Transformative Actions

Elena Lourenco (Lead Artist), Natalia Mendoza, and Isabel Gonzalez
219 E Fourth St. Santa Ana and various Lending Library locations

Project overview

Transformative Actions is a project that quietly acknowledges the suffering and loss endured through the pandemic, while encouraging safe practices so that we may all rise out of this together, stronger and more beautiful than ever.

Using a number of elements including an empty chair, hundreds of hand-made Monarch Butterflies, and 4,755 masks (there were 4,755 deaths to COVID in Santa Ana when the artwork was produced), the installation is meant to honor lives lost, while promising rebirth and transformation. The butterfly was selected as a symbol of the positive transformation that awaits us if we stay the course. The Monarch, specifically, was selected because of its significance in Mexico, in particular Michoacán, where its yearly migration ends in this region of Central Mexico at the same time as Day of the Dead. In Mexican folklore, it is believed that these butterflies are actually the souls of deceased ancestors who have returned during these holy days to provide comfort. Butterflies are also seen as a symbol of foretelling, spiritual transformation, and are sometimes seen as a symbol of rebirth. The inclusion of masks in the installation will also serve as a reminder that we may never go back to the way things were, but if we stay the course, socially distance and wear our masks, we will emerge transformed, stronger and more beautiful than ever.

The installation is centered around a window display in a building on a prominent corner in downtown Santa Ana, bookmarks distributed at dozens of lending libraries throughout Santa Ana, and an animated video that communicates public health messages of protecting one another, resilience and community. In addition, Downtown Santa Ana, a local neighborhood organization, amplified the project by hosting mask-making workshops and encouraging community members to express their experiences.

About the Artists

Elena Lourenco received her BFA from San Jose State University, CA, in 2002 and her MFA in Sculpture from Arizona State University in 2007. As a post-graduate student, she studied abroad at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. During this time, Ms. Lourenco was the recipient of the Nathan Cummings Travel Fellowship, an important award that allowed the artist to travel to India to research and observe the integration of culture and landscape, which would come to impart meaning on her working practice. Lourenco explores this relationship between human identity and landscape through mixed media objects and installations, presenting situational narratives of human vulnerability and endurance. This recent work communicates powerful narratives about both society and self: utilizing metaphor to communicate ideas of causality, change, loss and their resulting effects on the human psyche.

Lourenco’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions across the US, and Internationally, including a prestigious invitation to exhibit at Palazzo Mora, in Venice Italy, as well as Scotland and Latvia. She has chaired, contributed to, participated in, and exhibited at multiple National and International conferences relating to Cast Iron Art. She is currently an instructor at Santa Ana College in the Division of Fine and Performing Arts.

Natalia Mendoza is a third-year student at Cal-State LA pursuing a degree in graphic design. She first started her college studies at Santa Ana College before continuing her education at Cal-State LA. She was born in the city of Santa Ana as the child of two Mexican immigrants. Born and raised in Santa Ana, Natalia learned firsthand of poverty and aspiring for a better future through education. Her interests in art from a young age encouraged her to pursue an education from which she can use her artistic talent to pursue a promising future.

Isabel Gonzalez is a 22 year old college student pursuing a major in ceramics. She was born in Mexico but raised in Santa Ana, CA. She has lived in Santa Ana for the last 15 years, and claims she “has never felt more at home.” This past year, Isabel took a detour from college to open up a small business located at the Santa Fe Springs Swap meet. She has plans to transfer toCSU Chico to further her ceramics studies.



Follow the artists

Elena Loureco 

Natalia Mendoza  @nataliamendozadesign

Isabel Gonzalez  @iris.ceramics


santa ana headshot.

Explore more projects

A Space Between Us

A Space Between Us

Tamara Cedre
Various locations and A Space Between Us throughout San Bernardino County

¡No Rona!

¡No Rona!

Raul Baltazar
20-mile route through South and East Los Angeles