Open Studios Featured Artist: Sonia Calderon

Sonia Calderon Goldfish

Inspired by the clothes I want to buy. I made her up with sunglasses and a nice red lipstick. She is sexual but honest.

After studying art at establishments like Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and San Francisco’s Art Institute, Sonia Calderon launched a fruitful career as an abstract painter, photographer and filmmaker. Her work, which is influenced by the paintings of such artists as Paul Klee and Richard Diebenkorn, can be seen at and at Juicy Abstracts by Sonia Calderon.

Local Santa Cruz: Tell me about the work you’ll have on display during Open Studios. What sorts of things can people expect to see?

Sonia Calderon: Urban scapes as well as my Psycho Bitches series. Psycho Bitch symbolizes the dominant female or the dominant male. I portrayed them with vivid bright colors as well as some pastels and intricate and bold line work to convey a guilty pleasure, because this dominance isn’t always sustained. I feel like people who are dominant in this society struggle with their sense of place. But it’s portrayed in a positive light, because it’s a juxtaposition of being strong and then also being weak, and sometimes when we’re weak, that can also be beautiful, because there’s some sort of a breakthrough. And there’s vulnerability, sensuality, eroticism.

Sonia CalderonLA Painting

Hollywood life up above in the canyons

How did abstract art become your medium of choice?

I started realistically—I think most artists start realistically—[but] I think with experience, your vision of the world becomes a little bit more abstract, and that’s inspired by chaos and stimulus. And I think it’s also [a reflection of] the times. I’m not adhering to what’s happening now, but I think it has to do with the [current] environment of chaos, as well as what’s shown on TV and packaging with products: I see a lot of neon colors and space as well as cleanliness in line and design, and then some comical but complicated message.

Sonia Calderon - Lipstick city

Inspired by San Francisco with all its beauty, distortion and comical sense.

What new artistic terrain would you like to explore that you haven’t yet?

I would like to expand my Psycho Bitch series as well as my Pet Shop series, which is a new series that will be coming out soon. And I want to integrate that with maybe some short film clips that integrate with the concept of people in repose. The pet shop would basically be homeless people who think they’re famous, but they’re not. They’re a little bit flashy, and they have their own Hollywood world. It’s like they’re the stray cats in the pet shop: they have a home, and they’ve got friends, but it’s not the best home.

Sonia Calderon - Mexican Babysitter

Inspired by quesadillas and wanting my mom to come home

Do the demands of being a professional artist affect your joy of painting?

Being an artist is hard work. Really, it is. My first studio in Monterey Bay Academy was literally a shack, and I had to squeeze in it sometimes. Everybody makes choices in life, and it was my choice. But I think that artists struggle. So you get kind of excited when money comes through! When you run out, the pressure’s on. Some of my best pieces come when I’m under pressure and under so much stress. So I think it’s all positive. I think living on the edge is part of the dynamics in my pieces that people resonate with, because I feel like a lot of people are going through the same thing.

Open Studios Santa Cruz

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