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Rising Stars: Meet Daniela Godoy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Daniela Godoy.

Hi Daniela, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
“The frenzy of arriving

Left no time for grieving

The life we were leaving

Hopes packed in a small suitcase

For four

Mother was convinced

There was more

A place to harvest our dreams

Constructed from roots in our blood

We’re creating ourselves in new soil

And a Nordic sun.

Nordic Sun,  by Daniela Godoy 10/19/2015

     My name is Angela  Daniela Godoy Brito,  also known as Daniela Godoy. I was born in Riobamba, Ecuador. My mom moved my siblings and me  (my older brother & older sister) to the United States when I was seven, a little over 26 years ago. We moved in to live with my mom’s brother and sister in a  basement. With the help of my aunt and uncle my mom worked in various service jobs to keep us afloat. Two years later my dad joined us. My dad applied for a specialized visa to help us attain U.S . residency thanks to his career as a musicologist and the books he has published internationally. We got our residency in five years and  our citizenship by the time I was a senior in high school.  My mom worked and went to school to become a Physical Therapist Assistant. My dad always instilled our love for books, music, and writing. I am a part of the sixth generation of musicians.

      My love for art started as early as the age of three, as my mom remembers. She remembers me begging her to take me to one of her teacher’s workshops, which turned out to be a watercolor painting demo.  She says she had never seen a kid that age sit so still for so long watching.  After seeing the demo, I had declared to her that I was going to be a painter when I grew up. And I have kept building my dream to this day thirty years later.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
    Growing up, I was painfully shy. It was so bad at the beginning that my first-grade teacher had told my mom she was thinking of holding me back for a year because  I was not progressing in reading. My mom had been a teacher in Ecuador and told me what my teacher had said. My teacher had also suggested that my mom start reading to me solely in Spanish at home so that I could have a reference  language. My mom discovered that my problem was that I was too afraid that when I read aloud and that my pronunciation would be wrong. The idea of having to redo a grade motivated me to speak up more in class. I passed.

    My shyness stemmed from the fact that  I felt like  I couldn’t relate to either culture properly. I didn’t feel like I fit or understood my Latin American culture or the Anglo culture (English-speaking culture).  I often felt very isolated from both cultures.  My dad would take us to the  Smithsonian Museums.  Which is where my love for learning about other cultures and art museums comes from.  I became  very introverted. I  focused  more on reading, art, and things that most kids my age weren’t.  As a result  I was often the target of bullying from elementary through high school.

  Now I realize that my quirks and my sense of feeling like a constant outsider also instilled a level of compassion for people of other nationalities and backgrounds. I  became curious and less judgmental of the differences I saw in others and accepted them for their uniqueness. Which also led me to have friends from all over the world and most importantly to learn from them. One of the greatest blessings of having lived in the  DMV area  (Montgomery County ) is its vast cultural diversity.  I’ve realized that having grown up between two cultures made me a bridge between them.  I have also participated in several marches for immigration reform since my mid-teen years and early to mid-twenties. Today, I  still contribute to immigration reform causes because I believe in people’s right to choose to live wherever they feel safe.

 When I graduated high school, I couldn’t afford to go to a four-year college, even though  I got into five out of the six schools I applied to.  I was lucky that the school counselor for Spanish-speaking students had applied for me to get a  Board of Trustees Scholarship to attend Montgomery College, Rockville ( a community college), because of the volunteer work I had done for her with the Spanish-speaking parents. I got a scholarship my first year and I attended there for three years. Initially  I thought I would do a double major in art and Spanish ( to be an interpreter/ translator).  However, I  was accepted to transfer to the  Maryland Institute College of Art and attend with a half scholarship to complete my Bachelors in  Painting. MICA was my dream school. When I got in,  I was that much closer to becoming a professional artist.  I  got my degree two years later (2012).

    I have had anxiety with public speaking most of my life.  My public speaking anxiety has diminished over the years because of the art shows, presentations, and interviews I’ve had to do because of my art.  After four or five years of working at jobs that were draining and unfulfilling. I realized life is too short to not be pursuing what I love.

    I decided to move back to Baltimore October of last year. This last year I  also committed to pursue painting full time.   This new commitment with my passion also led me to start a YouTube channel and create lives on my Instagram, where I share painting tips and career advice for other artists while I work on paintings or drawings.  I  also opened an online store on my website, and I  work on commission projects.  I’ve struggled to get my paintings into gallery shows in the United States for the last five to six years.

