La Vida Es Tormentos y Alegrias Gallery Reception

Humberto Maldonado and Donna Personna
Friday, April 29th 5PM-7PM PT
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Visual artists Humberto Maldonado and Donna Personna offer their creative works as a way to connect with their past, conquering identity-based hostilities and assuaging their accumulated trauma. Maldonado and Personna entwine their different perspectives into one fabric as displayed throughout the CounterPulse lobby, mezzanine and basement levels.

Both artists employ their own past as a starting point to forge a vulnerable yet visible journey of self-actualization in an attempt to personal progress. This pairing of creatives clashes history with queerness, surrealistc fantasy with cosmetology liscences, and faded luggage tags with saturated hues. The state of the world may hang by a thread but the platform this exhibition provides is a voice for all peoples enduring identity suppression. Because after all, as Donna Personna says, “My humanity is found in [the work] and at the end of the day we are all humans and more alike than different. I’m only human, like you.”

Special thanks to the artists Humberto Maldonado & Donna Personna and curator Nick Maltagliati. This exhibition was made possible with support from CounterPulse staff Julie Phelps, Zoe Leonard, Mae Ross, Ambrose Trataris, and Ach Kabal.



Humberto Maldonado (They/Them/Elle) Born 1993 into a Mexican migrant family, Humberto Maldonado is a figurative painter who has lived between Mexico and California. They earned a Bachelors in Art from California State University of Stanislaus in 2019 with the Most Outstanding Student Award. They currently live and work in San Francisco, CA.

Humberto Maldonado highlights the liminal spaces they inhabit as a Mexican-American artist by taking cues from fauvism to direct their palette choices. While reflecting on their “in-between” identities in their work, Maldonado also captures allegories from lived or seen experiences toying with the balance between reality and escapism. The nude figures represent vulnerable sincerity of identity while bodily fluids spotlight inter-figure relationships whether it be blood, semen, breastmilk, sweat, or tears. Maldonado focuses on themes of discrimination, abuse, self-discovery and forgiveness in an absurd manner, drawing attention to not only ignored issues but also light-hearted moments. As Maldonado reveals intersections around family, religion, and queerness their goal is to incite uncomfort in the viewer via blissful yet disturbing subject matter.

Donna Personna (She/Her) is an activist and artist for transgender rights, who got her start with the Cockettes. She served on the boards of Trans March and Transgender Day of Remembrance and also the committees to name streets after Vicki Marlene and Compton’s Cafeteria, in the Transgender District. She raised San Francisco’s first transgender flag at City Hall, with Mayor London Breed. Donna was the subject of the Iris Prize-winning short film My Mother and featured in the film Beautiful by Night. Donna has been covered in over 14 publications, including Out, The Advocate, SF Chronicle and the Daily Beast. Her immersive play, The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, recreates SF transgender history and received many accolades including “Best Of 2018,” SF Weekly. Donna was a Grand Marshall at Pride 2019.

Donna Personna’s personally-rich collages encapsulate her collection of copious ephemera like ticket stubs, boarding passes, funeral cards, stamps, flyers, exhibition leaflets, business cards, and photographs. Ornate painted elements around and on the paper memorabilia add color ties in all the components. Personna incorporates text and loose strokes depicting flowers, architecture, women with baskets, abstract landscapes, trees, and other figures. This addition to the collaged memories adds creative depth and fills the void with color. Similarly, her memory boxes house photos she has taken and found objects creating a three dimensional manifestation of her past experiences. Although this work was never intended to be publicly displayed, Personna’s admirable vulnerability of showcasing her past in this manner reflects her activism for transgender rights.


CounterPulse is a dynamic movement of experimental art that sparks personal transformation and builds enduring community. We provide space and resources for emerging artists and cultural innovators, serving as an incubator for the creation of socially relevant, community-based art and culture. CounterPulse acts as a catalyst for art and action; creating a forum for the open exchange of art and ideas, sparking transformation in our communities and our society. We work towards a world that celebrates diversity of race, class, cultural heritage, artistic expression, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We strive to create an environment that is physically and economically accessible to everyone.

Featured Image: Cheeky by Donna Persona



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