Stay Gallery Hosts “Love Letters”

The artist behind the Love Letters exhibit, Maricela Avina, worked on her self-portrait and other paintings for 11 months before they could be displayed at the Stay Gallery on December 1st. “The love letter has kinda died where you’re physically writing a letter, now it’s like a text or an email, so I think the love letter is very personal,” Avina said, “…and the whole back in the Victorian days were the wax seal was a very special way of sealing that letter; whoever broke it, that’s who it was meant for.”

Jasmine Fernandez, Editor-In-Chief

As a part of the Stay Gallery’s artist-outreach program, Maricela Avina opened her exhibit titled “Love Letters” on Dec. 1 on the Gallery’s premises. Drawing from the physicality of a declaration of love via ink, the purpose of Avina’s portrait-style paintings was to capture the spectrum of emotion evoked by the words of lovers and famous poets.


“Every single [painting] is a piece of me from the past 13 years of just love, heart break, sadness, happiness,” Avina said. “A little bit of everything.”


The project was initially inspired by the vulnerability of letters, both personal and of famous poets such as Edgar Allan Poe. Each portrait featured womanly figures exhibiting various emotions. Common motifs within the pieces include spiders, tears and a mark upon the figures that resembles a wax seal of a heart. At the opening of the exhibit, Avina unveiled a self-portrait featuring similar themes, completing the exhibition’s spread.


Among the patrons attending the gallery was Joe Fernandez, a friend of Avina’s. Having knowing the artist personally, the pieces on display were particularly evocative to him.

“You wonder where it comes from, what emotions she draws it from,” Fernandez said. “We know her and she’s a very happy person all around so it’s surprising to us to see the way she paints.”


Avina’s exhibition emerged from the Stay Gallery’s mission to reach out to local artists in need of a space to display their work. Josie Estrada, the gallery’s director, details that multiple factors lead to deciding on Avina’s feature.


“At the beginning of the year, we did a call to artists; we put our announcement on our website or social media, so she contacted me,” Estrada said. “We saw that she’s worked with Downey for [the Dia De Los Muertos Festival] and she actually has a really good following, so we loved it. The moment we saw her artwork we thought, ‘this is perfect.’”


“Love Letters” runs from Dec. 1, 2018 to Jan. 4, 2019. Avina has previously been featured in the city of Downey’s Dia De Los Muertos Festival. To learn more about her work, visit her website at or Instagram at @artist_mavi. To learn more about the Stay Gallery, visit their website at