Profile in Style: Sylvia Orozco, Founder of Mexic-arte Museum
The artist and founder of Austin’s Mexic-arte Museum gives us a peek inside her eclectic, art-filled home
Sylvia Orozco has a way with a canvas. The Executive Director of Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum is also an artist. She creates thought-provoking work that spans artistic categories from her modest apartment near Tarrytown. While her day job involves scouting Latino and Chicano artists and collections — and doing “a little bit of everything” at the museum — her home is where she explores her own craft. “I like to have my art here,” explains Orozco. “At the museum we show other artists’ work, and here, I get to see my own.”
Walking into her home it’s hard to know where to look first — framed paintings cover the walls, 3D studies lay on the counter and every surface is laden with found trinkets and artisan wares. A space with this amount of handcrafted pieces could easily feel overwhelming or crowded, but not here. Orozco’s elevated sense of style and trained eye has created a home that feels every bit as curated as a museum. In the living room you are greeted by a geometric painting on her easel, still wet from a morning’s work. “I’m very into the Golden Section lately,” explains Orozco, referring to the numerous geometric paintings around her apartment that embody the compositional strategy. It’s obvious she is a perpetual student of her craft. A walk around the room reveals more geometric studies, a painted series of portraits of famous Mexican artists, haunting portrayals of the Bastrop fire and the 1998 flood in Cuero, Texas, and a scenic depiction of the Davis Mountains. A sculptural object she picked up at the East Austin Studio Tour sits on the coffee table alongside folk art sculptures, or alebrijes, from Oaxaca, and traditional Mexican pottery. The gallery-style interiors continue through the kitchen and into the unit’s two bedrooms. Here you’ll find a series of self portraits, a study of women in water and photographs of the artist’s late mother. Orozco credits her mother for her own penchant for organizing.
Cuero, Orozco’s hometown, is often her artistic muse. She moved to Austin to study painting at the University of Texas, and continued her education in Mexico City earning a Master of Fine Arts in mural painting. It was there that she began an art school teaching oil painting and color theory, and amassed a collection of books and articles on the subject. After five years, she came back to Austin with the idea to “start some sort of art gallery or art center” for Mexican artists — something that didn’t exist in the area. In 1984, she and two other artists incorporated the Mexic-Arte Museum. Today, the museum is one of only a handful of museums in the United States dedicated to Latino art — compared to the nearly 150 in Mexico City alone.
Orozco’s personal aesthetic is a clear reflection of the life she’s built for herself, most notably in her collected home. “I believe if you like something, just keep doing it,” she smiled. And we certainly hope she does.