Felicidades! It's been a while!
I just picked up Piri Thomas' Savior, Savior Hold my Hand and Julia Alvarez's collection of essays Something to Declare. My god they are fantastic writers. There's something really raw about both of them though their writing style couldn't be more different. I've also been attending several artists talks. The Lancaster Library recently received funding for PBS's Latino Americans series. There's a series of talks and screenings happening until next Spring and I'm so excited to attend as many as I can. Patricia Johanson came to Millersville for the Conrad Nelson lecture series. Her work is unrelated to my more identity based work, but she's very smart and works between education and fine art. I feel like much of what I'm doing is the same. It reminded me of how excited I was about the cross-section between education and art when I saw Latoya Ruby Frazier at the SPE conference. Both women are well-versed in their area of expertise and take time to really educate their audience beyond the work they produce. It was reassuring to know that I, too, can delve further into the references I'm interested in and take the opportunity to educate my audience as well. I always worry that I'm too much in my own head with the things I want to address.
Moving on, I decided I want to make 12 busts. 12 because I like making 12 of things. Because there are 12 months in a year, the 12 disciples, 12 people in a jury etc. etc. 12 just feels weighty and important and it's the only even number besides 16 that I've gravitated toward. 12 is also the age I was when I really felt 'different' than my peers. I moved to Lancaster in September 2001 from the Bronx. I had transferred to a 5th grade class in Lancaster City and was faced with a very different culture. In New York I felt like race didn't really matter. We celebrated everyone and there were so many different cultures in the area we lived in. We were also so so young. After 9/11, I think everyone became more race conscious. My uncle is has a more ruddy skin tone than his siblings. He worked at a Starbucks near the World Trade Center and had to volunteer handing out coffee and pastries to those that were cleaning what was left of the towers after the attack. I remember him calling several times angry that people would see his skin, assume he was muslim and spit, literally spit, at him and tell him to go back to his country. This was my first real encounter with race and understanding that I'm white-passing. Moving to Lancaster, I didn't 'sound' like my latina counterparts because I had a "New York accent" and most of the latinxs in my grade were bilingual. It was the first time I felt like my voice, my skin, and being from a different city set me further apart from them. We were also attending a baptist church with a primarily african-american congregation. Conversations about my hair, how I talked, how I dressed, and how "I wasn't one of the loud ones" were a daily occurrence. I can't say that I've experienced racism in all of it's ugly forms, but boy do I know micro-aggressions. So, for me, 12 feels like the age I lost a sort of naive sense of who I was and gained a more complex understanding of my culture.
Here is how many pieces I have so far!
Last post I mentioned a little bit about Atabeira (or Atabey). Today I want to explain a little bit more about her significance and a little about what I've learned about Taino myth and culture. Atabeira has many names. this is significant because Taino Indigenous peoples are a group that were prevalent across several islands. Today it is agreed (for the most part) that the Taino's migrated from Venezuela (or in other opinions some part of the very northern border of Latin America). They moved to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica and the surrounding islands that are now part of these countries. They are a subgroup of the Arawak Indigenous peoples and are sometimes referred to as the Indigenous inhabitants of the Greater Antilles just to cover all ground. The commonalities of these groups despite migration to a wide range of islands lies in their pottery, similar petroglyphs referencing gods and goddesses and documents written by early Spanish colonists. The problem with really identifying these people lies in the fact that in the early 16th century, colonialism began to unravel the Taino fabric fairly quickly leaving behind only traces of their culture often misconstrued by the Spanish settlers. Today, anthropologists, ethnographers, archaeologists and many others are taking these documents often fraught with mistakes to task. For a very long time the general consensus was that the Spanish killed off or "integrated" through forced marriage the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. There is proof, however, that some of the Taino may have lived far longer than previously assumed when they were simply forced to live in hiding. Many early documents regarding Taino myth were written from a perspective that belittle they're worship of Cemi's. Spanish colonists believed that the Taino were child-like and savage, completely dismissing the significance of they're practices. Today, however, we have the sophistication to this significance and understand that perhaps all along the Taino were much more aware of their surroundings than the Spanish.
I will try to be brief here. I'm on a bit of a time crunch this evening but I had a really great two days with the residency. I'm also going to be taking courses through Drexel (online mostly) for a Masters in Arts Administration. I'm feeling the pressure but it's resulting in an intense drive to be more organized and deliberately use my time wisely. Yesterday I met the advanced class. They're a great group of students who range from those that have only taken Sculpture 1 to those that have taken every class MVU has to offer in the arts. They're obviously passionate and rearing to get to work. We'll be welding on Tuesday and talking about the figure tomorrow evening. The Sculpture 1 class is still working on building a vocabulary so it's a bit slow moving to get to know them and see what they're really capable of. Today I sat in on a mini super casual crit with Sculpture 1 and began reading the material I've collected. Below is an image of some of the books I'm working through to help inform my work.
