A current M.F.A. student at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Michelle Solorzano is the featured visual artist for the 30th annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, taking place in Bloomington, Ind., September 28 through October 1.
At Saturday afternoon's free, family-friendly Lotus in the Park, Solorzano will be creating paper and clay masks inspired by the pageantry of Carnival in her native Dominican Republic. Visitors to the event, taking place Saturday, September 30 from 12-5 p.m. in Waldron, Hill, and Buskirk (Third Street) Park, can make their own mask and hear Solorzano speak about her work at 1:45 p.m.
Solorzano's work draws inspiration from the annual Dominican Carnival rituals, during which masquerade groups ("comparsas") emerge onto the street in cities and towns all over the country to perform music and dance as various characters belonging to various religious, ceremonial, and pagan traditions.
Characters include the Platanus, who wears a suit made from dried plantain leaves and a mask made from a gourd decorated with paint, and the devil Pepinero, a duck-pig combination distinguished by its large bill and elegant eye shape.
Solorzano's work translates these characters through her personal prism.
"Carnival is a manifestation of political power, rebellion, and a re-enactment of history," Solorzano has written. "I am utilizing my persona in the form of self-portraits as a tool to document/re-tell some of the cultural and political history of the Dominican Republic that has been misinterpreted by colonized minds."
Born and raised in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo, the artist moved to New York with her family at the age of fifteen. She earned her B.F.A. in painting and ceramics from the State University of New York-Potsdam before embarking on her M.F.A. at the Eskenazi School.
"My work is a series of autobiographical narratives put together like a puzzle from a set of chosen symbols," Solorzano writes. "Most of these elements stem from past memories growing up in the Dominican Republic that had a significant impact in my life, while others are still present in my everyday life. My work intends to reflect and bring awareness to some of the challenges I experienced personally as an immigrant, including the language barrier, prejudice, and cultural and social assimilation. Immigration creates a distance between where we are born and where we are now physically and metaphorically."
About the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival
As the flagship program of the non-profit Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival is one of the oldest world music festivals in the U.S. and the only event of its kind in Indiana. Established in 1994, the Festival now attracts more than 12,000 people to downtown Bloomington each fall for four to five days of music and arts from around the globe; it is considered one of the city's signature happenings as well as a destination tourism event. The 2023 festival features more than 20 international artists, local and national artists, seven venues, and free events for all ages. The Lotus World Music & Arts Festival contributes to the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation's mission: to create opportunities to experience, celebrate, and explore the diversity of the world’s cultures, through music and the arts.
Complete information about the Festival schedule and events, 2023 Lotus artists, ticketing, and more is available online at or in the Lotus interactive schedule at lotusfest.rendezville.com/.
This year's featured artist is sponsored by the Eskenazi School and a Monroe County Sophia Travis Community Service Grant.
This article was based on materials provided by the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation.