The past few months have been full! Updates:
Starting Tuesday I'll have a more flexible schedule and I'm looking forward to diving deeper into a new portrait series I started. I'll talk a bit about them below:
This is Self Portrait as Atabeira. As you know if you've been following my work, I'm obsessed with Atabeira and Taino mythology. I'm still learning a lot and plan to read even more. I had been thinking about goddesses a lot after an interaction with Line Bruntse (former mentor during the EAR program). I had been avoiding saying it out loud and she sort of took the words out of my mouth when she said that my work was about goddesses and self-determination. I decided to start imagining myself as various goddesses as a way of reclaiming my history and identity. I also like the overlap of saints and goddesses and using bold colors. I've been looking at prayer candles a lot and their label designs. I'm interested in how we represent deities and how that informs our spiritual life too. for this painting I wanted to play with texture and crowns as halos. I also liked the idea of playing with the Latina hoop earring (which I own many of thank you) and blurring the line between my face and the face of Atabeira. A direct likeness used to be a sign that I made a good painting but lately, I've taken to trying to be fast and loose and mix bright colors. This is the first portrait I did that I'm happy with the final outcome.
I'm really happy with this one. I started playing with the star sequins (mostly because I have a huge bag I'm trying to figure out what to do with) but it just didn't work. The pallete was too much too so I moved on to a more toned down pallete with the finished piece.It's smaller (just under 8x10) and it forced me to pull back a little. I was thinking about symbols that mythlogize Puerto Rico and the flamboyan flowers came to mind. I was also wanting to channel Frida Kahlo's pallete for the skin here. I like her yellowy and ruddy tones a lot and I have a more yellow undertone to my skin. I was taught to mix paint more for pinker tones and I'm still trying to undo that learning. I started to take on and learn how to paint other skintones at the Art Students League of NY and that was really eye-opening in terms of how limiting Lancaster can be. That's for another post though. I'm definitely going to continue this smaller series and play with more ideas of saints, myths, and identity pieces.
The past two weeks have been emotionally a bit draining. I've been angrier than usual and it hurts more because I know my anger is justified. Trump is a pendejo. An hijo de puta. An idiota tan grande that I simply cannot debase myself and call him my president. I don't condone name calling usually, but if you decide you're going to build your campaign and WIN on the basis of blatant racism and xenophobia targeting latino's than I will gladly refer to you now and forever as the world's most racist cheeto (thank you Jezebel). Since the election, I've felt electric. I've already been getting more and more involved in local civic engagement and social justice things but now more than ever do I feel the need to arm myself and fight back. So I've been making to get the aggression out. I find myself coming back to my favourite radical group the Young Lords Party/Organization. I also have decided to start a project where I document space and places from my past and my families past that I have mythologized. I'm excited to see where this all goes. I'm also starting to wrap up the research phase of my thesis on Hispanic and Latinx involvement in the arts here. I'll talk a little about recent stuff below:
So the top image is the original Immaculate Heart of Mary image I've been obsessing over privately. I just find so much of Catholic and Christian imagery to be so weirdly violent and 'gothic.' I've been using the phrase Tengo Puerto Rico en Mi Corazón a lot lately as a personal mantra. I borrow it from the YLP and I felt like this image resonated with it. On November 8th with the elections heavy on my heart, I started to doctor the image of Mary I isolated to look more like an Afro-Latinx woman I wanted to darken her skin a bit and change her features. I started to think about how regardless of the results, more Latinx and POC will be feeling the brunt of the anger or gloating post-election cycle. So I started to make her features more worried or somber. I started adding poetry and additional imagery the next day. I woke up after several anxiety dreams where I firmly believed I had misread the electoral votes. That Hilary won, or it was a draw, or that maybe this was a joke? I came to work and had little to do with the classes that day so I got to work on getting all the feels out. I eventually toned the paper with coffee and am finishing up the details as I type. Below is the most recent state. I've added transfers of YLP marches, traditional Puerto Rican mundillo patterns, and a ghost image of Atabeira's face over the virgen.
The piece below is playing with imprints of a Vejigante mask with YLP imagery again. Still working on more of these mini-prints. I'm thinking a lot about radical activism lately.
The polaroids and holga images are the beginnings of my mythology and sacred space idea. They're from Castle Hill projects where my family grew up and I lived for a short period of time. I'm interested in spaces that I lived in and that formed me as a child that other see as "ghetto" or blighted. We'll see where these go in the future!
This summer is zooming by! I'm working on lot's of mini projects right now and I'm really excited about where they're leading me artistically. I'm also taking three grad courses that are a bit challenging (accounting, visual arts management and thesis development). I've decided to focus on work and grad school while making my own work this summer and next semester. I'm always tempted to do another part-time sort of thing, but I should take it easier.
