Imagination Is Our Medium For Resistance


“As artists, imagination is our medium… When we create, we’re coming home to ourselves because it’s part of who we are.”

Editor’s note: Abby Bonilla shared with me a lesson she learned from Jarrod McKenna: Imagination is our medium — not only for creativity but also for resistance. Abby is a fluid artist  who sows peace, celebrates beauty, and believes that our creativity is a gift from God that we must use to practice creative resistance. She works with canvases, colors, and blowdryers in order to bring beauty into (what feels like) a broken world, but also to awaken those of us who are asleep.

After first meeting her (virtually, over Zoom), I was reminded that the act of imagining a better world for the next generation is a crucial and radical act of decolonization. My imagination has power and can pave way for sustainable action. If Abby could inspire me so quickly, I wondered what she could do if she walked me through the process of creating a fluid art piece. I dared to ask, and she dared to say yes!

I’m so excited to share with you this video! Abby invites us into her process of creating a majestic fluid art piece, while also sharing her story and her heart for art and peacemaking.

About Abby: 

Abby Bonilla poses in front of blue backgroundAbby Bonilla is an Afro-Boricua fluid artist and photographer based in Northeast Ohio. She is a lover of creative expression, sharing life with people, and living outside the box. As a creator, she’s always pushing for new ideas on how to express herself, process the world around her, and connect with others. She has been featured by Advanza Latino, Vamos International, The University of Pittsburgh, received a Community Commitment Recognition during Covid-19 by the City of Youngstown, and most recently wrapped up season one of her very own creators interview series, “Somos Creators”. Abby’s mission is to bring peace and to spark creativity and conversation wherever her work is displayed. You can learn more about her here:

Full transcript:

Hello SheLoves Magazine. Soy Abby Bonilla and my pronouns are she, her and hers. I am an Afro Boricua fluid artist and photographer based in Northeast Ohio. My art line is ARBM Art and I get to do photography alongside one of my incredible sisters, Monica. Together, we’re B. Sisters Photography. Today, I’m specifically going to share some of my fluid art with you all. I am excited to weave in my story and my truth alongside this beautiful work, and to share what creative resistance looks like and means to me. Some thoughts may be heavy, may express pain, but I’m gonna share the process, my process. Though there may be pain in the world, we can still find peace and joy in that which fills our soul. First I’m going to share a bit of spoken word:

The world is heavy,

A space of distractions to bog down the mind.

A space filled with injustice, heartache, and greed.

A space that sometimes makes you wonder if this is what God created us to be.

The world may not be for us, because we’re the descendants of the colonized, but I know that God did not create neither you nor I, to be kept in a box, to be stifled by glass ceilings and not permitted to dream. To be told by society that our beauty is not enough, that our customs are vulgar, that our Jesus is White, and to go back to where we came from. He did not create us for our pleas to go unheard, for justice not be served, and for our lives not to matter. He created us in his image. You are in his image. I am in his image.

Because of who I am, thank you to the I am, my creative spirit rises, it creates in opposition to the attacks of the oppressor, to the darkness that fills this world, and to the heaviness that tries to drag us down and dehumanize us.

To all that, I say, I am light, I am beauty, I am peace, I am love, and I need light, I need beauty, I need peace, I need love, I need to create.

Create with me, Find peace with me, Seek beauty with me.

Come along.

When I create I try to think outside the box. I aim to create something that speaks to me, and something that will speak to others. I set my intention with all forms of my art before I paint, before I shoot a photo, before everything. My desire is to spark creativity and conversation, in addition to bringing peace wherever my artwork is displayed. This is how I share peace in the midst of everything our world is going through right now.

This is how I create, it’s a form of fluid art. Before I began, I set my intention, put on some soothing music and lit a candle to create a peaceful environment. I already had a general plan for the piece, so now it was just time to paint. We’re starting with the basics of laying down the foundation, we’ll just be doing a white background (base coat) today. The wave pour is inspired by the ocean, and can I just say, it’s wild to think about God’s creation with bodies of water — the movement, the power, the cycles, the life within — it’s seriously majestic.

