Painting Her Way To Freedom -- Anavictoria Avila on The Struggles of Law School, Art, and The Importance of Self-Care


Art has been my refuge for as far back as I can remember. I started painting as a self-taught artist when I was five years old in the family court day care. Art was the only thing that brought me peace in a childhood plagued by domestic violence and chaos. My mom initiated divorce proceedings when I was two years old against my abusive father, but what surmounted was a nightmare of a custody dispute that lasted 8 years. It was an absolute train wreck.

During that time, I mainly painted birds, horses, monarch butterflies; anything that reflected freedom, and culturally themed paintings that reflected my mom's memories of her life in Mexico. Child protective services, and the police were involved throughout those 8 years. We switched schools often, switched DV shelters to escape my father's stalking, we almost went into foster care, we were kidnapped by my father in violation of court orders; it was a mess.

Those 8 years when my father did have custody, the child abuse continued for my brothers and me. My mother raised us as a single mom, and my family is still trying to recover from the damage done in those years. I witnessed from a very early age that justice does not have the upper hand in the legal system. I witnessed how class, gender, race and ethnicity affect the dynamics and progression of a case.

This is why I decided to go to law school. From the very beginning I was committed to the fact that I was going to be the best attorney for marginalized communities and specifically youth who are in conflict with the law, because I cannot accept a society where money is a factor that can limit a person’s constitutional rights, and create significant damage to families and communities.

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Being a low-income Latina student in law school presented unique challenges, especially when I was supporting my mom financially and supporting my brothers through many legal problems they encountered while I was in law school. I often found law school to be re-traumatizing with the cases I handled. Because there is no time to even breathe in law school, I never had time to paint.

The Fall of 2017 presented new challenges that left me broken. I failed the bar exam twice among many other things. The bar exam is expensive, and I found myself facing many barriers. I found it necessary to pick up my brush and palette again. I had neglected the only consistent thing in my life, art, for three years. It was through art that I was able to find healing again and pick up the broken pieces in order to move forward. I have now re-directed my creative outlet to create a mini art business. It's a work in progress.

I do not give up. I will eventually pass the bar and become an attorney, but I found it necessary to take care of myself before I can take care of my community and family through the legal profession. So in the mean time, my focus is to heal and empower myself and my community through art.

Anavictoria is a law school graduate, artist, small business owner, and bomb salsa dancer. Check out her art business, @artedeavi to see/purchase her amazing artwork.