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Modern Witches: EDGAR FÁBIAN FRÍAS

For all of us, last year brought many changes in various areas and on different levels. For me suddenly having more time and only digital media and spiritual realms for research and connecting enhanced my spiritual growth and activism to what I believe was a necessary next level – as Coeur & art shows.

It was in those early weird, magical and somewhat mind-blowing weeks when everything shut down that I first came across Edgar Fábian Frías, a non-binary, queer, indigenous, Latinx multidisciplinary artist, curator, educator and psychotherapist engaged in photography, video art, installations, printed textiles, GIFs and performance, and currently doing an MFA at UC Berkeley.

They incorporate magical practice into their artworks and vice versa, plus they conduct ceremonial, divinatory, and healing services via their offering, Our Sacred Web.

Talk of spiritual digital realms!

Presidential Portrait, 2020 for Artists in Presidents directed by Constance Hockaday. Photo by Thaddeus Pedisich with editing by Edgar Fabián Frías
Presidential Portrait, 2020 for Artists in Presidents directed by Constance Hockaday. Photo by Thaddeus Pedisich with editing by Edgar Fabián Frías
Modern Witches: EDGAR FÁBIAN FRÍAS 1

Back then Edgar had been a guest on the Witch Wave podcast by author and witch Pam Grossman (whose book Waking the witch, Reflections on Women, Magic and Power, is already a classic among women, not only in the witch community, despite having only been on the market since 2019).

In the podcast Edgar spoke about art as sanctuary, the potency of colorful magic, and how they use witchcraft to celebrate their expansive, ever-changing self.

It goes without saying I was immediately hooked as all these points were ones I had experienced myself.

I want to add how inspiring I found not only their warm voice, positive vibes and approach to their magic and heritage but also how they transmuted their negativity and loneliness when growing up to become not only a truly radiant being who gives back to community but also a vital part of countless spiritual and activist projects.

They are also a very good example of what modern witches working with and within the arts are about.   

Pam Grossman, Author of Waking the Witch

Looking back, I realise how my perception of the witch community at the time was very limited and moved within the usual fixed gender bias (the one most people have of witches – i.e. a witch is always a woman). When I first encountered Edgar’s work, I found myself beamed into a new non-binary universe, full of colour, digital spells, and goddexx activations, mutant magic and more.

Think the Wizard of Oz but in queer!

It changed my understanding of today’s witches forever. Even more, it opened up in me a much better and deeper understanding of the aesthetics, expression and dynamics of queer, trans- and non-binary folk, not only in the spiritual community but also in the arts, especially digital art.

And yes, that includes NFTs and crypto art, which were way more niche back then but burst onto the scene over the course of last year, as we know today.

When I was compiling a list of fabulous woman artists and activists to feature in my book on the transformational power of art, I reached out to Edgar for an interview – I just knew they had to be part of it. (So, consider this a teaser on the delights to come.) Also, I could not imagine anyone better to kick off a new occasional series on folk who use their magic and art to build spaces in line with their own rules…no rules that is!

By that I mean humans who actively participate in a community and network for non-binary, queer, trans, feminist and activist artists and creatives, who have no place or recognition in the so-called art world but rather often face ridicule by mainstream curators and critiques in art structures that solely answer to one thing: money.

Transforming these structures by building our own, that’s what we call a transmutation in the spiritual world.

Think of it as spiritual alchemy that affects and changes your 3D reality and life.

In a nutshell, that is what witches do.

Witches transform their environment!

Holographic Space & Time Ceremony, 2019 at Philbrook Museum, photo by Rachel Ann Dennis
Holographic Space & Time Ceremony, 2019 at Philbrook Museum, photo by Rachel Ann Dennis

Roots & Heritage

Let’s start at the beginning, you are a non-binary, queer and indigenous educator, curator, psychotherapist and multidisciplinary artist, all professions our readers can relate to, but you are also a witch and a member of the Wixárika community. Can you explain what Wixárika is and how it affects and shapes your work in the above-mentioned professions?

Yes, I am Wixárika and that means that my people are from Mexico, more specifically from Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Oaxaca. We are an indigenous community that has been able to survive and pass on cultural wisdom and knowledge in spite of the colonization that has happened in both the US and Mexico.

We have a deep connection to the earth and to all of her living creatures.

Being Wixárika allows me to ground into a deeper, ancient, and very much still living and breathing legacy. It also influences the type of spells I cast and the kind of work I create. For example, I was inspired by them in 2017 to spend a year studying the effects of environmental racism and the industrialization on certain communities of Southern California in my project Give US Home Spider.

