For Yolanda Gonzalez, creating art is especially personal while painting portraits. She uses her art and talent to connect across cultures and generations.
"It taps into a part of our soul that is sacred and that is very personal," she says.
The daughter of Mexican-American parents, Gonzalez grew up in Southern California and attended San Gabriel Mission High School. It was an art teacher there who recognized Gonzalez's talent and potential. The teacher entered her art into a contest where Gonzalez won first place.
"I was so excited because I don't think I'd ever gotten recognition for anything in my whole life," she said.
It was the first of many honors.
Her art has been exhibited all over the world, and it is sought after by some of the top collectors of Chicano art, including actor Cheech Marin, whose wife Natasha is depicted in the ceramics.
Notably, Gonzalez's portraits of women exude confidence. She also believes people to be powerful, strong and beautiful.
Gonzales also likes to share her creativity and knowledge. She volunteers at the AltaMed Senior Center in Downtown Los Angeles, where she teaches art to a diverse class of senior citizens.
"It's like I'm in another place," art student Josefa Rayrucker says. "It relaxes me a lot."
For Gonzalez, though, the experience is more than simply teaching these seniors about art.
"Not only am I giving them the ability to create and to paint and to express themselves; I feel like I'm also feeding a part of them that needs to be nurtured, loved and cared for," she says.
She says, for her, teaching art is a form of mediation, a way of feeding "the whole energy of creativity" that siphons good feelings into the universe.