Working across installation, performance, studio and social practice, Venezuelan-American artist Mariángeles Soto-Díaz sutures political, ancestral and personal modes of knowing to examine vulnerability and how we counter violence, both structural and domestic. The social practice dimension of her work involves collaborations with her martial art teachers and colleagues, participatory projects, instruction-based works, and experimental performance. Expanding on her initial training as a painter, her studio practice also remixes non-traditional materials such as judo belts, neighborhood detritus, spices, UPC codes, and coconuts to explore global consumption, gender in the art world, color and emotion, colonial extractivism, and chocolate, among other topics.
Soto-Díaz has seamlessly combined installation, art, social practice and performance in many recent projects including her solo show Everyday Grappling Operations (2018-19) at the Orange County Museum of Art, Infinite Unbalancing Directions (2019) at the SUR:Biennial and Gentle Prowess Deliberations (2022) at Grand Central Art Center. Her ongoing Pink Elephant in the Room series is featured in Remains-Tomorrow: Themes in Contemporary Latin American Abstraction, a book on post-1990s conceptual Latin American abstraction by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill (Hatje Cantz, 2022), and is in the Stiftung Konzeptuelle Kunst. Other instruction-based projects have been exhibited at MASS MoCA, El Museo del Barrio, Stanley Museum, LACE, Smack Mellon and the Torrance Art Museum. Her work has also been shown at 18th Street Art Center (Los Angeles), MAK Center for Art and Architecture (Los Angeles), MASS MoCA. She is also the founder of the Unconfirmed Makeshift Museum (UMM), a nomadic platform for contemporary art.
Soto-Díaz began her art studies in Venezuela, and holds a BA in Psychology and Art from Hampshire College, an MA from the California Institute of the Arts and an MFA from Claremont Graduate University. As a judoka, she is a member of Bunasawa-Kai Dojo in Costa Mesa and has trained at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo. She was an Assistant Professor at Hampshire College for five years before relocating to California. At the University of California, Irvine, she is currently a Lecturer in the Art Department, a Community Partner and Artist-Researcher in Dr. Dawn Bounds’ CYFER Lab, and a Research Associate in the Latin American Studies Center. She was awarded an Oberman Grant Wood fellowship at the University of Iowa, and has also taught at Occidental College. In the non-profit sector, Soto-Díaz has taught community arts programs for organizations such as Arco Iris, Nuestras Raíces and Casa Latina in western Massachusetts, and the Institute for Arts Education in San Diego. She has designed and secured funding for art programs for under-served youth, and also worked as the interim Director for the Public Service and Social Change program at Hampshire College, supervising students working in the community.
Soto-Díaz lives and works in Southern California.