The art for TASTE: Milpa, our upcoming harvest festival, comes from a new partnership with artist/designer DJ Javier. After seeing his work for mutual partners like Patagonia, Vissla, and The Surfrider Foundation, we instantly connected with the way his work combines the iconic Meso-American aesthetic with skate, surf, and street art influences.
Each season we choose an artist to collaborate with our Art Director Nereo Zago, and for TASTE: Milpa, DJ is creating an evocative look and feel that combines the ancestral tradition of this land with our modern-day mission for ecological abundance. The unique way that his work represents culture, resilience, and community felt perfectly aligned with our values.
Read our conversation with DJ to learn more about the collaboration for TASTE: Milpa, and make sure to check out more of his work here.
Tell us about your approach to creating art.
Like a lot of art, it’s a fusion of different things. A lot of my work has a street art/graffiti aesthetic, but being Filipino-American, I have a lot of Indigenous roots, which overlaps a bit with early Mexican-style artwork and modern-day Chicano work.
I love using simplified color palettes—taking the least amount of colors and finding ways to make it as bold and complex as possible.
Pulling from different spaces to create culture, and the idea of making a lot without having to use too much—both feel similar to how The Ecology Center works. So it felt very natural, how the art rolled out.
What stood out to you as meaningful or important within this TASTE: Milpa event?
I really appreciated the reverence toward food itself—the fact that we’re being provided for by the earth. Food is a key component in Filipino culture, and this is true for many cultures and people groups, especially those that come from a place where food isn’t as plentiful as it is in the US today. Not “Where will I go for coffee today?” but “Where can I get sustenance?”
Looking at it through that lens, it was important to me that the artwork feels like it reflects the same respect and reverence that The Ecology Center has around this event. It’s designed for people to walk through and engage with, which is a good way to make you appreciate what you have more. It’s like, you can go to a bike shop and buy a new bike, and that’s cool, but if you take the time to put a bicycle together piece by piece, you’re more appreciative of the end product. When you take the time to understand every component, you can nurture the process and appreciate the final work even more.
Are there any specific details within the TASTE: Milpa art that you’re especially proud of?
It’s all about making the artwork say the most with the least. I really wanted to figure out a concept that’s really bold and speaks to the event really well. How do I make three figures represent these three vegetables, in a way that’s not, like, putting legs on a veggie?
I think the graphic designer in me likes having the parameters, figuring out how to make it work within a tight space. A lot of my best work comes when I’m backed into a corner. Whenever I draw anything, I tend to use the space really well.
When people look at the artwork, I hope people see all the figures situated well, the elements well balanced. Each person and vegetable is like a puzzle, and they stack and fit together in this small space.
How do you feel like your aesthetic aligns with our mission for a sustainable, abundant future?
What I really dig about how you guys approach your work is that it’s super inviting. There can be a barrier to entry with some of this stuff—“I don’t know enough, I don’t have room for a garden in my backyard, etc.” What I’ve picked up with you guys is that you’re saying, “Regardless of your background or your experience, let’s walk through it together as a community.”
I think I take a similar approach with a lot of my art, whether it’s the themes, the color, the execution. Even though I spend a lot of time on techniques, I try to make it really accessible, whether that’s putting something on a t-shirt that a 16-year-old can buy, or working with a nonprofit like you guys. I think of art as like a Trojan horse—it can pack a really powerful message. It’s about breaking down walls to make that message open and inviting for all, like you guys are doing with this festival.
For me, I like to communicate my heritage, and the strength and resilience in the Asian community. The longer you look at it, the more those themes are revealed, and the more people can connect to it. It’s about representing culture well, and sharing education as much as we can.