Hum of the Desert

ASU-LACMA fellow commissioned to paint mural

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Ariana Enriquez has come a long way from the eighth grade, when she used to trade her in-class doodles for snacks.

The graduate painting student, who will receive her MFA in May of 2021, was selected as an ASU-LACMA fellow, and she works in the registrar’s office at the ASU Art Museum, where she has been able to handle work by the two artists on whom she is writing her thesis: Margarita Cabrera and Ana Teresa Fernandez.

“Seeing it, touching it, hands on, was the first thing that got me into their work,” Enriquez said. “Both are creating work about and on the border, looking into women’s invisible domestic labor and analyzing contemporary migrant life. As an artist myself, I identify with them as Mexican American artists, and I really am drawn to the resiliency that they’re highlighting.”

Enriquez says she started taking art seriously in high school. She credits her uncle with taking her to art museums in L.A when she visited him there, and she praises the “really wonderful art teachers who were passionate and inspiring” at Chandler High School.

 Now, right down the street from Chandler High, Enriquez has left an enduring mark: her first mural, titled “Hum of the Desert.”

Enriquez admires murals and muralists for the “beauty and individuality” they contribute to the community, and says that she had always wanted to try creating a mural herself, having never worked on such a large project.

She began watching the calls for muralists, encouraged by people like ASU School of Art alum Peter Bugg, who serves as the visual arts coordinator for the City of Chandler. For this particular project, adjacent to the Commonwealth Canal in downtown Chandler, Enriquez said, “I saw that the wall wasn’t very tall, so that was nice. I saw those measurements and I was like, I think I can handle this.”

The call from the city explained that they hoped water could be incorporated into the design, as a nod to the canal. Enriquez decided to make water her primary element “to celebrate the canal and highlight it.” She also included flowers and birds, because she appreciates their symbolism. 

“The mural has cacti and succulents and prickly pears, as a nod to Arizona native species that thrive on water, and hummingbirds, which are a personal favorite. They have a familial significance. My grandmother really loves them, and we see them as ancestral guides. We see them in times of difficulty or decision making. Every time I was out there [working on the mural], I would see at least five hummingbirds. They would kind of hover around, especially as the sun would go down. I’ve never seen so many congregate in one area before.”

Enriquez started painting the mural April 15 and finished exactly one month later, as the pandemic took hold and the summer began.

“It was a perfect opportunity to work on it, when downtown Chandler was so quiet. I could really focus on working.”

She calls the mural “a love letter of sorts” to the City of Chandler, and she says, “First mural down, and hopefully not my last.”

For more images of “Hum of the Desert” and of Enriquez’s work, check out her Instagram, @arianaa_belen.

Read more about the mural project here.


Mural photos by Ariana Enriquez.
Photos of Ariana Enriquez by Gilbert Hermosillo.