I want to talk about a project I've been posting about on social media. I've sort of hinted at it but haven't fully disclosed what I'm working on in the interwebs. Sunshine Art and Design Gallery is hosting it's last show after what has been an incredible three year one. I've worked with Annie and Sunshine in various ways those three years and it's been a pleasure getting to know the Lancaster art' community. There's so much love for art and creativity right now and it's really great to see people embracing risk. A while ago Annie asked if I had any ideas for the bathroom but at the time I couldn't think of anything that wasn't silly. So, I waited and sort of returned to the idea again and again. In a late night moment of inspiration (and pun-filled delirium) I thought about the possibility of engaging women and people with periods in a sort of collaborative venture. I had made my embroidered liners for Cycle Piece a few weeks before and have been since obsessed with menstrual products. I thought about how I've been playing with materials that are steeped in femininity yet using them to discuss somewhat gross subject-matter. So liner quilt was born.
I've been stitching panty-liners into a quilt for the past month. I decided to include emblems of menstruation and sort of jokey, floral motifs to play with the way we have always viewed menstruation. Menstrual product packages are commonly decorated in pukey pinks and floral packages, sometimes scented, and sometimes almost too-cute to bleed on. I wanted to engage that imagery while also sewing in beaded blood and discharge stains as well as vulva and pubic hair images throughout the quilt.
The quilt, while fun and exciting still didn't seem like enough. I decided that I should let myself a little punny. I'm already being a bit kitschy so why not. So I started sewing in some non-embroidered liners so that people can share their thoughts, experiences, or feelings about menstruation. I like to think of them as one-liners on one liner. Get it???
The piece will be installed in the bathroom of Sunshine and I'll supply pens for people to use to share they're stories. My hope is that the quilt will be full of a wide variety of experiences. It will encourage conversations about something we often hide from. It will allow people with periods to take back they're narrative and be open about what it's like or maybe what they didn't know, what they experienced or didn't experienced, what they love or hate about menstruation etc. I'm excited about the possibilities and I'll be documenting it as the stories expand. I encourage participants to take some control over the piece and I hope the conversations don't end in that bathroom.
Lastly, I will be collecting menstrual products to donate to local shelters. Many women and people with periods living in transition need menstrual products but don't have access to them. I will have a collection box in the gallery for anyone who wants to contribute.
As the residency comes to a close, so does the semester at Franklin and Marshall College. I'm taking on a lot more educator-like responsibilities and I'm finding that I really, really like helping students. I'm also working on my thesis and have taken on some new public art projects with a crew of various folks. Summer is approaching and I'll be wrapping up stuff at the studio. I have a new sculpture that I'm really excited about and I'm toying with extending the busts to include some more of the body.
The show at DECA, which I realize I haven't spoken much about, spurred a lot of thoughts about where I'm going with all of this. I feel confident and happy with my work, but I also sometimes feel a bit lost. The pieces I included were deeply personal and the first time that I expressed some anger about how I feel as an American and as a Puerto Rican woman. I'm angry that I wasn't taught my own history. I'm angry that we don't talk about reproductive rights in terms of immigrants and non-english speakers. I'm angry at feminism that only discusses issues white, cis, able bodied women can relate to. I'm angry.
The piece with the 100 uteri over-layed on text detailing the atrocities of the forced sterilization program was the first piece that I feel like I was able to express the visceral nature of how I feel about all of this. It's also one of the first pieces that stepped out of my personal narrative and into a more critical, socio-political realm. I'm excited about the possibilities and looking forward to doing more research.
I also have recently come across two artist/groups that I feel deeply connected to. First Maritza Dávila, who goes by Atabeira Press, is a printmaker who plays with many of the same ideas I am. I honestly found her when googling images of Atabeira, the fertility goddess. Her work is really interesting and a bit collagey and she does collaborate quite a bit. She felt like home when I saw her work.
Here's a link to an interview she did while teaching at Memphis College of Art.
I also found a super dope article about chicana and boricua artists who are engaging criticisms of and the changes that need to be made in Guerilla Girls/feminist art movements. Brown bodies tend to be left out of these conversations. Often race relations tends to focus on the divisions between Blacks and Whites. Latinxs/Hispanics and Asians are usually nixed from these conversations and left trying to figure out where they fall on the Black and White spectrum. It can feel like theres not enough energy left after we're done fighting for one groups rights to fight for our own. I'm happy I've started engaging these conversations and articles like this one. I feel like I'm coming home.
