Creating Change Through Art: An Interview with Kathleen Day-Gomez

Re-Route Magazine
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9 min read
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August 16, 2023
Photo of an attractive blonde woman wearing a yellow blazer and blue striped slacks is looking at the camera

Art is an integral part of Kathleen Day-Gomez's life; it's as essential as breathing. Her artistic talents span a wide range of mediums, including painting, multimedia, poetry, modeling, acting, and music. To Kathleen, art is not just a form of expression but a necessity for survival, providing comfort and solace during difficult times. Growing up undiagnosed neurodivergent, Kathleen found respite in her artistic skills while facing the challenges of everyday life.

A photo of an issue of Pepper magazine on a table. It is photographed with an exotic fuchsia color flower.

Kathleen uses her artistic background to break down barriers and push for a better, more equitable world through her art and activism. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Pepper Magazine, an award-winning publication that champions diverse perspectives and elevates underrepresented voices in the art world.

As a neurodivergent individual, Kathleen has been very open about her journey with autism and ADHD, and the challenges that come with it. Despite this, she loves who she is and is completely comfortable with her autistic traits. "I love that I’m not like everybody else. And I’m completely comfortable with not being good at certain things, with being bothered by certain things, etc." Kathleen encourages others to embrace their true selves and not worry about how others feel when they start unmasking their true identities. "You unmask to give yourself grace, to honor your needs, and celebrate the many facets of who and what you ACTUALLY are. There is glory in that which you will only know if you’re willing to let others feel their feelings separately from your own."

Kathleen Day-Gomez is a force to be reckoned with in the art world, using her talents as an artist and her role as founder and editor-in-chief of Pepper Magazine to advocate for social justice and make a positive impact. Her unwavering dedication to her craft and beliefs have made her a prominent figure in the industry, and she believes that art can be a powerful tool for change. "I want to contribute to making the world a better place," she said, highlighting her deep sense of purpose and unwavering commitment to her vision. In this interview, Kathleen shares her story and insights, inspiring others to follow their passions and embrace their unique perspectives.

Can you share with us some details about your background?

I’ve been an artist all my life. Since I was a child, I’ve actively sought to blend my love of writing, storytelling, and visual art with various mediums. I never wanted to have to choose.

I developed a passion for photography and began actively shooting in a journalistic and conceptual art format from the time I was in seventh grade. That would carry on after graduation, at which time I developed my photography business. I did work all through my adulthood as a freelance photographer and photojournalist for various magazines over the years. My writing would come into play as a journalist and published poet/essayist as well.

I continue taking on commissions for fine art work and also apply my art to my global magazine via layout design and cover work.

A collage of Kathleens's family. This includes her son, Aiden a 12-year old boy in these photos, her husband, Joe, and the family dog, Jeter.
Kathleen's family includes her husband, Joe, their son Aiden, and their dog, Jeter.

Tell us a bit about your immediate family and their influence on your life.

My husband is essential to me as not only a life partner but in providing support for my special needs in all things business related. He aids me in the real-world application of my creative work. He is my best friend.

My thirteen-year-old son, Aiden, is low verbal autistic with a cognitive disability. He’s my whole world. Everything I’m building is for his future, to hopefully provide him with the platform and means of gainful employment as an artist when he comes of age. I love him with every fiber of my being, and I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming.

Our service dog in training is my little shadow. Evan Jeter Mustard; we rescued him when he was less than two months old. He’s six months old now, and he is our fur son. I can’t imagine life without him now.

Are there any other art forms that you enjoy?

As a multidisciplinary artist, I do everything —painting, sculpting, drawing, collage, textile art and sewing, assemblage art, photography, digital illustration, animation…

Aside from your artwork, do you have any other hobbies or interests you are passionate about?

I love books. We are in the process of building our wall-to-wall home library.

Sustainable fashion and home decor really excite me. I love thrifting, garage sale hunting, antiquing… At times I rework clothing into new items. And I LOVE collecting vintage trinkets of all sorts.

