We grew up admiring graffiti and murals in Chicago’s thriving urban art scene. We remember hearing our immigrant parents disapprove, because they associated the entire genre with gang culture.
But to us, kids that grew up ni de aqui y ni da alla, there was something really appealing in the murals' vibrant, rebellious and imposing nature. They were big, bright and bold. They were political. They made a statement and didn’t get smaller when they were painted over. Importantly, they reflected those of us who lived in the community.
Now looking back, we recognize that we connected with this art form because they made us feel seen in the public square. Who else was telling our stories to the masses or showing off our culture for thousands to see? Nobody. Murals and graffiti art were (and still are) a medium for telling the story of a community.
As we got older, we travelled to places like Bogota, Colombia, and Rio de Janeiro and saw how those places fully embraced this art form and made murals an integral part of the city landscape. (Not to imply that elites in these cities approve of graffiti art more than they do in the US — the anti-urban-art sentiment is strong there, too.) But there, graffiti art seemed to be an accepted form of expression, woven in as part of the cities' natural fabric. This gave us an even greater appreciation for the persistence of Chicago-based graffiti artists to create space for their art.
Urban muralists, especially in cities like Chicago, have worked tirelessly to create space for their art. In the face of city-sanctioned removals of their work, muralists continue on with resilience and a desire to create.
We’re so inspired by this persistence and dedication to the craft. We appreciate the way in which Black and Latinx artists have redefined the genre away from stereotypical tropes about gang culture and reframed it as simply art made for us, by us.
This process of reclaiming, redefining and celebrating who we are is exactly what VOLVERde is about. When we thought about offering beautiful, refillable soap dispensers to make refilling more aesthetically appealing, we knew it had to be something that represented us and the spirit behind our brand. We knew it had to be graffiti art.
We approached Rubén Aguirre because we’ve been longtime fans of his work, which is very prominent all over Chicago. In fact, he created a famous mural that now graces our sister’s wedding picture! (One day we'll get her permission to share it publicly.)
We're drawn to his abstract, modern aesthetic and stunning pops of color, reminiscent of the brightly colored homes you see all over Latin America. His work is exciting and multi-faceted, giving you both graffiti and mural vibes. It feels familiar yet completely unique, just as we aspire to be as a brand. One thing we really love about Rubén's art is the overarching theme of connection. He shares,
“Connecting with nature, the body and the Earth as one: this theme of connectedness became the focal point of my paintings.” -- Rubén Aguirre
We also admire the way in which he fluidly grays the line between urban art and fine art. His murals adorn buildings all over the midwest area and are showcased in prominent galleries, including the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Fitting with his down-to-earth style, he asked for our input on our favorite murals so he could draw inspiration for the custom design. It was a daunting task because we like so many of his works! But we narrowed it down to five or six that had pops of color, playful patterns and would work well on an amber bottle. He came back with a fresh, bold, and beautiful design that now graces our Limited Edition Artist Collection Soap Dispenser. We absolutely love it and hope you do, too!
We are very grateful to Rubén for partnering with us on this project; it's been such a beautiful experience from start to finish. This is our first ever Artist Series Collaboration, and we hope to have more in the future, featuring artists of color. Let us know what you think of the bottle designs and who you think we should feature next in the comments below!
A + M