The work of Elena Rios emphasizes environmental and culturally significant themes that take shape through art, music, dance, and song. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the author and illustrator of the book Mihtotiancalli-The House of the Dancer-La Casa del Danzante published in 2013. A Native Californian, she presently makes her home on the ancestral land of the Chumash Peoples. Elena is a Nahua indigenous woman of the Americas, with mixed ancestry. She draws inspiration for plant medicine from the stories of her late grandmother Maria Rios, a curandera in San Fernando, CA. As a child, she also spent time on her grandparents ranch in the foothills of Sequoia and traveled with her mother and aunt across the Southwest. These early experiences influenced Elena and planted the seeds for what became a life-long respect, engagement, and centering of community culture and connection to nature, land, and place. Part of Elena’s career was as a wildland firefighter, which included, but was not limited to, working on such specialized crews as U.S. Forest Service Interagency Hotshots, which further shaped her worldview.
She took her first steps in Danza Azteca around 1984 and the impact of this influenced the course of her life and art. She has helped found and direct indigenous circles of learning and ceremony. She is a recipient of the SFAI’s Printmaking Departmental Award, and one of her prints was entered into the permanent collection. As a student, she was exposed to the Bay Area mural movement in and around the Mission District, which also influenced her aesthetics. When she came back to the Los Angeles area, she met Sister Karen Boccalero, the American nun, fine artist, founder, and former director of Self Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles. Sister Karen obtained one of Elena’s prints for their permanent collection. Later, Elena participated in the Professional Printmaking Atelier at SHG&A’s exhibits and workshops.
Elena is an ANFT Certified Nature & Forest Therapy Guide. She has experienced and witnessed the healing power of the Native American Sweat Lodge, and as the child of a Korean War veteran, she strives to assist in offering opportunities to build community and support for Veterans, Active Duty, First Responders, and their families through these ancestral ways. Currently she is a CWN employee of the Chumash Fire Dept. She maintains a deep regard and appreciation for all of her teachers of the past. December, 2020.