Sylvia Blanco does the kind of art that sinks deep inside your eyeballs. The images swirl around inside your corneas before they break off into tiny atoms, re-forming into whatever it was she conceived and embedding itself in your gray matter.
The images are sometimes of beautiful women, often brown and Chicana, with a soft power. Then there are those romantically gothic skulls, the snakes, and sometimes all of these little pieces combine like Voltron to form a mural. If you’ve ever marveled at a wall piece that had the name Blanco scribbled on the bottom, then you know her work.
With the "Mexican Modernism" exhibit popping at the MFAH, it’s hard not to see the influence in Blanco’s work; after all, the great nation south of our border is where her family history is rooted. The Heights resident began her life in Mexico and grew up in Montrose.
She doesn’t come from a typical artist background, either. Her skills are self-taught and something she’s developed by soaking up the devotion and teachings of her peers in Houston’s art scene. She works among other local artists who have a stake in the community, people with names like Bao Pham, Black Cassidy, zkeez181 and Alex Ramos. Her inspiration came from the elder statesman of H-town muralists, Gonzo247, as well as Anna Marietta and Anat Ronen, the cadre of traveling artists who represent Houston.
“I painted my first mural in 2014, located on the outside fence of what used to be Frenetic Theater. There was an artist call and I was one of three artists that were chosen,” Blanco explains.
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Once you get past her talent, what’s really amazing about Blanco is that she first started to take her art seriously around 2010 and, through practice, reached a level that made her a known quantity in local street-art circles.
Blanco joins a list of other women artists who are painting walls in Houston, like Anat Ronen, Jessica Rice, Royal, Nina Marinick, Natalia Victoria, Doll Partz and Hannah Bull, to name just a handful.
Her work is hard to miss. In 2015, she made her mark on a wall on St. Emanuel, a striking, Frida-esque woman with a serpent around her neck and a Jesus heart on the outside. It was her contribution to Hou Mural Fest, the city’s international mural festival.
“I love that street mural work belongs to the public, canvas work lives in a home," she says. "It's a different feeling for me; it's still a learning experience, and I love the challenge. I have painted many canvases, and I love the process as well. The only way I can explain it is that painting on canvas is my heart, and painting murals is my soul."