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From Frida to Hola Lou: Mexican Art in Atlanta

One of the artists I admire - OK, obsess over - is Frida Kahlo. If you don't know her, she is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists, blasting her way through the art world from the 1930s to 1950s. Some people called her surrealist, which amused her, but she thought of herself as a realist. I think it is her honest portrayal of herself and her suffering, often brutally shown on canvas, that draw people to her art. She was horribly injured in a bus accident as a college student, and suffered the rest of her life. She was confined to her bed for months at a time, went through dozens of surgeries and was in pain more often than not. And from all of this came powerful art.

Wearing my Frida earrings in front of a mural of her in Paris

So I was excited to find another female Mexican artist right here at home, on the Atlanta BeltLine. Hola Lou lives in Yucatan, Mexico, and describes her work as modern abstract expressionism or minimalist abstract. To me, her paintings look like part Matisse, part Picasso, but with her own style. Her real name is Luisa Salas, but she started out calling herself Lou so she could not be identified as a man or woman. As JK Rowling did. As George Eliot did. As women have done throughout the ages to succeed.

Mural by Hola Lou on the Atlanta BeltLine
Mural by Hola Lou on the Atlanta BeltLine

Her minimal style comes from painting with her son, she says in Art Terms, when he was 3 years old. She had grown bored as a graphic designer and took up painting with her son as a hobby. She noticed how free he was to create.

"He wouldn’t have a reference of style or judgement of any kind, he would just place colors and let them be.. I needed to feel that once again. Eventually I used my graphic design background to use these feelings and place them in order," she told Art Terms.

Hola Lou has exhibited in numerous cities including Atlanta, London, San Francisco, New York and across Mexico. Like Frida, her art is influenced and shaped by her country.

She has also aligned with top brands like West Elm, Nike, Apple and many more, and created designs for Spotify and Samsung Galaxy campaigns.

At a design conference in Mexico two years ago, she was "invited to host along with 4 other Mexican women illustrators a talk about what it means to be a woman in art, the path we’re following and how overcoming struggles through art and design has been key to our careers," her website says.

The artists hand painted Stella chalices for the event.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

Beyond murals and paintings, Hola Lou is designing NFTs, digital pieces of art for sale with cryptocurrency. And you can find her designs imprinted on consumer objects like throw pillows, shower curtains, phone cases, a credenza, backpack, yoga mat and more.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

In Atlanta, I found her mural next to Guac y Margys in Studioplex Alley, as I was walking along the BeltLine.

She told Art Terms, "I personally feel very happy and strong when painting a wall: Its a huge amount of effort and work, long hours of endurance and a physical exhaustion followed by it.. But knowing how much urban art affects people’s daily commute or travels in such a positive way is just an incredible feeling."

For me too.

An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl. Note: We paused our tours during the pandemic, but plan to ramp up again soon. Stay tuned!

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