Hi Miguel! Give us a little background, where are you from, what’s your family history?
I was born in Oaxaca, México, both my parents are from Oaxaca as well, although they are from different parts of the state. In 2005, I moved to Brooklyn after a 3 year long-distance relationship with a gringuita I fell in love with.
When did you know you’d be in the arts?
I knew I would be in the arts the second I felt art helped me connect with people. One of my first experiences was drawing cartoons on the school blackboard that I had memorized from watching TV when I was a 5th grader. A lot of my classmates would gather around me, just watching me draw, I really liked that attention. With time, that developed into drawing characters of my own creation.
What does the tradition of ofrendas mean to you and how do you go about planning for one? (ie a specific person in mind etc)
What I like about making an ofrenda is that we dedicate the time to remember our loved ones who have passed away. It doesn’t matter if we make an elaborate altar (that’s also a way to call the ofrendas) or if we’re only using a candle and a piece of bread to offer, we’re always thinking of that person and that’s what matters. When I make an ofrenda, I usually dedicate it to multiple people, people that I love or that have impacted my life,I think of what they liked to eat or drink and try to include lots of colors.
You made wonderful local impact by hosting public ofrendas outside of the home. Any special notes on these experiences or what drove you to do this?
I wanted to share the experience of ofrendas, mainly because not a lot of people know about its meaning and how remembering our loved ones within the community could diminish the sad feelings usually attached to grieving and make it even enjoyable.
There are many traditions and few real norms regarding ofrendas. In your opinion, what does a typical ofrenda consist of?
There are a few elements when making an ofrenda. Most of them are related to the belief that our loved ones are coming to visit us from a far away world.
-Arch-like structure; usually made out of sugar canes, indicates a gate for our loved ones to enter our home.
-Flowers; guide them with their colors and scent to find us.
-Incense; helps invite our loved ones to come in.
-Levels or steps; usually there are 2 or 3 levels on the altar representing steps so they can “come down” to our realm in this world.
-Paths; made out of rice, beans, flowers or whatever comes to mind, is also part of the altar.
-Food; an important element, what are you offering? Usually it would be what they liked to eat, but traditionally, some foods included are bread, beans, rice, fruits, mole, chocolate, coffee, tequila, mezcal, tamales, candies.
-Photos; some people like to include photos or images of their loved ones.
-Sugar skulls; they represent two ideas, a skull because our guests have passed away, and the sugar because it’s a sweet moment to welcome them back, even if we can’t see them.
You also teach art at an ESL school, correct? Any favorite stories to share?
I love being in an environment with Spanish speaking students, it reminds me of my childhood. I particularly like working with kindergarteners, they make me feel like a rockstar. If I run into them in the hallway and then I see them again in the classroom one minute later they say “Hey Profe Ayuso! Remember when we saw each other? It was awesome!”
You create your art in an approachable, playful manner utilizing humor to discuss important issues. Can you talk a little about your process?
When I was in college, I learned that humor makes art more approachable. That’s why I always try to find ways to bring smiles to people’s faces while also making them think deeply about issues.
You’ve created some impressive murals, any special stories?
I remember that when I was commissioned to paint my first mural, I was very nervous because of the dimensions of the project, two massive walls in the backyard of a deli in BK. The owner also gave me complete freedom, except for one word, he wanted it to represent the word calm. It took me more than two weeks to figure out what to do. With cardboard, I made a miniature version of the walls and that way it felt like making a small drawing.
If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be what would you both be drinking?
I would love to have a drink with renowned Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago. I would enjoy a mezcal with him and thank him for promoting the arts and creating many free spaces to experience art including an independent film theater, a photography museum, a center for the arts and a library focused on art books.
The word hiatus is a noun, meaning a pause or gap in time, series or sequence. What’s your Hiatus? How do you spend your free time to relax?
I take time to relax riding my bicycle, listening to podcasts or rockclimbing.
Blanco, Repo or Añejo?