Celeste Byers is not just another artist interpreting the world around her through the stroke of a brush. She is a visual psychic who has the unique ability to represent undercurrents in nature and reality that are beyond the grasp of our five senses.
Since graduating with a BFA from Art Center College of Design in 2012, she has been traveling and working as an artist, freelance illustrator, and muralist with a variety of individuals and companies including The New York Times, Warner Bros, American Express, PangeaSeed, Medium.com, and Lucky Peach Magazine. She has painted murals in the United States, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia.
In addition to paintings, illustrations, and murals, Celeste often collaborates with fellow artist Aaron Glasson to create spectacularly imaginative art installations for many festivals including Desert Daze–one of ListenSD’s favorite festivals.
What originally inspired you to become an artist?
Ever since I was in high school I believed in following what you’re passionate about and doing what you love. I always loved to draw and when I was 16 I learned how to paint. Drawing and painting were what I was the most passionate about and loved doing the most. So when it was time to decide what to do for college, I decided I wanted to make a career out of art.
Where is the craziest place you have painted?
I painted a mural on the Mexico side of the U.S. Mexico border wall with Aaron Glasson a couple years ago and it was definitely the craziest place I’ve painted because the border is such an intense place. We stayed in a house right next to the border wall that used to serve as a hotel for people who were planning on crossing the border illegally from Tijuana to San Diego. They would cross the border through a tunnel entrance in the house across the street that is now called La Casa del Tunel, meaning “The House of the Tunnel.” There were bullet holes in the section of the border wall we painted and while we were painting, we saw two people jump over the wall into the United States. Sirens went off on the U.S. side of the wall and one of the men jumped back over the wall into Mexico. He ran down the dirt street where we were painting as a Mexican border patrol car screeched after him. The mural we painted on the wall was called Dimensiones and depicted a man breaking through a portal from the desert into the jungle. We thought the border wall would be a perfect place to paint it because the border in itself is a dimension, but we did not realize how real a dimension it actually is or how extreme the situation at the border wall would be.
What social causes are you currently inspired by and participate in with your art?
Lately the concept of borders has been an unintentionally recurring theme in my work because of our current political climate. Earlier this year, I went to Mexico City to collaborate and paint a mural with Mexican artist, Ana Lucía Tejeda, for a project about unity between the U.S. and Mexico. The message of the project was that we are better when we join together. When I got home to San Diego, I collaborated with a local high school student, Emma Considine, to come up with a mural for her social justice class. We also decided to paint about borders because of the recent controversy around border walls and immigration. We wanted to express the fact that borders are a man-made creation and that we are all a part of one Earth.
We at ListenSD would love to know what your favorite music is to paint to. What is the Celeste Byers 10 song playlist?
Never Be Like You – Flume
Water – Jamaican Queens
Passionfruit – Drake
Slide – Calvin Harris (feat Frank Ocean, Migos)
Harvest Moon – Poolside
Sooth Lady Wine – Matt Corby
Can’t Wait – Taylor Bense
Five Minutes – Her
No Woman – Whitney
(*Sorry not sorry for Drake and Calvin Harris.)
Which piece of yours has gotten the most attention?
That’s a difficult question since I can either gauge it off of people’s reactions on the internet or in real life. In real life I have a limited perception of what’s gotten the most attention because I’m only around other people’s reactions to my work for short amounts of time and they all seem pretty equal whereas on the internet, my work is always available to be viewed and reactions are continuously being counted.
In Instagram world:
Which piece of yours are you the most proud of and why?
The piece I’m the most proud of is called Doña Margarita en el Centro de Tiempo. It’s a mural Aaron Glasson and I recently painted in Cancun, Mexico for a mural project called Proyecto Panorama. We painted a four story tall mural depicting a Mayan woman named Doña Margarita and I’m most proud of it because it’s the best thing we’ve painted together at such a large scale and our experience with the local community was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We learned about the area’s local history and culture and it was amazing to be able to represent a local person whose culture is underrepresented on such a large scale. Doña Margarita’s first language is Mayan and she brought a bunch of traditional Mayan Huipil dresses for me and our production team to wear to celebrate the mural’s unveiling. Her daughter, Irma, did my hair in her house and lent me her rosaries, lipstick, and scarf. Irma’s mother in law lent me her shoes. I felt so privileged to be invited to share their culture and lives.
Follow Celeste on Instagram and come celebrate Summer in her hometown of Ocean Beach at Culture Brewing while enjoying a selection of her new and old drawings and paintings from the past five years Friday, August 4th. There will also be great beer, a view of the ocean, pop-ups by Little Dame Shop and Teros Gallery.