Hello again! I'm in another show! The Fulton Street Arts Cooperative is hosting a Feminist leaning art show in the gallery space. Third Wave will open on the 2nd of April and I'm super pumped. I feel like a lot of the shows I've participated in lately have similar themes and I'm excited about that. Both DECA and this show were one's I was invited to show in. It makes me feel like I'm doing something right. I always worry about how the content of my work will be received. Is it easy to get. Especially the work that is more directly tied to my culture. The above piece, Cycle Piece, is a more light-hearted look at how a cycle fits into our societal norms. I wanted to take something that is usually perceived as disgusting and not just make it pretty, but make it overwhelmingly decorative. I think that there's a bit of irony there. The idea that a menstrual cycle is only when you bleed is a common misunderstanding of how cycles work in general. Also the idea that a vagina is dry unless it's bleeding or in the midst of intercourse is a common mistake people make. I wanted to take the cycle as a whole (all 28 days) and show how we are leaky bodies. Women, people with periods, and all humans in general are leaky and/or prone to leaking. The idea that we need to plug ourselves up and keep it all inside is a mistake that is hindering and time consuming. I also am interested in engaging conversations about periods in general. There's so much shit out there, like actual factual shit, about how periods work and how they affect women emotionally. Menstruation marks us as different and dirty and unreliable. And yet there's scientific proof that all of those ideas are more reliant on an individual and not necesarily their gender or sex.
I recently had a challenging conversation with a past professor about how my work should be read. They argued that they wouldn't "get it" and assumed that most people didn't "get" any of the work in the show right now. I actually felt like most of the people I spoke to (many of whom have not seen my work before) got what I was trying to say or at least understood my references. I was most excited that many latino and hispanic people I spoke to about my work got it. Many women got it. They argued that you would essentially have to be a woman or latino to get my work. I disagree, but I'm open to the possibility that this can happen. And I think I purposely make work that deals with that need for translation or what can get lost in translation. I think what challenged me most, or rather bothered me most, was the idea that making work about femininity and my latino heritage was somehow so drastically different that I would need to provide an explanation. This thinking prescribes to the idea that anything not eurocentric needs explanation.
All of it's super complicated and I get that it's all sort of subjective. I'll keep mulling over this whole idea.
Thanks to all who went to the show! I won't write too much today. I'm simply overwhelmed with how well it all came together. I had some great conversations and felt pretty confident, though terribly nervous, during my talk. I will share a video soon with a walkthrough of the exhibition.
Below are some images I took during install. Oz also shot a few and so did my mom. She managed to catch an image of someone using my bench and altar! I'm so glad she did. I was scared no one would catch that it was an interactive space. I'm pleased with the turn out and the connections people made during my talk. I also liked how the salt moved about during the duration of the show. I will post some nice images soon.
I'm back! Things have been very busy lately with our show coming up. We have 18 days left and I'm nervous getting a bit nervous about how it will all turn out. Not the bad kind of nervous but more of a excited/oh my god it's almost over nervous. I've settled on bases for my busts. I decided to make two tiered oval bases that are sleek and modern but sort of nod to classical bust bases. I'm looking at Janine Antoni and Kiki Smith a lot as the show is coming together. I'm also looking at a lot of info about altars and ofrendas. Especially Mesa Blanca's and Santeria altars. I'll be installing an altar with the flag I made and the rosary.
I'm making candles based on Templar candles out of plaster gauze. I've been painting on them so they're kind of cartoonish and childish. I decided to sort of defy traditionally Yoruba Santeria traditions and use images of women in my family that are both alive and passed on. Typically you are not supposed to use images of living people in a Mesa Blanca or in most Yoruba traditions but I think there is something significant about using them in this case. I wanted to mix references that I grew up around and are significant. I'll be installing them on the altar with the book I've been making.
I also have the plexi shelf done for the pastels and I'm planning on installing it with a salt semi-circle. Salt is a terribly important aspect of Dominican Haitian Afro-Latino culture. I went to a talk with Eldridge Danticat, a fantastic Haitian writer, and the timing of the talk with what I was thinking about with the pastels just seemed so right. In a lot of afro Caribbean cultures Salt is used to both ward off evil spirits and bring the dead back to life or consciousness. It's the only thing that can keep a person from being a zombie in Haitian culture and it's also placed in strategic lines in certain rituals in Puerto Rican religious practices. I wanted the pastels to look like an offering and I think adding that extra touch will hit the right tones with subtlety and sophistication.
And finally I have one more bust that I started and posted a bit about. MY MARY! I'm embroidering some Taino symbols and a Vulva on the back. Also just now while typing the word vulva, which is totally a word, my computer keeps autocorrecting it to Velva. DUMB. Below is a shot a took of the beading process. I had a wonderful series of opening this past weekend. Below is a shot of my wall. I'll post more about that next time. PEACE!!
This blog functions as a space for me to articulate what goes into making my artwork. As it goes, artists are supposedly notorious for being verbose and confusing writers that often come off as pretentious, pompous asses. That hopefully won't happen here. I intend to be as informal as possible. If you've made it this far I probably don't have to warn you that some of this might be NSFW because nudity is known to literally, and irreversibly, burn corneas.*