Arika KOKO Santos
Arika, (Arabic for "ancient spirit" or "old soul") originated from the urban landscape of Los Angeles, CA. Born on December 18, 1980, in the heart of Hollywood, her ancient roots intertwine a mixture of Filipina, Hawaiian, Mexican and Native American blood. Exposure to harsh realities such as drugs, racism, poverty, gangs, police brutality, guns and violence influenced her career as an artist. Aside from the smog and corruption in the city life, there lied an urban legend that this artist will forever carry with her. "In essence, graffiti saved my life. It was my savior and inspiration for seeing beauty in everything," says Arika. With spray paint as her brush and public walls as her canvas, she found an outlet to release the pains of her life as a troubled youth. This artform introduced Arika, aka "ms. Koko," to color theory, shading, and perspective. Out of the crazy streets of Los Angeles she evolves from spray paint, now innovating the use of oil paint, acrylic, pastel, clay and other mixed media. Using a brilliant array of vivid colors and feminine line work, her expressionistic style reflects her spirit. Her artistic visions radiate a positive, sensual vibe with a hint of rawness.
Lazos, Arika's middle name is from the Spanish language and translates to "family unity" or "strength." A lazo is an intertwined rope, held together by many single threads, all working together to build the bond of the solid, braided connection. Arika is a crucial link to the lazo. Through many struggles in life, she has risen, like the Phoenix from the ashes, and now works to build foundation in community. She teaches, volunteers and facilitates workshops with an emphasis on art and youth empowerment. "As a self taught street artist, I want to give back to the community and use art as a language to heal and uplift," she states. Arika is a leader and teacher with the passion and strength of a warrior. Through the years she has taken an active role in community by teaching mostly in urban environments and through non-profits. She has a strong bond with youth and a passion to communicate, uplift, and inspire future generations to find their own unique voice and express it.
Santos is a Spanish word that translates to "saints." From the moment she fled from the "City of Angels" she has spread her wings and continues to expand and cultivate. In 2002, Arika moved from the "City of Angels"to Flagstaff, AZ, where she connected to her Native American roots and ancestors. While residing there, she found her maternal grandmother and discovered her Filipina/Native Hawaiian lineage. Shortly after the reunion with her maternal grandmother she moved to the Hawaiian Islands, to study her culture and heritage as she continued the quest of her roots journey.
As an up and coming artist Ms. Koko took much pride in being a self taught artist and resisted institutionalized foundations of art education. As the rebel that she was she didn't want to confine herself or fit into a box or label. She also didn't like the approach to art classes where the instructors liked to mold artists style, therefore shadowing the innate art making process. She later found the openness and willingness to pursue a college degree and further her knowledge of art history, theory, and methods. In 2012 she completed her BA in Studio Art and Theatre for Youth Audiences.
Currently she resides in Colorado and completed a degree in Holistic Health in 2016, with an emphasis on Reflexology & Yoga Teacher Training. Optimal health is an important factor in her life as an artist, mother, teacher, and activist. Upon completing her Holistic Health Certification she plans on furthering her education in pursuit of a Masters Degree in Transpersonal Counseling with an emphasis on Art Therapy. She believes that her work within the community with youth is just the tip of the ice berg and believes strongly in the power to heal and thrive through art and holistic health. With all the resources and knowledge acquired she plans on inspiring others to heal ,integrating the language of art, soul, body, and mind. With all the tools she has gained she hopes to offer resources to a larger array of audience in need of healing, not limited to youth but incorporating people of all ages through the healing process. Arika Lazos Santos plans on pursuing her career as an artist/activist within the community and hopes to inspire people of all ages and use art as a language to heal and uplift.
Along the journey she will continue to share her story, documenting her experiences through paintings and photography.