My take on this wave speaks to being surrounded, maybe by the unknown, by somethings that may be beautiful, but could also be a bit frightening, because it’s unknown. We don’t know exactly how this wave will turn out just yet, because each piece is unique, but I can guarantee there will be much beauty and light in it.

I’m gonna keep painting, but also I’ll share more of my story with you all. You’ll see I layer the paints in a specific order, and then take my handy dandy tool (also known as a blowdryer) to blow out the paint. It’s all in the approach! I’ll also add some glass embellishment to the piece.

I recently heard someone share this idea that as artists, imagination is our medium. And I believe it is indeed a gift. God has given us creative drive, creative vision, an innate desire, ability, and need to create. It’s how we reflect, it’s how we process, it’s how we communicate. It’s how we make change. When we neglect this gift, it can often feel like we’re missing a piece of ourselves. It can feel like we’re standing in this ocean, surrounded by beauty and the unknown, but not stepping into the light. When we create, we’re coming home to ourselves because it’s part of who we are.

My journey with fluid art began in a time of trial, a time of grieving, a time of rebuilding my identity, and a beautiful renewed desire to seek God; this was just in 2019. But my deconstruction began a bit before 2016, and my idea of God has been completely and irrevocably transformed. I couldn’t understand why the church was excited to host “community outreach” events, such as school lunches, backpack giveaways, health fairs, etc.; all of which are so necessary and beneficial to our communities. Yet, the church was silent when it came to policies that we’re affecting our communities. Silent in the face of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement terrorizing families, ripping them apart, creating deep wounds that may never heal and may last for generations to come. Silent in the face of human rights violations. Silent in the fight against the very economic and societal issues that create the need for such “community outreach” programs. Silent on police brutality, and the unjust killing of black and brown bodies. Silent on the things that mattered… Maybe, it’s just the things that mattered to me.

I longed to see more people who looked like me. Who understood my journey and what it meant to be of the BIPOC community. Maybe then, important issues that faced our communities would have mattered more. At the time, I didn’t have the language to understand and fully express what I needed. After leaving the church, I went on a journey to determine if I even still believed in God. I couldn’t understand why the things that grieved my heart did not grieve others in a similar way, or at least enough to cause them to take action. By no means am I saying the entire church failed.

But God calls us to love others, to grieve with those who grieve, to care for the vulnerable, the widows, the orphans, the poor, the marginalized and oppressed. Jesus did this, so why were some things important, but others not? Why were some people important, but others not? Why were some families important, but others not?

I’m so thankful God is bigger than any box humankind can make. God is bigger than the colonized version of Christianity we’ve all been conditioned to follow. God is bigger than it all.

God is bigger.

God loves me,

God loves you, and this is my hope:

To grapple with all that is happening in the world, I create. I dare to create beauty when the world is full of oppression and low expectations for us to thrive. I dare to spread peace, specifically for my BIPOC community. May this serve as a moment of peace for you all, as a moment of rejuvenation, as a moment of being seen, being heard, being believed, being valued. You are worthy, embrace yourself, embrace your talent, and share it with the world.

This is me, sharing a piece of my heart with you. May we all be reminded of who God created us to be of the value and beauty we hold, just in BEING who we are. May we be challenged to think outside the box and determined to live differently. May we love others, may we value the life of each individual being, may we seek peace, may we pursue justice, may we demand change.

The world is heavy. Let’s allow our creative spirits to rise, courageously use our gifts and remember: We are light, We are beauty, We are peace, We are love, We are created in the image of the divine God.

Soy Abby Bonilla from ARBM Art and I thank you for spending this time with me, I invite you to come connect with me, and I urge you to go forth, create and determine to spread beauty and peace.