When UO senior Anna Maestas was in high school, she started to recognize the value of art and the impact it could have on both her life and the world. She struggled with drawing, but through photography, her role as an artist started to “click in.”
“I knew that I wanted to do work about human connections and relationships between people,” Maestas said. “[Relational aesthetics] is about creating art that is entirely dependent on the connections between people.”
Maestas looks like a creative person, dressed in blue overalls that feature a sewed-on butterfly fabric patch surrounded by embroidered daisies and wearing orange, large-framed glasses. While back in high school she mostly stuck with photography, now Maestas creates art using a variety of different mediums — drawing, digital illustration, photography and, more recently, she created her first textile piece.
The textile piece features a laptop burning up in flames, providing a warning about the website written above it, www.prettyscale.com. The piece is a bit ironic with a flower in each corner, some with smiles and some with frowns. The website URL is written within a rainbow, but then the laptop is on fire. The contrasting imagery in this piece highlights the irony of a website that claims to tell a person how pretty they are.
“If you have low self-esteem or/and confidence issues, please do not take the test,” Maestas wrote on the digital laptop screen featured in her piece.
The website is real. It claims to quantify how attractive you are by taking measurements of either your face only or your full body.
I visited the website, took a photo of my face and took the test. The site required me to follow a series of steps, placing lines on certain spots around my face to measure it. I scored 74%. The program explained that I have a “good face shape” but “bad face symmetry” and my “forehead is too big.”
“It’s a real site, and it is so fucked up,” Maestas said. “I just wanted to make a piece that called out how ridiculous that site is.”
Maestas uses art to reach other people’s emotions. Currently, she is interested in creating “slice of life” pieces that involve the little details that can be found in a person’s life — like the box of cheez-its on her bed, the rumpled clothes on the floor and the earbuds on her table in her self portrait, “Bad Habits.” The image shows Maestas in bed watching “Glee” with an email to her professor titled “One big stinky lie” about her taking a sick day. She is surrounded by personal details of her life such as the pill organizer in the corner and the inbox with 2,702 unread emails.
“You can tell a lot about a person just by the objects they own,” Maestas said. “In that piece especially, I was trying to communicate a lot of my different coping habits I have, positive and negative. And really let people in on a little bit of my life.”
Maestas is an advertising major, and she struggles with the advertising world that feels manipulative at times, she said. Currently, she is trying to find spaces in that field that focus on political campaign work or work with nonprofits.
Less than a week away from graduating, Maestas has plans to work in Portland after she gets her diploma. For the past month, she has been working with the organization called “Food not Bombs'' in Portland to create an “anarchist-zine inspired website.” “Food not Bombs” serves vegan food to houseless populations around Portland.
“In my life, my goal is to use my creativity and my skills in design and illustration to help with social advocacy work,” Maestas said.