As a part of this project, I was called to perform ceremonies to honor the land and its inhabitants at five different sites across Southern California. This is very much in alignment with ceremonial customs of my people.

What is a witch?

Although it is slowly changing, there are still an enormous amount of cliches, biases and misconceptions about witches in general and modern witches in particular. How would you describe  what a witch is?

This is such a good question! I feel like witches are able to self-identify and step into their power and this can feel threatening to others, especially to the status quo that is dependent on people not having access to their internal power or will.

Witch is a word that has been reclaimed and transformed in so many ways these last few years and I am HERE FOR ITS EXPANSION.

Psychic Plant Spirit Communication at Desert Daze, photo by Jordan Pena
Psychic Plant Spirit Communication at Desert Daze, photo by Jordan Pena

It is a word that represents a vast array of practices & lineages. It is a charged word and can definitely feel scary or unknown to those who have grown up hearing that witches are “bad” or “evil.” I definitely grew up this way and was shocked when I first heard people identifying as witches.

Witches are everywhere. We exist in academia, we exist in the grocery store, we have podcasts, we run stores, we have thriving art practices, we go to protests, we cast spells for healing for ourselves and our communities.

Witches exist in the margins and we’re also at the very center of communities. We are slippery. We are vast. We contain multiverses.

Edgar Fábian Frías, Nuestrxs Antepasadxs Nos Hablan Directamente, 2019, photo by Julie Clark.
Edgar Fábian Frías, Nuestrxs Antepasadxs Nos Hablan Directamente, 2019, photo by Julie Clark. 

The fifth element

Which of these elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) would you choose in relation to your practice?

As witches we NEED all of the elements. The first four elements or the four sacred directions are necessary for the fifth element or Spirit (or space) to emerge. But I would definitely say that I am an air & water witch as I am a Gemini Sun and a Scorpio Moon. I feel like these elements guide my practice so so much.

I am expansive and enjoy communicating and traveling beyond the confines of conceptual and physical boundaries.

I also love connection and emotionality, depth, the subconscious, and the great unknown.

Truly grateful though for the earth element in my chart as it helps ground me in this dimension and witches NEED grounding too. It can be so easy for many of us mystics to stay in the ether and to transcend this body and this dimension. Who wouldn’t want to, especially when things can be so painful and unjust here.

But witches are DEEPLY needed on this planet and in this dimension.

So, I often remind witches to get grounded in this physical plane and to come back to earth! We are desperately needed here!

Edgar Fábian Frías, Perpetual Flowering, 2019 at Vincent Price Art Museum, photo by Monica Orozco
Edgar Fábian Frías, Perpetual Flowering, 2019 at Vincent Price Art Museum, photo by Monica Orozco

Awakening to art

Is there a particular artwork or situation that inspired you to become an artist? 

Yes, definitely. I am a firm believer that artists imbue their energies into their work. That art is a portal. It is a spell. Art acts upon spaces in ways that are unseen yet deeply felt. The reason I know this is because I was 14 when I first saw contemporary art. It was on a special trip that my middle school took me on because they had placed me into a “gifted” program. I grew up in a rural part of Southern California and my parents had never taken me to a contemporary art museum before. Going from that to seeing the modern art collection at the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum was a life changing experience.

More specifically, it was standing in front of Edward Kienholz’s Back Seat Dodge ’38, 1964 and Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, 1964 that I had my first ever altered state of consciousness.

I was stunned. Confused. And immediately obsessed. As soon as I came home from that school trip, I begged my mother to take me to our nearest library as I needed to know what this “art” thing was! As the divine would have it, as soon as I walked in, I found a copy of a monograph of Andy Warhol’s artwork laying on a table after having been left behind by another person.

The rest, of course, is hxstory.

Colors & Witchcraft

To ask if spirituality influences your work would be like asking if the moon influences the oceans, so instead I’ll ask you how you use colors and witchcraft to enhance the power of your art?

Color magic is so so powerful! I definitely work a lot with colors to elicit certain emotions and states in people. I am deeply inspired by the color magic of my people, the Wixárika, who use it in their weavings, ritual work, yarn paintings, and in their clothing. I am also inspired by modern day witches who are reclaiming color!

Gradients, fluorescent colors, prismatic shimmering bold colors are powerful magic, and I am here for them!

I also incorporate witchcraft in so many ways into my artwork. I use divination and spell work a lot in the work that I do and also receive an infinite amount of collaborative and creative support through channeling & communion with other beings. As a matter of fact, I actually teach courses on divination for artists as I feel it is so important for people to work with these practices!

