Husband-and-wife artists Adriana Carranza and Alfonso Aceves used to make art at their dining room table. In 2021, the duo, known as Kalli Arte Collective, found a studio, but many of their creative goals were on hold because of COVID-19. Now, they have settled into Self Help Graphics as part of the Beyond the Press artist-in-residence program.
“Kalli” means home in Nahuatl, and that theme guides much of the duo’s work; the through line is Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles neighborhood where both artists have firm roots.
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Their work will be on display as part of a solo show at the end of the residency. Kalli Arte will also curate the programming for the Self Help Graphics Día de los Muertos season.
As Kalli Arte, they create digital prints, serigraphs, linoleum prints, and more — both individually and collaboratively — of images such as a mariachi singer or a rooster with the phrase “buenos dias” underneath. Aceves says the latter refers to the custom in Boyle Heights of greeting your neighbors on the street every morning.
Carranza and Aceves have been together for more than 20 years. They hold annual family exhibitions with their four children at Espacio 1839, as a way to support their creative practices and voices. But the artists didn’t always know they would end up pursuing their craft.
“I discovered printmaking by chance,” says Aceves. “I would go to the library and check out art books and just look through them. I thought it was interesting, the graphic images that were straight to the point. You can see right away what it is. The message is there.”
Carranza remembers that her mother wanted to practice cosmetology, but instead her attention and time went to raising her kids. When the couple moved into Carranza’s childhood home, it gave Aceves the opportunity to pursue art full time: the neighborhood was affordable, though they still had a family to raise. Carranza says telling her father about this career shift was nerve wracking at first, but he has visited the couple’s studio and seen how people respond positively to their work.
“I’m just lucky and humbled to be able to pursue my passion and let my kids be able to share a story with their grandkids — that this is something I did,” she says. “This was my dream, and I was able to pursue it.”
Carranza primarily works with ink and enjoys focusing on the small details. She also incorporates poetry and language, calling herself “the researcher, the storyteller” of the two.
Kalli Arte’s residency also taps into Self Help Graphics’s community focus. Every third Thursday of the month through October, Kalli Arte will host an open studio in which they hope to connect with visitors.
“It’s nice because sometimes as an artist in your studio, you get stuck in that little cave and you’re just doing your work,” says Aceves. “It’s a good thing to be out here and interacting, especially after this long period of non-interaction.”
As part of the Día de los Muertos programming, the duo will create a commemorative print, which is especially significant given that the Self Help Graphics space will close soon after for remodeling.
Says Aceves, “We’re going to send them off with a blast.”