Justine .png
Name: Justine Rea

Pronouns: She/Her

Location: CA, United States

Socials/Website: @justine_rea 
justinerea.com

Artist Title: Poet & Painter
Bio:
Justine is an Actor, Writer, Painter, and Teaching Artist. She is currently producing written works for the stage and screen, and most recently performed an original piece with the legendary theatre company, Teatro Campesino. Additionally, her artwork was recently featured by The Painted Brain in Los Angeles. In tandem with her career as an artist, Justine is committed to advocating for cultural-equity in mental health and K-12 formal education spaces. She is currently a graduate student at Lesley University within the Expressive Therapies Mental Health Counseling and Drama Therapy program. 
 
As a biracial woman with Mexican Indigenous heritage and European heritage, Justine has always felt she exists in the void between the historically violent, colonizer-aggressed relationship between these cultures. Additionally, you can understand Justine as a queer-identifying person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and chronic major depression. Justine’s art is focused on exploration and expression within these identities, and advocacy for cultural-equity concerning these experiences. Justine is particularly focused on awareness and justice concerning the long-lasting ramifications of the genocide of Mexican Indigenous people in the United States; and justice concerning the stark disparities of wealth and accessibility between White and BIPOC communities due to continued systemic racism. 

In Fall 2021, Justine will be launching the art production house Spirit and Ground to feature  BIPOC visual and written works in order to promote awareness and advocacy for these efforts.
© Copyright
Poppies in the Trenches
PoppiesInTheTrenches - Justine Rea.jpeg
Up until about the 2000’s, many California public schools insisted that Chicanx families stop teaching their children Spanish; some even going as far as to physically punish the use of Spanish in school. Justine and her father represent the first generations of non-Spanish speakers in her family, but this is a cultural genocide phenomena that affected many Chicanx families. Chicanx individuals who don’t speak Spanish often struggle to connect with their heritage and community, leading to cultural erasure in many forms; Justine has recognized that this loss has contributed to struggles with mental health and addiction in her family. 
   The image of the Golden Poppy is almost instantly associated with California. What many people don’t know is that the formal name of this flower is Eschscholzia mexicana, the “Mexican Golden Poppy”. This variety of flower is found in both Mexico and throughout California. Resilient and able to grow almost anywhere, this flower can sprout from between concrete and with little water, and is seen growing wild every spring on California’s Central Coast, where Justine was born. Justine is a huge fan of Riz Ahmed, and after listening to his spoken word piece, Where You From? She found similarities between the cultural genocide experienced by Pakistani communities in the U.K. and the Mexican experience in California. Ironically in both regions of struggle separated by such a large distance, wild Poppies grow. His lyric, “Maybe I'm from everywhere and nowhere; No man's land, between the trenches; Nothing grows there but it's fertilised by the brown bodies fought for you in the war; So when I spit a poppy grows there” inspired Justine’s “Poppies In The Trenches” to demonstrate her battle with cultural erasure, struggle to keep Chicanx culture alive, struggle with the mental health ramifications of cultural genocide, and to honor her hometown and the resilience of Chicanx people. 
Fire On The Seine
© Copyright
Fire On The Seine - Justine Rea.jpg
Reclamation of The Seine. As a fan of 1920’s art-deco style glamour portraits, Justine noticed that Black, Indigineous, and Latine women are almost entirely missing from paintings from this time period; a complete erasure of BIPOC from this silver-screen, glamorous era. Angered by this erasure, Justine invested time to educate herself on the BIPOC performers of this time, and to create art pieces in this style featuring BIPOC women. Justine started Spirit and Ground (Espiritu y Tierra) to feature her art, poetry, and scripts in order to dismantle and decolonize the art space, and to honor Latine and BIPOC women through this collection.
Artemis Returns
© Copyright
Artemis Returns - Justine Rea.jpg
Artemis Returns. As a fan of 1920’s art-deco style glamour portraits, Justine noticed that Black, Indigineous, and Latine women are almost entirely missing from paintings from this time period; a complete erasure of BIPOC from this silver-screen, glamorous era. Angered by this erasure, Justine invested time to educate herself on the BIPOC performers of this time, and to create art pieces in this style featuring BIPOC women. Justine started Spirit and Ground (Espiritu y Tierra) to feature her art, poetry, and scripts in order to dismantle and decolonize the art space, and to honor Latine and BIPOC women through this collection.
Mental Health Questions
How had the pandemic affected your mental health as a woman/femme creative? Have certain things improved for you or have gotten worse? 

With Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, as soon as the pandemic was announced I knew I was really going to struggle. Social anxiety and suicidal ideation have been the most difficult for me throughout the pandemic, and continue to be challenges. I already struggled with overwhelming feelings of isolation, lack of belonging, and loneliness. During the pandemic,  I really committed myself to developing a mental health wellness practice and to engaging in community groups in order to try to help myself get through it. Though it's been difficult, and there have been very dark days and weeks, I can say that there have been some beautiful successes too. I've been able to connect more with my Mexican culture, develop a mindfulness practice, and have been formally diagnosed with depression and GAD through regular therapy and seeing a psychologist (something I didn't have the courage to do prior to the pandemic). 

What is your power word or phrase that helps you overcome mental struggles?

I am love, I am living love.

How do you think mental health/mental illness has affect you as a girl/woman/femme and how you’re perceived? How do your creative outlets help you manage your mental health? 

I honestly would struggle to survive my mental health struggles without my creative outlets, they are literally my life-blood. I have been ashamed for having anxiety for a long time because it's so associated with women, like we can't manage our emotions or we're "emotional". That's truly part of why I avoided diagnosis for a very long time. Alot of my mental health struggles are also shaped by the cultural genocide I've witnessed and suffered from. As a Chicanx woman with opinions and anger about this, people assign me a trope of like "angry mexican person" or "hysterical woman". I think it takes more effort for people to take me seriously, and often it's why I've gravitated toward visual arts because it's more difficult for people to deny or argue skill, talent, or legitimacy when they have to see it clearly and vividly in a piece. 

What is something you wish people were more aware of that disproportionately affects women’s mental wellbeing? Do you use your art to raise awareness about this issue? If you have statistics/resources for this issue please share any! 

Women experience multi-layered sexism every single day. From the day we take our first breath we are force-fed the idea that we are weaker and less valuable than men, and the idea that men are entitled and allowed to identify as smart, precise, logical, sexual, etc. by default, and women are not. We're taught that we can only exist in limited categories (nurturing goddess or teacher, mother, bitchy or crazy) and are outcast if we are nuanced or exist outside of those tropes. In United States formal education systems, few women are featured in textbooks, let alone female-identifying BIPOC. Our K-12 education systems alone, not even integrating other institutions, paint this picture to youth that women have never done anything important that is worth teaching or recording- what a horrifying lie. I primarily utilize written works to speak on these issues and to increase female voices in the arts.