BY STEVE WEINSTEIN | If Ivan Rueda Pineda seems to have extraordinary insights into the plight of homeless youth, it’s because he himself is homeless. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t without a home.
Here’s how this extraordinary young man of many talents describes himself:
“My name is Ivan R. Pineda. I am an undocumented artist, human rights advocate, and devoted volunteer for different groups and organizations helping young people and families survive in the State of California. I was born in 1990 in Michoacán, Mexico, yet the San Fernando Valley became my ‘CAli,’ which translates to ‘home’ in Nahuatl, thanks to the courage, sacrifices, and self determination of my mother, a woman who was determined to make it in this country.
“From sewing beautiful patterns of flowers and birds on to clothes or fixing others clothes, to selling wellness and beauty products, to working as a janitor, home-made cuisine vendor, and selling money roses, my mother is an artist who taught me that anything is achievable if I put my heart to it and to ‘echarle ganas’ [‘throw forward’].”
Pineda, who defines himself as “gender-queer (gender fluid and queer),” has been a leader in the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Color In Common, a social group for young gay men of color, for the past year. He’s also a member of the Center’s Youth Advisory Board.
He’s also an artist of no mean talent and a unique vision. His neorealist paintings depict a fantastic creature he describes as portraits of a hybrid of octopi and hummingbirds that “I consider a two-spirit animal. As an artist, I’m resistant, resilient, a camouflage in my environment that co-exists with the environment. Artists,” he says, “are nothing but magicians, whether the metaphor is a painting, a poem, or swimming or another sport.”
He’s worked in several media, including photography, murals, tattoos and piercing, graphic design, and, like his mother, money “flores — I ‘pollinate money. I make flowers out of money. I’m the homeless person who asks for money. Sometimes I save it. Sometimes I ‘waste’ it on food. So it pollinates itself. I’m very resourceful; I always get materials. I’ve been stabbed, robbed, sexually assaulted.”
This year, Pineda intends to have more of a concrete sense of “home” by becoming undocumented. “I’m legalizing myself as a human being” is how he describes the process. But, he hastens to add, “I’m used to being an alien. I like to use that as a form of satire.”
The Pride LA caught up with Pineda between homes. Staying with a friend for a few months had ended, a cousin had just been deported, and home would once again would be the streets, at least temporarily. That experience has become the mainstay of work at the Center. He is currently planning a longterm series of workshops for other homeless LGBT youth that will incorporate art entrepreneurship and empowerment. Experienced artists will present portfolios; there will be workshops on the essential “how-tos” of moving from art-as-personal-expression to making a living. Included will be essential skills such as trademarking, how to fill out forms properly; licenses; plus life skills like healing, self-care, coping mechanisms and networking to find “some who has been certified as a window between worlds.”
“Between worlds” may be the best way to describe the Ivan Rueda Pineda’s Los Angeles. It may be far different from the city that you or I know. But it’s just as real — in the gifted eyes of an artist, perhaps more real than we can even imagine.