5Q’s with Erick Medel

5Q’s with Erick Medel

In this edition of 5 Q’s, we are thrilled to catch up with Los Angeles based artist, Erick Medel. We asked him about life after graduation, the development of his embroidery practice, and what he is consuming while practicing social distancing. You can currently see Medel’s work as part of the group show, “A Claiming, Which Cannot Be Tamed” at the Holland Project Gallery.

Portrait of Erick Medel. Image: Courtesy of the artist

1. Reno was first introduced to your work in 2018 through your Identity Flags in the group show titled, “Vexillum: Flags as Cultural and Political Objects”. At that point, you were still in your master’s program at Rhode Island School of Design, but since then you have now graduated (Congratulations). Please tell us how postgrad life has been for you and if that has impacted your practice?

Yeah, I was happy to be in that group show. Since graduating I moved back to Los Angeles and continue working on my practice. It was an adjustment period because at first I didn’t have a studio space and I felt like I needed to take a different approach. It took me some time to connect with some art friends and get a studio space in Downtown LA. From there I was able to focus on my new interest in textiles and exploring LA’s Mexican culture.

Erick Medel, (Fear is for Others) t-shirt, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

2. You definitely are not afraid of experimenting with different material, how did your current process of embroidery develop? 

 I started working with textiles by making quilts, at the time I was thinking about narrative and storytelling in connection to the Mexico-US border. I’m still thinking about stories I’d like to tell in embroidery form. I can’t trace back the thought process, but I know it was more of an impulse to start using my sewing machine as a pencil or brush of sorts. Over time the embroidery has become more intricate and laborious. It’s been a rewarding experience to take that leap and come out with something unexpected and gratifying.

(Left) Erick Medel, Perro Callejero, 2020, faux leather, polyester thread, polyurethane foam, hardware
(Right) Erick Medel, Santa Muerte con hoz (gorra #4), 2020, faux leather, polyester thread, polyurethane foam, hardware
Erick Medel, Greener en el otro lado (fence 2), 2020, faux leather, polyester thread, polyurethane foam, hardware

3. Your piece “Towards the Darkest Winter” that is a part of the group show A Claiming, Which Cannot Be Tamed is an example of your intricate and laborious embroidery work. Can you talk a bit about that specific piece and how the title originated?

I made that piece the second month in lockdown. The pandemic was still fresh and we were not sure how the government was going to respond to this event. During a congressional hearing, Dr. Rick Bright warned us about a possible scenario by saying “2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history”. Bright was forced out of his federal vaccine chief position for criticizing the Trump Administration’s response to Covid. Towards the Darkest Winter depicts a lifted American truck, a symbol I’d come to associate with Trump Supporters at rallies.

Erick Medel, Towards the Darkest Winter , 2020, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno
Install view of “A Claiming, Which Cannot Be Tamed“, 2020, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

4. I’ve always appreciated how your work has political undertones, has this been furthered by the current political climate? If not, what drives the political perspective of your artwork?

I think the explosiveness of our political climate has influenced my work. I try to incorporate political elements into my work but I do it in more subtle ways now.

Erick Medel, What Makes a Flag American? #1 (desert storm/break-up infinity camo), 2018, The Holland Project, Reno.

5. During these times where we should stay at home to take care of ourselves and our community, what have been some TV shows, films, or books that have kept you going? Do you recommend anything in specific?

There are times when I just want to tune out while I’m sewing so I’ll watch short documentaries or sitcoms like Episodes and Curb. I recommend Hate Monger by Jean Guerrero, this book examines the racist and white nationalist policies of Stephen Miller and his influence on the Trump Administration. It’ll make you angry to learn how much hatred fuels the white house.


Erick Medel (Mexico,b.1992) is a Los Angeles based artist. His interdisciplinary practice combines sculpture and textiles with available consumer objects and iconography to highlight the complexities and contradictions associated with definitions of Americanness. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. His experience as a teenage immigrant growing up in the US has influence his practice and observations regarding what it means to be an American and the complexities surrounding identity and otherness. Medel’s work has been exhibited at Liberal Arts Roxbury, (New York), Stellar Projects (New York), Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), CAMAYUHS (Atlanta), SPRING/BREAK LA Fair (Los Angeles), and NADA House w/ HOUSING Gallery, (Governors Island, NY).