuche have operated their very own venue La Bodega Gallery in Barrio Logan, a mere few blocks away from historic Chicano Park.

In January after great public outcry, Soni and Chris were forced to relocate La Bodega after negotiations for a new lease fell through. Several months later in the midst of resonating La Bodega’s new location on National Avenue, construction ground to a complete stop as statewide shutdowns effectively ended all shows and galleries amid the pandemic. “We came to a complete halt remodeling”, Soni explained. “We weren’t able to move forward construction-wise for the gallery because we weren’t having shows to bring in any income.”

No longer curating shows for La Bodega, the closure as a result of the shutdowns allowed Soni some time to re-explore her own art which had largely taken a back seat organizing shows at the gallery. “Since I started to curate my own art shows, I hadn’t really been able to focus on my own art career, in fact, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 outbreak in March that we had to stop completely curating art shows and close galleries so that allowed me some free time to focus on my work, and honestly, it’s really the first time ever in my life where this is really all that I’m doing.”

Beginning in April, using an Apple Ipad and pencil that had been gifted to her, Soni began creating digital art on Pro Create, a graphics editor app for digital painting.

“It was gifted to me in April for my birthday and I fell in love with it super-fast. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to try, and always called me but I’ve never had the time to actually do it.”

Although she had mostly worked in acrylic painting and muralism beforehand, after watching a few tutorials online Soni quickly fell in love with speed and user-friendliness of the app and adopted it to her toolset.

“When I started this digital work it blew my mind, I connected to it right away. It isn’t easy but it’s a faster process for me and I think I’m going to stick with it for a while.”

Since the beginning of quarantine Soni has spent much of her time working on various pieces for the series. “I typically get my ideas while I dream so typically when I wake up I already have these ideas in my head and then I’ll proceed to do a little bit of research”, Soni said describing the creative process behind her works. “I try my very best to do some research before I create a piece because I know how important it is to speak clearly and be respectful of the subject matter.”

As Soni shared the artwork on her social media pages, the near-constant output of digital art week after week soon began to take a life of its own as many of the images went viral as they were shared across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. “I like to touch on the topics that I feel need more awareness or need more support. I see a lot of ugliness in this world and if I can create something that’s going to bring awareness I’m going to try my best to do it.”

Needless to say, Soni’s work has not gone unnoticed. Since embarking on the series, her work has received an outpouring of support across the net, even catching the eye of Telemundo for her piece paying tribute to neighborhood street vendors. “I’ve received a lot of support and thank you’s from people just grateful for creating a piece that’s going to raise awareness for them”, Soni said describing the public reaction to her art. “There are just so many things going on right now that are unjust and inhumane that we need to fight for and I’ve been able to connect with those people through my art. It’s been amazing to help somebody through a piece that I created.”

With a steadily rising profile and having gained thousands of more followers to her art pages as a result of the newfound attention to her art, Soni has only been further driven to create more pieces that bring community awareness. “I’ve always been someone that cares about the community, I’m so grateful and honored that I’ve been able to connect with others through my art. If you have a large platform or following I think it’s almost your responsibility in a way to somehow send a positive message.”

For the time being, as COVID-19 continues to keep many creative spaces shuttered, Soni has no intention of stopping her art series any time soon and hopes to begin selling prints, stickers, and even considering a limited run of t-shirts bearing her artwork. Above all, Soni expressed gratitude for being able to connect with so many people through her art. “When I do a piece I put all of my heart and soul into my work, especially right now. So everything that I have in me is in my piece and if somebody likes it, or it connects with them, whether it goes viral or not I’m just happy to be able to create and focus my time and energy into my art career.”





{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Manny August 12, 2020 at 10:46 am

Very inspiring artist !


Barrio Brent August 12, 2020 at 11:51 am

Soni rocks! She is an integral part of the greater Barrio Logan community.


Patty Alaniz August 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm

So proud of my good friend Soni! She’s amazing. ?


Frank Gormlie August 12, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Soni’s art is awesome – ya gotta check it out.


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