Meet Shira Mae: Our January/February Creativity Issue Cover Artist

Get to know artist Shira Mae whose brilliantly fun work graced our Creativity 2024 cover.

The awesome art featured on our cover is by Shira Mae (they/them), a queer, Puerto Rican artist who creates in several mediums with a distinct focus on surreal illustrations. Shira enjoys expanding their illustrations to up-cycled clothing, hand-painted bags, jewelry & accessories, and even large scale murals. Here’s a bit more about Shira Mae’s artistic journey, and how they stay creative. 

Three images of Shira Mae's Art, with Shira in the middle in front of one of their murals.
Shira Mae’s Art, courtesy Shira Mae Torrech 

How would you describe your art for someone who’s never seen it before?

My artwork is vibrant, prismatic, and surrealistic with deep connections to nature, people’s identities and emotions. My work is often described as psychedelic and compared to some of my favorite cartoons like Adventure Time and the work of Studio Ghibli.

What inspires you as an artist? 

The world around me inspires me daily. Functional art has always been a medium that has sparked my interests, especially within the world of fashion. Fashion has inspired my art to exist beyond a piece of paper or canvas. I’m able to create a piece of art through the functionality of clothing or other accessories. Thrifting and up-cycling home goods has inspired me to be more conscious of what I make, as well. I find myself being inspired by other artists, both mutual and well known. I love watching cartoons and anime, I’m constantly inspired by the absurdity, vibrancy and emotions they provoke. This is where I find my work going in different directions, whether it be more expressive and playful in the way I create, or fundamentally simple. Through each fail and success, (I will not mention the ratio here) this multimedia journey leaves me more inspired to expound on my findings in different areas, starting a domino effect. I take in everything I can.

Shira Mae works on a mural that is almost complete.
Shira Mae working on a mural as part of Paint Memphis. Courtesy Shira Mae Torrech

You made an amazing mural as part of Paint Memphis, an annual mural festival. What was that experience like?

It was possibly one of the most challenging, but rewarding experiences I’ve had this far in my art career. It was great to see so many artists given a platform to come together and add beautiful art to our city. The most challenging part was working at such a large scale. When I saw my wall in person the first time, a rush of excitement came over me, almost immediately followed by panic(I’m scared of heights). I arrived with a full sketch to use as a starting point on my projector, but due to some uncontrollable lighting I had to forget about using the projector entirely. So hoping for the best, I started blocking in paint, having to free-hand the entire piece. It was my first time using spray paint on a large scale, and I did it using a picture on my phone as a point of reference. Very thankful to the people who stopped by to hold my ladder, talk to me, and bring me more paint! Being an artist can be isolating, but the Memphis queer and art community always comes through, which really made things a little easier. I learned too many valuable lessons to count, and I am looking forward to my next mural!

How would you say Memphis or the south has influenced your art, if at all?

Having grown up in all parts of the country, born in Ocala, FL, the south has been the biggest influence on my art. Memphis is by far the most influential city I have lived in. This city’s creative community has been the most loving and accepting I have ever experienced. To have so many people & resources to support you, believe in you and push you to be the best artist you can be, is a gift. It wasn’t until I started my freshman fall semester at the University of Memphis that I started making art, and started to consider my true self an artist. There’s one professor in mind, Hamlett Dobbins, who made me feel like an artist and opened my mind to the world around me. Within this community I’ve made some lifelong friends and have been given many great opportunities. Even now living in Chicago, Memphis and the artists within inspire my work everyday. 

Shira Mae stands behind a booth covered in their original artwork and designs and clothes for sale at a market. They stand in front of a cream colored wall
Shira Mae at a market with their original artwork and designs, courtesy Shira Mae Torrech

What does creativity mean to you? 

To me, creativity means to create art out of your comfort zone. To challenge oneself and to learn is to be creative. No matter what form that art may exist in, whether it is food, a potted plant, a book, a sketch, etc. To put something out in the world that you can’t take back, is to be creative. Exploring different worlds of creativity motivates me and makes me want to learn more skills. I love trying new techniques and working in different mediums. Throughout the years I’ve expanded my art through jewelry making, polymer clay, screen printing, block printing, sewing, hand painting purses/bags and clothing. The list goes on… 

Anything you’d like to share with our readers about your work? 

All of my work, whether for sale or not, lives on my website, If you’re in Memphis, you can visit some of my murals around the city including: the exam rooms and offices of Choices Reproductive Health Clinic in Midtown, 901 Community Fridges (that provide free food in food deserts of Memphis) located at 885 S Highland St (Trinity Church), Planeta 777 in Broad Ave Arts District, and my Paint Memphis mural located at 628 Madison Ave. You can also find me popping up at Memphis Mid-South Pride in June. It’ll be my 3rd year in a row! Love you, Memphis!!!

Follow Shira Mae at @shiramaestudio for more art, merch, discount codes and frequent updates.

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