Edgar Fábian Frías, Mirroring Resilience, 2018 photo by Josh Vasquez
Edgar Fábian Frías, Mirroring Resilience, 2018 photo by Josh Vasquez

Crypto art & NFT’s

You recently acquired a beautiful piece of crypto art by Sarah Show. As I believe you know quite a lot about crypto art, can you elaborate on what it is and how it connects to your process of making art?

Oh yes, I highly recommend people check out Sarah Zucker’s artwork!

She was actually the person who got me involved in the NFT / crypto art community. I am quite new in the world but, so far, it’s been exhilarating to be around so many digital artists who are making work online!

The difference between uploading your digital art, be that GIFs, animations, photos, music, etc. online or through a “crypto art” format is that you upload it into a community that is attaching these art pieces to your identity (which can be anonymous). Crypto art allows creators to utilize blockchain technology to track provenance and ownership with their work while simultaneously being able to freely circulate their artwork online. 

In other words, it’s creating a way for artists to control who “owns” the unique copies of their digital artwork.

Artists control the amount and the price of their artwork and even how much they make every time it’s resold. There are various curators in the contemporary art world who are now starting to ask artists to create limited edition NFTs to sell in their galleries or through various virtual platforms.

Here’s an article that explains it much better than me!

Edgar Fábian Frías, Baile de Lsx Insectos, 2021 courtesy of the artist 

When things get back to normal…

To dive further into your work, can you tell us about your latest piece Baile de Lxs Insectos, part of Todx, your new collaborative & interdisciplinary installation at the “When Things Get Back To Normal” exhibition at Berkley University.

I had the most wonderful time collaborating with artist & musician Joshua Hill and with three students from UCLA, Diana Castro, Brendan Thompson, & Jordan Goheen, in creating this piece. Something really poetic that happened was that, at the beginning of this project, I began to collaborate with the students from UCLA and had told them that I had wanted to work on a song with them.

During this time, Joshua reached out to me and shared that he felt inspired to collaborate with me and that he had been called to work on a song with me. I knew that Joshua was being sent by Spirit to support the process, so I asked him if he would be open to working with the students as well. We worked together on this piece for a little over a month and created a soundscape inspired by Joshua’s music.

The words you hear were written by me, Jordan & Diana and Joshua found a way to weave us all together into this beautiful tapestry. After this, I created a visual landscape for the music that incorporated footage from our zoom meetings along with other material I had been working on during our time together.

Is there a book or author in general that stimulates and inspires you?

I would say that I am BLESSED to be a part of a powerful web of witches and creatives who are constantly inspiring me!

This last year, I have been thrilled to be able to read books written by some beloved friends that have fully transformed my practice and process.

Among them are: Eliza Swann, Ylva Mara Radziszewski, Gaby Herstik, Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, Ana Anu, and Asher Hartman’s book: Mad Clot on a Holy Bone: Memories of a Psychic Theater.

Modern Witches: EDGAR FÁBIAN FRÍAS 14

What you are looking forward to this year in terms of exhibitions?

Honestly, I am looking forward to being able to just GO to exhibitions in general.

At this point, I’ll be grateful for whatever I am able to see!

This last year has really made me realize how much I need to be engaging with artistic process both in and out of institutional spaces.

It’s been such a blessing to be able to be in an MFA program at this time and to be surrounded by artwork virtually.

I am so excited by our first year MFA exhibition at UC Berkeley and am thrilled to see the work that the second year MFA students are going to be producing at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive later this year.

The Oakland Museum of California is going to be having an exhibition titled Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism opening later this year that I am THRILLED about!

Edgar Fabián Frías’s Instagram account @edgarfabianfrias courtesy of the artist

Transforming emotions

Aesthetics and process aside, which emotion do you seek trigger with your art?  

I want to create a safer place for people to process their emotions.

To feel confused.

To feel inspired.

To feel uncomfortable.

To imagine other realities and possibilities.

What would you change in the art market if you could? 

I would take away the emphasis on objects and the materiality of the art world. I would expand the notion of what art could look like and what kind of art needs to exist in this world.

I would also let go of any form of elitism and separation that the art world feels it needs to have from other disciplines.

I would dissolve the boundaries between the “art market” and the countless forms of creative expression that people have across the planet.

The future is ...? 

Ours to create. Ours to play with. Ours to dream of. Ours to expand into.

For more information about Edgars work visit their website or youtube and follow them on Instagram!

Header Image: Edgar Fábian Frías, Still from video in Perpetual Flowering, 2019 at Vincent Price Art Museum, Courtesy of the Artist 

Author: Esther Harrison