We're interested in learning more about your coaching philosophy and approach, as well as any specific techniques or tools you can use to help your clients achieve their goals. Please tell us about the clients you work with and the issues you specialize in addressing.

As an intuitive life coach, nothing I do is cookie-cutter. My approach is purely organic, and my methods vary from client to client. A big part of determining how to work with each individual begins with assessing their learning style and if they have any support needs.

A mixed media collage from Kathleen.
Candyland Series: Fendi. Mixed media textiles, vintage silk, acrylic, tissue paper, wallpaper, and magazine collage on 24x36” canvas 2020. Kathleen Day-Gomez

Once I establish their needs and the desired outcomes, I walk them back by examining what they have implemented, which has led them to where they are now (including what has worked and any possible self-sabotaging tendencies). From there, I pace them through a few tasks at a time to keep from overwhelming them. They make checklists and implement them little by little each week. These small changes create a big difference over time.

I specialize in trauma, PTSD, and life obstacles for both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals.

How do you balance life and work?

I don’t, honestly. I recently read a quote (from whom I can’t recall) that roughly said, “I don’t believe in work/life balance. I only have one life.” I juggle, honestly. I hit walls, burn out, and try to honor my sensory needs while meeting the demands of dealing with people as an editor in chief… it’s a circus. I maybe get three to four days off a month, and I try to hide under my covers during that time. I refuse to mislead anyone into thinking being hyper-productive and taking on so many career responsibilities is glamorous (or even healthy, really). But the beauty of the whole thing is it’s MY mess. It’s my crazy, chaotic, beautiful art-filled life. And after having worked for myself for so long, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with myself otherwise.

A black and white photo of Kathleen looking at the camera.

Kathleen, you receive many questions about your role as Editor-in-Chief of Pepper Magazine, a beautiful publication. However, today I would like to focus on your journey as a multidisciplinary artist who works in various mediums such as painting, multimedia, poetry, modeling, acting, music, activism, and more. Can you tell us about your artistic journey?

It’s been such a wild ride I wouldn’t even know where to begin. As a kid out of high school, my first commissions were tattoo flash sheets for local shops and some company logos. I later took on mural work for random businesses and private clients. I’d sell my fine art here and there over time, and I started making jewelry to sell while I was living in Hawaii in my early twenties. By the time I moved back to San Antonio in 2006, I shifted to making most of my money through photography, photojournalism, and modeling (while still occasionally selling my art and jewelry on the side). Then, in 2016 I laid the groundwork for my company, The Imaginarium Wonder Emporium, which incorporated my fine art, jewelry, and wearable art design and curation of sustainable vintage toys and trinkets. It ran strong until I put a pin in it in 2022, post-pandemic. It was then I shifted full-time into founding, developing, and running PEPPER. I’ve continued to take on commission work for fine art throughout.

Do you have a favorite medium of expression?

Due to my ADHD, honestly depends upon my mood. I go through binge phases of only wanting to paint, then only wanting to sculpt, then sew, then collage, and so on. I just love making art. I can say I love working with my hands to make visual art of any medium more than I love to write or photograph things (which is saying a lot).

How would you define art, and what does it mean to you? Additionally, what message do you hope people take away from experiencing your artwork?

Art is like breathing for me. It’s as essential as eating food, sleep, love… Generally, the message in my work is very specific and varies from project to project. I’m good at writing a thesis to accompany most of my pieces. But on the whole, I hope the message people gain from my collective body of work by the time all is said and done is that art is essential. I hope they are inspired to never have to tie themselves to one idea or medium but rather to have fluidity and the freedom to pursue their thoughts and life experience through the unique lens of the art they make.

Who are your artistic influences, and how have they inspired you?