Greetings! I've decided that I should begin a more formal documentation of what I'm working on due to the fact that I will be embarking on several exciting ventures in the next few weeks. I also am hoping to better verbalize what I do for a living and share my experiences with my friends, family and colleagues.
Today marks the very first day of my term as an Emerging Artist in Residence with Millersville University. I need to digress a little before I proceed to explain what, exactly, this residency entails:
After graduating from Franklin and Marshall in 2013 I took two years to think seriously about what my next step will be. The majority of work on this site is either from my senior thesis or from these years outside of academia. My thesis, comprised of both sculpture and drawing, explores various themes branching out of feminism and the body. I chose to work from and create "deviant" bodies in order to better appreciate the body I inhabit as well as promote a more varied, diverse and non-villifying series of figurative sculpture. In the end I was satisfied with the work but disappointed in how little I was able to research and articulate my discoveries. Granted I was completing a double major at the time and probably had no time left (or energy!) to really dive into these vast topics.
In the two years since graduating I've worked at local museums and at my alma mater (as a photography tech (also I'm still working here! Huzzah!)), I've interned at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and worked at proving to myself that I can create outside of academia. In this time I've learned to play. Playing has become such a big part of my studio practice now and if there is only one thing I've learned in these gap years it has to be that playing is imperative. I'm a very anxious, driven and ambitious person. Somewhat oxymoronic in the sense that I tend to panic if I don't have enough work on my hands but also panic if I have to much. Coming out of college I thought that pushing myself to my utmost limit was what I was supposed to do. I thought that I would continue to thrive in the panic. I would create best in the panic. But I'm not a pleasant person in the panic. Also the panicking, hasty decisions quickly devolve from 'amazing feats of genius' to 'why the hell did I do that'.
So fast forward to year two. After having four jobs and trying to re-gain my bearings in my family life (I live with my parents. It's both a blessing and sometimes a curse) I realized that this is an unhealthy way to live. I also realized that I was getting very caught up in trying to make something perfect that I forgot why I liked art so much. I became a machine trying to pump out assignments and check off a laundry list of "concepts" though there really was no point or necessity to do so. I quit my jobs at the museums I worked at (long, arduous, personal story I may delve into later...or never) and focused on playing more. l decided to play with ideas I've had in exploring identity politics. I dove into researching topics regarding my Latinx and Hispanic background I've had an enormous interest in but could never find the time to devote. Through this recess of sorts, I started to really turn my focus away from trying to make 'intriguing,' pretentious work and began to focus on myself. I started to use the old mantra from my creative writing classes: "Write what you know."
And here we are today. I was accepted as an Emerging Artist in Residence at Millersville University late Spring/early Summer of this year and have begun serving as such today. This summer was fruitful. My newest series "Lazos de Sangre" is a real deviance from what I had been working on. It's more bold and really confronts personal issues I've had with my identity as a young Latinx female identifying person in the United States. It feels big and scary but in all the right ways. I am the sculpture EAR at MVU so a lot of the 2D work produced this summer will inform and perhaps show up in the sculptures I'm hoping to produce during my term. I actually had a really great conversation with my mentor (Line Bruntse) about my project that was very encouraging. It's really nice to have a serious conversation about the series since I've had the pleasure of exhibiting pieces from it three times now and all with very positive results but no real critical conversations. Exhibitions rarely produce honest constructive feedback. All too often people will either be overly nice because they are respecting your 'spotlight' or too harsh (probably bitterness because of said spotlight).
As far as the nitty-gritty aspect of the residency, I will be volunteering 10 hours per week outside of my personal 'making' time. I am expected to assist in cleaning the studios, maintaining a safe working environment and facilitating critiques with both beginning sculpture and advanced sculpture classes. There are two of us sculpture EARS working with Line this year and we share a studio space within the arts commons. The studio functions as a meeting place, creation station and haven for the two of us to escape to. For the sake of clarity, we don't live in the studios, we just work on our art there. We also have access to any of the other facilities we might need both in the art building and on MVU's campus at large. I also get the opportunity to learn any skills that I might want to use in my work alongside MVU students. At the end of the year I will participate in an exhibition with the other Artists in Residence (those in painting, printmaking etc.) where we will have the opportunity to discuss our experience and our work with the public.
And so concludes my introductory post. I will be updating weekly (or more...or less) on what I'm up to during this residency and posting photos of what I'm working on.
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.*