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Meet Michelle Irizarry

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Irizarry

Hi Michelle, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I was born in Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island full of color, history and inspiration. I am the daughter of an architect, and during my childhood, my parents owned an art gallery in the city of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Inspiration was abundant and art materials were always at hand throughout my childhood. Starting at a young age, I took art lessons in a variety of media. Even with hiatuses along the way, I have pursued art throughout my life as a therapeutic and healing endeavor. My work has evolved over the years and has included many different media such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, oil pastels and mixed media. In recent years, I have developed a fascination with the human figure and face. My own children have become the subject of many of my paintings. Human suffering and overcoming adversity are also common themes present in my artwork. Being a hydrologist and climate scientist by education, I am especially sensitive to environmental causes. Water and climate change are common themes in my artwork. I am also a climate and environmental activist and, together with my two daughters, have pushed for climate action and environmental protections in DC. Over the years, I have volunteered for various environmental organizations, including Citizens Climate Lobby, Moms Clean Air Force, Green for All, and Climate Reality. I want to use art as a tool to build bridges and communicate difficult and often politicized subjects such as environmental degradation, species extinction and climate change. I am one of the founders of the Central Florida Climate Artists group, which is planning a series of environmentally-themed art shows throughout central Florida. Over the years, my work has been described as colorful, introspective, profound and thought-provoking. My artwork has been displayed at various galleries throughout Central Florida, including Winter Garden’s SOBO Gallery, Osceola Arts in Kissimmee, and City Arts Factory in Orlando. I am also a member of the Florida Watercolor Society.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Art has not always been a smooth road. One of my challenges has been finding time to do my art. Between work, motherhood, activism, and other commitments, it isn’t easy to find time to work on my art. There have been stretches of time when I have had to abandon art, which has been frustrating. Art is my happy place, my meditation, and I am trying to use my time more wisely so that I can carve out even small blocks of time to do some art. Another obstacle has been self-doubt. For many years, I painted beautiful things, things that sold. But recently, after going through a difficult time in my life, my work has become a little darker, more meaningful, thought-provoking, and introspective. I am using more dream-like imagery in my paintings and also using my artwork as a vehicle for education and activism. This has meant fewer sales but a more fulfilling experience. I still paint beautiful things at times to cheer me up. But since this a hobby for me, I can afford to paint what I like and what speaks to me, to portray my fears, my joys, my anger, my hopes, all my emotions.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Over the years, my artwork has evolved significantly. I have dabbled in various media such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, oil pastels and mixed media, but my love always has oils. For years, I painted only flowers and beautiful things, things that had a market. After being literally afraid of painting faces, in recent years, I have developed a fascination with the human figure and face. My own children have become the subject of many of my paintings. Human suffering and overcoming adversity are also common themes in my artwork. Being a hydrologist and climate scientist by education, I am especially sensitive to environmental causes, and water is a common theme in a lot of my artwork. I am most proud of being able to combine my climate change activism work with my art. I am organizing a local group of artists into a collective known as the Central Florida Climate Artists Group. We plan to have environmental-themed art shows throughout central Florida in the next few years. COVID has limited us in terms of being able to have live art shows and openings, but we are taking advantage of online platforms for dissemination. Our goal is to use art to improve climate and environmental education, which are issues that should concern us all since they threaten our long-term survival and prosperity regardless of political affiliation. My artwork has been described as introspective and thought-provoking. It stirs emotions and is full of dreamlike imagery. My art exposes my feelings, my fears, my vulnerabilities, and I hope it opens hearts and minds.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
We want to expand our Central Florida Climate Artists group. We hope to get more artists interested in doing more climate and environmental-related artwork. We would also love to find more local galleries and venues willing to show our work since we have had some difficulties since these topics are perceived as political when they are not. We hope to partner with various local and national environmental organizations to develop some “climate education through artwork” events in the near future.

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