Honestly, literary authors like Mary Shelly, Lovecraft, Byron, and Poe to Irvine Welsh, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, and Poppy Z. Brite… the moody dystopian undertones of their work influenced me greatly from a young age. Artists like Edward Gorey, Hieronymus Bosch, and Francis Bacon… were all earlier influences as well. But I was most influenced by pop culture through magazines and alternative music. All of those elements fused into my earlier art.

What motivated you to pursue your passion for the arts professionally? Where have you been published?
I always knew I’d have to survive on my talents. Being undiagnosed growing up, I never understood why everything was much harder for me than for my peers (in relation to practical life stuff). It was going to have to be art or death.

A collage of the photos from the Malcontents series.

I’ve been published as a model, an artist, a photographer, and a photojournalist in dozens of magazines globally and nationally. Very few local publications, in contrast. When I was 14, I was published in The Library of Congress in a national poetry anthology, then again at 16, and have been published as a poet and essayist in a few independent anthologies in my adulthood. Now, running PEPPER, I’ve been published monthly for the past eleven months as I write between 60-80% of the written portion of our content.

You have been an activist for many years through your work. The Malcontents Series and No White Flags pieces have powerful societal messages that need to be addressed. Have you ever had reservations about expressing your message? Have you faced any pushback?

I’ve never had reservations. I carry a lot of trauma from the persistent bullying and severe physical abuse and assault I received from the time I was a child for my neurodivergence, then later as a teenager for being openly queer. I relieved myself of the responsibility for the reactions of others a long time ago when it comes to my art. Art is my right and prerogative. It’s my own moral imperative to use my voice through art to stand up and point things out when I see inequality, cruelty, or discrimination happening around me.

I’ve been dealing with pushback for my art and my writing since I was ten years old. I was told my content was “too adult themed” as it touched on topics of inequality or mental health, and suicide. I would get pulled aside for parent-teacher conferences over and over in my art classes for “veering off-topic” or for my work being too dark or grown-up in context. As an adult, I’ve been attacked at times for creating art around cultures or themes outside of my own, while as an artist, I’m only documenting what I’m seeing and learning along the way. It’s never stopped me from, quite frankly, doing whatever I want. As well, it shouldn’t.

On the topic of controversial topics, how do you believe the art world will be affected by the increasing use of AI technology?

I love Ai. I’ve written on this topic at length. People once called the television the Devil when it first came out. Rock and roll were seen as Satanic. Then cell phones were the enemy—frankly, I wouldn’t have a business without my cell. Each new thing is scary, and the typically ignorant response has been to run at it with pitchforks held high. Here’s the thing: Ai is here, it exists, and it’s not going anywhere. It is a tool like any other tool or medium. As Bob Dylan sang, we can either get on board or get out of the way at risk of being left behind. Ai is not the enemy. Fear is the enemy. Constriction is the enemy. And if you’re afraid of getting ripped off as an artist, don’t make art. I’m being blunt for a reason. The world isn’t generally supportive and kind and PC. It’s wild and brutal out there, and the new technologies arising can be something we use and learn and work with and around, or we can cross our arms and sit in a corner in protest. To each their own. Me—I’m here to create, and I’m excited about what I’ve been able to create while collaborating with Ai as an artist thus far.

Photo of Kathleen with her dog, Jeter. He is a black dog and they seem to be in a car.

You have been very open and candid about your neurodivergent journey, which has been difficult. For those who are not familiar with your story, could you share some insight with them?

I’m autistic with ADHD. I deal with a plethora of sensory issues, and I do have certain support needs, which oddly have seemed to increase the older I get. I typically wear earplugs throughout the day (unless I’m conversing with someone or watching something) to cancel out ambient noise. Artificial light is extremely agitating for me. I can do soft yellow lamp light, but that’s about it. I generally have the windows open and rely on natural light. I have prosopagnosia (difficulty recognizing faces which should be familiar to me) oftentimes.

