by Rosalie Murphy

Lolo is a Cuyahoga Falls-based painter whose abstract works has recently appeared in Emerge and The Prism Project: Awakening Cuyahoga Falls through Art. She helped organize Summer Rave 2019, which brought electronic dance music to downtown Akron venues on July 27. She operates a spa and skincare line and hosts a radio show. Her first painting, a portrait of Frida Kahlo called Reflexión, still hangs outside her bedroom. 

It took her 20 years to get here, Lolo says, and it’s never been easy. But she makes it a point to have as much fun as possible along the way. 

“It’s tough asserting your place, and trying to accept what is, while you’re working toward the things that you want for yourself. I don’t believe any of us want to wake up and feel pressures from the world [that dictate] how we should be and how we should look and what we should sound like,” Lolo says. 

With her paintings — most of which have been abstract paintings in cool, calming tones lately — “I’m bringing in the bliss. Why? Because you know what, at some point, we’ve just got to.” 

Lolo was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. She left home at 15 and moved to Pittsburgh, finishing high school at Andy Warhol’s alma mater and becoming a self-described “club kid.” Club gigs led to dancing gigs with Poor Righteous Teachers, D-Nice and Snoop Dogg. 

Lolo is a nickname that was given to her by a friend from her “hip-hop years,” she says.

When she was 28, Lolo’s mother told her that she was an artist. Lolo “thought she was nuts,” she says. 

But in 2003, when Lolo and her husband bought a house in Euclid, she began painting regularly for the first time since her teenage years. She joined the Euclid Art Association and began submitting pieces to group shows. 

Her first solo show, in 2015, came after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. 

“I wanted to do something for her to show her I was ready, so I created my first solo exhibition. That was when I was 42,” Lolo says. “I wanted to tell my mother to her face, while she was alive, surrounded by these paintings that I created, that came from my soul.” 

They had the show. Lolo lost her mother six months later. 

“My art career has been probably the biggest surprise and the biggest ride of my life,” Lolo says. “It was a private passion, and then my mother — she planted that seed, man, and it just grew. That’s the power of when someone has intention. I’m learning that even past the grave, my mother’s prayers are coming true.”

Today, Lolo does it all. She lives in Cuyahoga Falls. She owns a spa called RENU Wellness inside the Metropolitan at the 9 in Cleveland, where she works as an esthetician and sells custom skincare products. Finally, she operates the LOLO Knows Radio Network, where she produces a weekly Friday Night Mix with LO. When she features popular music, she says she reaches up to 10,000 listeners. 

Lolo thinks of her mother, Carmen, every day, she says. Carmen believed that all of this could happen.

“I know I talk a lot about her, but she was my major influence in my life for many years,” Lolo says. “There was a battle there of acceptance, of unforgiveness, of feeling betrayed, feeling like, ‘how could you be like this,’ you know, all of that normal mother-daughter shit.” She laughs. “I didn’t realize the story at the beginning was always my story. I think that’s what we need to get to — their story is our story. We should never, ever, ever cut that out. we should embrace it and see how we can piece it back together and make it fit into the narrative.”

To learn more about Lolo, visit www.loloknows.com. Follow her on Instagram at @abstractbylo. 

Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip. Images used with permission from Lolo.

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