Tatiana Velazquez, or Baked Papaya, is an artist’s artist. It doesn’t matter the medium, the style, or the size she cannot help but create eye catching pieces. You can find her beautiful murals on walls from South Central Los Angeles to Amsterdam. We are lucky enough to have not one, but two right here in Long Beach. When the Covid-19 lockdowns hit everyday life changed drastically and many people, including artists, had to get creative with their time and energy. Things were no different for Velazquez and she used that to her advantage. “I’ve been on a consistent artistic journey since 2005, experimenting with all sorts of mediums. From collage work, to wheat pasting street art. I like to keep in a constant creative flow and stay inspired. The ashtrays came to me during the first lockdown. I started making themed ones just for fun and immediately people wanted to buy them, so it turned into much more. I now regularly vend Saturdays at Los Feliz flea market.”
Art marked with the ‘Baked Papaya’ signature has a very, for lack of a better word, cool look to it. Human faces merge with swirling patterns and curved lines. Familiar, but different. Organic shapes meeting sharp edges with natural ease. All tied together with striking, unexpected colors. When you see a mural of hers, you remember it, and once you know the artist you recognize the style before seeing the Instagram handle and signature at the bottom. You know that’s a Tatiana Velazquez. She brings the same level of comforting surprise to her resin works. I particularly love the Flower Power Incense Burners. Bright colors blurred together to give you the feeling of a warm summer afternoon. Maybe to recall a relaxing memory from childhood when the colors at the park seemed just a bit brighter. An artist can never pick a favorite of their own work. “My favorite pieces vary day to day, but right now it’s the mini piano incense burners I just started making with clay. My most popular are my domino sets, with the psychedelic fairy garden ashtrays close behind.”
The diversity and ingenuity of Velazquez’s work is clear. Her products are popular on Instagram because of just that. There seems to be something for everyone whether it’s psychedelic resin ashtrays, or 45 RPM’s of classic 70’s singles morphed into a multi-use coaster. “I definitely don’t have a preferred medium, I just follow my creative gut and see where I land. Right now, it is clay, which I only started working with last week.” Physical art isn’t the only thing Velazquez works on. “Music is also a huge part of my life. I sing and play bass for my band Asi Fui (@asifui). We are currently gearing up to release some new music and videos which I also write concepts for and sometimes film myself.” You can tell her art is personal to her and it is an all-consuming part of her life. Creativity never lost in monetization, which is what compels you to want to own a piece in the first place.
Unfortunately, both of our Baked Papaya murals have been vandalized recently. Something I cringed upon hearing, being a frequent viewer of the Broadway and Cherry piece. As disheartening as that is to hear, Velasquez doesn’t plan on letting her art stay covered by vandalism. “…so far I plan to repaint the PowWow LB one at Ashley’s on 4th at the end of February. The other one on Broadway/Cherry I hope to also repaint with permission from the new owners.”
With 2020 comfortably in the rear-view mirror and 2021 spread out ahead of us, I wondered what Velazquez saw in her near future. “Something I would love to accomplish in 2021 is to keep taking my art/business to the next level. I can see it’s long slow progression through the years and I finally feel like things are falling into place.” Velazquez is clearly talented and hardworking, I just hope we get to see more of her amazing work on the streets of Long Beach in 2021. Until then, make sure you follow her on Instagram @bakedpapaya and her band @asifui! You can even watch one of her music videos here! Whether it’s a shirt with one of her signature faces on it or a cool new ashtray for your back patio, if you love to support local art and artists Baked Papaya has it all.
Baked Papaya is featured as our first artist and non-profit collaboration in our campaign A Cause Worth Wearing.
A Cause Worth Wearing is a new collaboration by lifestyle website LB Living, the Arts Council for Long Beach and Long Beach Gives that is offering locals a chance to take home some original, wearable artwork while also paying it forward.
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