By Geneva Gamez
If you’re Asian or of Asian resemblance, you best look out ‘cause someone’s out to paint you.
At twenty-six and with four years to her name as an artist, Berenice Limon is already being recognized for her Asian portrait style of painting. It all started back during her first semester at San Diego State University. She remembers painting a portrait of a model that was posing for her art class. The model happened to be Asian. Ever since Limon has developed a deep connection towards the Asian culture and is only inspired by Asian men to paint. Limon attributes her passion towards Asian culture to the fact that she grew up in Mexicali, Baja California a small town south of the border.
She says in Mexicali “everyone is Mexican, there isn’t much of anything else”. That’s why when she moved to San Diego 4 years ago, Limon became overwhelmingly excited by the diverse cultures. One that particularly stood out for her was the Asian culture. “I just found it [Asian culture] to be different and they’re an interesting people”, Limon acknowledges. “I’ve tried painting other things, other people, but I don’t get inspired”, she says shyly. “I do think eventually one day, I will find that person that’s not necessarily Asian to inspire me to paint them”, she adds.
With that in mind the question is: what is inspiring? For Limon it’s all very uncomplicated, “usually I look for someone with character. Then I look at the shape of their hair, their eyes and picture the painting in my mind”. Once that’s settled, her next step would be to ask the person if she could photograph them. Once Limon has photographed her model, she starts to work off of the photograph to begin her painting. This was the case with her most recent model Devin, whom she spotted entering the theater during the San Diego Asian Film Festival last year.
Devin happened to be walking by when Limon spontaneously envisioned what his portrait would look like; spontaneously she asked if it was okay to photograph him for portrait paintings. All too often Limon is surprised with a shy or excited yes. “People usually don’t mind me photographing them even if we’ve never met”. You’ll find in most of Limon’s paintings that the models are usually looking down or facing at an angle where the back or side of their hair is showing. This relates back to Limon’s particular taste for hair and eyes.
She is a big fan of long hair or hair that is strikingly characteristic, so you’ll find her focus in many of her paintings is the hair. Why looking down? Because she likes to catch the shape of the eyes. Most recently you will see Limon’s work around town -and if weather permits, you may even catch her painting. She is actively working on a project called the paint-a-box- effort. The project’s idea is to use the otherwise, obtrusive gray boxes, as art instruments to make the city look more colorful while at the same time promote art. So far Limon has painted a portrait of one of her so many Asian friends on a utility box at University Avenue in North Park, and another across from the North Park library. At the moment she is close to completing a utility box between 30th and Meade. Upcoming she will begin a few others around downtown San Diego and Hillcrest.
“I enjoy the project, it’s fun” she laughs, “the objective is positive and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I think it’s better than having plain gray boxes at least it brings a little bit of life to the community.” So next time you are in the area, take a peek at her artwork.
To contact Berenice Limon, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.