Are You with Me?

Exhibition: October 16, 2021–February 13, 2022

An exhibition featuring 27 oil paintings and 18 mixed-media drawings by contemporary Chicana artist Sonya Fe, Are You With Me? Sonya Fe is both a biographical depiction of Fe’s own life and of those who are often overlooked. Her work reflects social and cultural issues with themes centering around women and children. The use of bold brush strokes and vibrant colors by Fe creates beautiful dynamic paintings that depict visual stories of women’s place in society and childhood innocence in a rough world. Fe encourages viewers to question, comment, and act. At first glance, one is struck by the unexpected beauty and vibrancy of her work. The surface is luminous even in the paintings with the darkest of colors. The application of the paint is thick, yet transparent. While her art is bright and beautiful, it also has soul and meaning. More than outlining a form and filling it with color, Fe’s work communicates pain and humor.


Fe states, “I want the viewer to stand with me while looking at the work. I want them to feel, see, and understand what I am saying—to not be left behind. I want to ask them, ‘Are you with me?’”


A Mexican art influence remains strong in Fe’s work today with her use of bold designs, simplified shapes, and flat, intense color, but she says she has had many creative influences and sources of inspiration over the years. “I get ideas when I least expect it. A while ago, when I was driving over here, I was thinking of a woman having dinner with a monkey and calling it Having Dinner with My Husband.” She laughs, thinking about it. “I get ideas from everywhere.”

The artist grew up drawing on the cement floors of her family’s East Los Angeles home—an activity that her seven siblings, her Jewish-American mother, and her Mexican-American father fully encouraged. Each night, a new masterpiece was created and then mopped clean by her mother. At age 13, Fe won her first art scholarship to attend a summer program at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1976, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California. There, Fe learned technique, how to mix colors, and how to work as an artist but not how to paint with soul and meaning. Her goal was to convey her thoughts and feelings with each painting. She has since been able to master and channel her thoughts and feelings to each piece of work, becoming a notable artist in the Chicano art movement.

Fe has published children’s stories and a drawing book, and is the co-founder of Publishing Children’s Stories, a program for elementary schools that integrates literacy, art, and technology. She also has helped with the restoration of the Great Wall of Los Angeles, a 1976 mural designed by muralist Judith Baca that depicts the full history of Los Angeles. Fe’s work has also been exhibited in many galleries and museums across the United States and in Mexico and Japan. Fe’s work can be found in numerous private and public collections. Several works are in the collection of Cheech Marin who shares that Fe’s work, “because of its strong emotional impact,” her art “can sometimes make you want to look away, but then you are compelled to look right into its center.”

Curated by Norma Chairez-Hartell, this exhibition originated at the Las Cruces Museum of Art where it was on view from May 7, 2021 through July 24, 2021. After the Riverside Art Museum, the exhibition is embarking on a national tour. For booking information, contact Melissa Richardson Banks at art@causeconnect.net. For more information about the artist, visit www.sonyafe.com.

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This is a The Cheech @ RAM exhibition.

Image: Sonya Fe, Oops, 1993

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Part of RAM’s continued programming leading up to the opening of its Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum, “Son Cuatro: In Conversation” was a series of four Zoom interviews conducted during the summer of 2021 focused on sharing the work and the stories of Chicana artists, gaining their insights, and helping to inspire more community interaction in support of The Cheech. This inaugural series was made possible through the generosity of the Union Pacific Foundation.

Each artist conversation will be edited into a separate audio episode and compiled into a podcast series with the same name to be nationally syndicated later this summer and available through listening platforms such as Spotify, iHeart, and others.

Click here to listen to the Son Cuatro podcast featuring Sonya Fe.

This exhibition is sponsored by:

Betty & Walter Parks

MUSEUM MATTERS