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Artist Maria Calderon Talks Lupus, Art and Natural Healing

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny,” said novelist C.S Lewis. And for Maria Calderon, that was finding balance in body, mind and soul in the midst of her art.

Maria, a 31-year-old native of Kansas City, grew up surrounded by folk music and artistic parents. Her parents met in South America in the 1960s, where the two became artisans, selling leather shoes and peanut butter to hikers. “Their history was really inspiring for me as a child because it seems so dreamy,” says Maria, who credits her family history and background for kick starting her artistic aspirations. Not only were her parents cause for inspiration, but they understood the creative process. “They encouraged investigating different things. (They) allowed me to be more expressive, and told me that I didn’t have to fit into any specific mold.” She tried to fit into those molds while she was in high school, but could never find her true match.

They encouraged investigating different things. (They) allowed me to be more expressive, and told me that I didn’t have to fit into any specific mold.

Maria later began her career as a painter, with a background in fine art. The foundation of her work was largely made up of her South American upbringing, including music, which came from growing up with a folk musician father. After graduating with a fine arts degree, Maria began teaching and working in the contemporary art scene in Kansas City, one she loves and considers very unique. “Kansas City artists are really special, they’re very expressive. They really don’t have anyone to impress,” she expresses. “You don’t have the hierarchy of New York, LA, or Chicago.”

Just as Maria was beginning to paint, she thought she might not get the chance to develop her craft at all. In 2002, she was diagnosed with Lupus and lost control of her health. When modern medicine could not help, she turned to alternative medicine, different religions, and finding peace. “Before I was sick I was in a totally different mindset of who I was, my identity,” she remembers, “you rethink everything and you see people differently.”

After her diagnoses, Maria’s highest concern became her health, realizing that our bodies don’t work properly if we aren’t nourished and well-balanced. Potential for complete health has not only been a motivator but an inspiration in creating her art. “Our culture has this issue with blaming themselves for all these problems, or not being able to think properly, says Maria, adding, “and a lot of that roots from malnutrition.”

Today Maria is living Lupus-free after turning away from medicine and treating the disease holistically. She considers her diagnoses a huge eye opening experience that resulted in launching her into the art and creative realms head on. “It totally made me start thinking creatively. I don’t belong to anything specifically. And that was freeing and liberating,” adds Maria.

Now happy and healthy, Maria has her newest project to concentrate on, which she began after spending five weeks working in the forests of Michigan. “I always wanted to work with natural dyes, and always felt a strong connection to that art form,” says Maria. After teaching herself and experimenting with fibers and dyes, she created tie-dyed dresses and jumpsuits, she says really resonates with her cultural heritage. “(These) pieces are seen more ceremonial, and are easy to move in because they are so large,” says Maria, who has become a part of a healthy community of women, which has given her the opportunity to connect with women through ceremony and crafting. “The work that I’m doing right now is definitely very much a reference and inspiration from this community that I’m apart of,” she contends.

To learn more about Maria Calderon and her art, visit her website: mariacalderon.com

By: Erenia T. Michell