 We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do and what do you specialize in what are you known for etc.  What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others.
     Through my art I explore my cultural heritage as a personal narrative to my maternal grandmother. She was of indigenous descent of the  Puruah people of the Chimborazo  Province. All  of my ancestors on both sides are from Ecuador.  The summer after graduating from MICA I was hired as a photographer to work alongside my dad on a field research project for the  Institute of Cultural Patrimony of Ecuador. My father Mario Godoy Aguirre was the   lead  researcher, historian, and musicologist of the project.   We documented the harvest ritual song of the Jahuay of the indigenous people of Ecuador.

  That project marked a turning point not only in my career but in my life and my identity.  Growing up  I didn’t learn anything about my cultural roots in school. In that project I witnessed  a ritual song that dates back to at least 500 years and was being lost. I was hearing songs my grandmother probably heard while she worked in the hacienda where she lived through most of her life.  My grandmother died when I was twelve, so I didn’t get to know her that well. The Jahuay project aimed to preserve while bringing cultural awareness to this culturally historical genre of music. My paintings are how  I reconnect with my grandmother’s history, it’s  my way of   rediscovering  my roots.  From that project Jahuay I created a series of twenty acrylic paintings that retell the key points and characters of the harvest ritual song.

  My paintings are distinguishable in that they are always very bright and colorful. The bright colors reflect the colorful clothing of the indigenous people of the Chimborazo Province. Although the stories told through these historical songs are often sad.  This harvest ritual is also an act of celebration. Through the songs and rituals, they give thanks to their deities for a successful harvest.

     I’m most proud of having been able to show this series in seven solo shows. The first one was in Oct 2013 in Szekesfehervar, Hungary. Subsequently, I had six other shows  in various locations in Ecuador.  In addition to having a photograph, I took of an Indigenous woman, included in a one-day group show in the Louvre, Museum, as a part of the See. Me. Gallery in 2015.

     My art aims to bring cultural awareness of a culture that people wouldn’t normally be  aware  exists.  I hope it inspires others to find similarities between that culture and their own. In addition to helping people  see the beauty of our human diversity.  For example in the show in Hungary I remember the translator telling me that a person saw how similar their harvest was to the one in my paintings.   It was rewarding to see people’s reactions after the shows and school expos that we did in Chimborazo Province schools of the indigenous communities. To see how other Ecuadorians took a renowned pride in this ritual.  And how my little cousin’s teacher in Virginia told me that he was reminded of the harvest season in El Salvador after seeing my paintings.  I’ve seen how what I paint reminds people of our human commonalities and that brings me great  joy because that’s my main goal.

  This year I created two watercolor challenges which resulted in the forty watercolor portraits of the indigenous people from the harvest ritual of the Jahyay.  I am currently in the process of  creating  a larger version of those portraits in acrylics.

 What makes you happy.
 So many things make me happy.   This past year and a half a newfound commitment to pursuing painting full time makes me very happy. Being able to share what I do and what I love through my art has been a constant motivator in my life even when things got tough.

  Traveling also makes me happy, the act of experiencing new places,  new people, new food.  Visiting places and museums and art that I’ve only seen in books before makes me happy. And this past year reconnecting with nature has also  brought me great joy and peace.

  Listening to music and sharing it with my family during family gatherings also makes me very happy.  My family get-togethers have always been very musical because a lot of my cousins’ uncles, aunts and my grandpa sing or play some instrument.  Growing up with musicians who made a career out doing what they love taught me that it’s possible to live off doing what you love. The amount of love support I have received from them is immeasurable.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
1) Wall 4 Exhibition, Community and Cultural Center, Székesfehérvár, Hungary, Oct 2013, by Daniela Godoy 2) Colors & Textures of the Jahuay, Community and Cultural Center, Székesfehérvár, Hungary, by, Mario Godoy Oct 2013, 3) Colors & Textures of the Jahuay, At the Casa de las posadas, Cultural Center, Cuenca Ecuador, Opening , by Eduardo Yumizaca, Ecuadorian artist, July 16, 2014 4) Daniela Godoy Colors & Textures of the Jahuay, exhibition at the Casa de las Posadas Cultural Center, Cuenca Ecuador, July 17 by Mario Godoy 5) Day 14 of 30-Day Watercolor portrait Painting Challenge, March 2021, by Daniela Godoy 6) Day 5 of 10 Watercolor portrait Painting Challenge for the Refugees of Afghanistan, Sept 5, 2021, by Daniela Godoy 8) Self-portrait in green shirt, by Daniela Godoy, August 2021

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