Trevon Latin’s art is a reflection of his early life. Growing up in Acres Homes, a historically Black community in Houston, Latin’s love of art blossomed. His unique outlook on the world is thanks to his being raised in part by his grandmother in that rural neighborhood.
The multimedia artist uses sculpture, painting, performance, and more to express himself, while also inviting others to explore their own history and pay homage to the children they once were.
“I lived with my grandmother for a lot of my childhood,” Latin recalls. “It was very country-esque living—there weren’t a lot of things going on, and it was very slow and quiet.
“My childhood was very interesting because I moved a lot. I bounced back and forth between Spring ISD and Aldine ISD,” he explains. “There were times when I felt like I could be myself, and times when I couldn’t. I was able to see two different spectrums of living—how the school system worked, and how that played out in my life.”
Latin escaped into anime cartoons (Cardcaptors ranks among his top favorites) and video games—both of which would ultimately inform his career aspirations.
“I started drawing at a very young age. I loved being around anime and video games, so a lot of that really solidified what I was going to do,” the artist recalls. “I eventually chose to go to college for graphic design. I thought I was destined for digital art, so I had tailored my path around that. I really didn’t have my sights set on fine art or academic art at that point.”
That was all before he was accepted into the University of Houston where he earned a BFA in painting. “At the University of Houston, I was introduced to fine art and started looking up all these different artists. Graphic design was my main interest until I actually took a class,” he says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I hate this, this is terrible.’ I’m happy I had that experience because it inspired me to go to school for art to see what would happen.”
Upon graduating, Latin knew he needed to expand his horizons. “I moved to New York because I wanted a change of pace. I realized it was the best place for me to comfortably be myself.” And while New York is a far cry from Latin’s low-key Houston upbringing, those childhood memories have continued to inform his work.
After spending some time in the Big Apple, Latin took another chance on himself and his career. “I had lived in New York for three years before I applied for Yale. I applied because a lot of the artists that I enjoyed went to Yale. I got in, and at the time, I didn’t even realize how significant that was.”
After graduating from Yale, Latin got back in touch with his younger self in a much deeper way.
“My childhood plays such a huge part in how I express my gayness, or anything in my life. It’s not that I just express my masculinity. I also express my femininity,” he explains. “I express all of these things through the lens of my childhood self, which I really don’t think I was able to do in my youth. I had to [work] through a lot of things that were going on in my life as an adolescent, and I had to process that childhood trauma. I really think there’s some connection to that in my art. A lot of that is really coming out in my work now.”
“I’m changing elements to fit into this world that I’m making. As a kid, I would build and create stories all the time, maybe because I didn’t want to be in certain circumstances,” he admits. “I think when I was in school as a child, I would create these scenarios. I would daydream, and a lot of that is in my work today— daydreaming, thinking outside of my body and inside myself, putting elements together that might not go together.”
Lately, Latin has looked to childhood memories for some visual inspiration. “I’m using a lot of aesthetics and things that I found from childhood. I never really noticed how influenced I was, and still am, by my grandmother, my youth, and growing up in Acres Homes. A lot of people had chickens in the yard, and horses and pigs. I look at it all in a kind of romantic Southern way. It really plays a part in the future of my work, and how it is evolving and taking shape.”
It is those elements of childlike curiosity and whimsy that have made Latin a force in today’s art scene. He is currently focusing his creative energy into sculptures consisting of found objects and “the shit-tons of fabric” that his grandmother sends him in the mail.
“The sculpture works are these amorphous-looking soft sculptures—almost like I’ve taken a plushie and morphed it into something,” he explains. “New Yorkers throw away a lot of furniture throughout the year. I’ve been finding things that remind me of my grandmother’s house and splicing them into these figures, giving them more of a video-game-character feel.”
Ultimately, Latin sees these reflections on his childhood as more than a nostalgic indulgence. He hopes that people who view his works are inspired and made to feel comfortable engaging in introspection about their own upbringing and the future they envision for themselves.
“With a lot of my work, I want people to see someone who is coming into their own, [and whose] childhood was something very near and dear to them,” he says. “My work is going to change, but right now I just want people to feel inspired to be themselves and really look into their own childhood, see what they really want in life, and apply that to their adulthood. I don’t think we get that opportunity often, so I guess maybe I’m trying to give that back in some way.”
Follow Trevon Latin at @s.relentless.