Whether in part from trauma or my autism, I deal with dissociation. I have an audio processing disorder and have trouble making out what people are saying a lot of times without reading lips. As such, I have to have the captions on when viewing anything. I can hear things volume-wise. I just have a delay in making out the meaning or context of conversations when I’m interfacing. The phone is easier because I can use earbuds that feed the sound directly into my ears without being broken or disrupted by outside noise. I have favorite foods and a very specific pattern by which I have to eat my food. I hate certain textures like wet on textiles or sponges, so I avoid having to do house chores that require washing things, with the exception of dishes. My husband generally helps in this area, but we do butt heads over it. I have a strong aversion to certain textures of fabrics on my body. If my feet hurt in heels, I literally cannot pay attention to anything else… the list goes on and on.

All that being as it is, I actually love who I am. I’m completely ok with my autistic traits. I love that I’m not like everybody else. And I’m completely comfortable with not being good at certain things, with being bothered by certain things, etc. This is also because, for all my deficiencies, I’m also a genius in other areas, hyper-talented, and extremely driven. I know that I’m efficient at the things I’m good at. I’m a humanitarian and help others and animals when, where, and how I can. So I’m good with who I am, every aspect of who I am.

What advice would you offer to those new to the unmasking journey? Do you have any guidance for emerging artists, particularly those who are neurodivergent?

It’s hard at first, but it’s so worth it. Don’t worry about how most people are going to feel when you start peeling back the false layers that have been brow-beaten into you. They’re going to hate it, generally. That’s not your responsibility. You don’t begin the arduous journey of unmasking to make friends or make others comfortable. After all, I am willing to bet even through your years of masking, you haven’t been very good at making or keeping friends anyway. It sounds cold, but it’s not—it’s practical. You unmask to give yourself grace, to honor your needs, and celebrate the many facets of who and what you ACTUALLY are. There is glory in that which you will only know if you’re willing to let others feel their feelings separately from your own.

Just make art. Have a plan or don’t—whatever works for you. Just don’t stop. Make things you don’t think are very good, as long as it brings you joy playing with the materials and learning as you go. Ask for help from trusted individuals in your life to aid in or oversee the business end of making your art and make money to support you. You do not have to be the creative and the business person if it’s not for you. As much as we deal with already, seeking the proper support and advocating for ourselves is the best thing we can do to make a living doing what we love.

Photo of an attractive blonde woman and a man at an awards show.
Kathleen Day-Gomez, editor-in-chief of Pepper Magazine, accepting the TFII Magazine of The Year Award. Pictured with her is her husband, Joe.

What are you currently working on?

PEPPER Magazine is double full-time for me. So really, I do supplemental artwork for it currently, more than commissions. My home is currently under renovation, and my art supplies take more work to get to. So it may be a few more months before I have total access to my tools again. Once I do, I’ll go right back to making whatever I want as I feel compelled. It’s what keeps me sane.

Is there anything else you would like to leave our audience with today?

Really everything I do is in hopes of leaving something behind that actually has meaning. I hope to create real and lasting change in the world around me.

This was incredible. Thank you for providing us with your insights and answers today. Before we wrap up, please let us know how someone interested in purchasing your artwork, setting up a life coaching appointment, or PEPPER inquiries can contact you.

I can be reached on a professional level via email at or direct message on Instagram:
For art at @artist.kday
For creative consulting and photography at @creative.consultant.kday
For intuitive life coaching at
And anyone can inquire about submissions or advertisements through PEPPER at @hello.peppermagazine

If you're interested in purchasing any of the artwork featured in this article, please contact Alora Neurodivergent Art Dealers. They would be happy to provide you with more information on pricing and availability.

Editor's note: We are excited to share a story about Kathleen Day-Gomez and Pepper Magazine, who have been valued partners and supporters of our organization. It's important to note that Kathleen is also a client of Alora Neurodivergent Art Dealers, one of our sponsors. This feature is made possible through their support, and we want to showcase the work they are doing in publishing and advocacy.

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