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How Art Became an Act of Healing and a Pathway to Freedom for Talitha De Mesa

Photo: Talitha De Mesa.
Self-portrait courtesy of Talitha De Mesa

For Talitha De Mesa, honesty, family, and freedom compel an artist to illustrate their purpose. An artist based in Sacramento, De Mesa considers herself a shapeshifter and does not limit herself to one style. She’s an artist of many mediums, from sketching and graphic design to surrealist painting.

“I love nature. My middle name is Bonsai, so in a way, I like to identify with my art because it is me. Art is limitless,” De Mesa said.

Talitha works full-time as a copywriter and editor for the California State Legislature, but ultimately art is what drives her. Apart from her personal work, she partners with businesses and nonprofit organizations, providing graphic design services and finding ways to make clients’ visions digestible for audiences.

“I want to ensure that the content I share serves as a resource for the communities that need it most. Nothing is worse than a missed opportunity. I know how that feels,” De Mesa said.

Being grounded in her truths has helped De Mesa navigate the art world and different communities.

“I’m a very honest person. Integrity to me is important, especially in this society where people try to break you down,” De Mesa said.

De Mesa and her family immigrated to the United States to find opportunities for growth and freedom together.

“My parents had no direction and resources. It was tough, and we were poor until I was in my early twenties. When I came to America, I felt so limited, and I couldn’t find an escape,” De Mesa said. “Art is what got me away from the sadness and depression. Art helped me cope with my own mental health as a child until now.”

Talitha’s father, who worked for an advertising agency in the Philippines, is one of her biggest inspirations for why she pursued art. She remembers watching him work on creative projects, free and in his natural element.

“I remember him creating an advertisement flier for the Filipina actress Kristine Hermosa, and he was so proud. I admired him for that, and now he admires and supports me. It became full circle because now I’m the one creating, too,” De Mesa said.

Memories of De Mesa’s childhood brought back feelings of gratitude for her parents. Despite her family’s struggles, her parents remained supportive of their children being themselves, giving her the agency to be whoever she wanted to be.

“All we really had as a family was to support each other. Actually, the first thing I drew was my family as stick figures with boxed arms,” De Mesa said with a smile.

Her cousin Robina Padilla was also a significant influence on De Mesa’s love for art. They often talked about attending the Art Institute together; art was one of the many reasons they bonded. In 2012, Padilla lost her battle with lupus. To this day, De Mesa dedicates her work to her beloved cousin.

As a voice in the Filipino, queer, and art community, De Mesa hopes her work inspires communities to build an environment where different generations can openly discuss well-being and mental health struggles.

“It doesn’t matter what community you’re from. If we can coexist and unite, I feel like we’d be more understanding of each other and be free from all that judgment,” De Mesa said.

She also hopes to inspire those who choose a different path in life.

“We don’t always have to follow ‘the book’ to success or stay inside the lines. Success comes in many ways. It’s okay to venture out and do what feels good to you. Make sure you’re living for yourself,” she said.

Watercolor painting has become De Mesa’s favorite and most therapeutic style because of its serenity, fluidity, and calmness.

“Watercolor is adaptable. You can transform it, and it can be transparent, which is beautiful,” De Mesa said.

Looking to the future, De Mesa wants to paint a mural and curate an exhibit alongside her communities. By incorporating her Filipino heritage and sparking conversations about the Philippines and the impacts of imperialism through art, De Mesa hopes to create shared knowledge pathways for future generations and prevent historical erasure:

“I think being an artist has made me appreciate creativity even more because it saved me from derailing. I would be lost if it weren’t for art and creativity.”

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