“I’ve painted about a 100 portraits from life and they are of people of all genders, ages and backgrounds.”

above image by Boris Torres
installation images are courtesy of Kates-Ferri Projects and Boris Torres. 

Where are you from and does your ethnicity play a role in your art practice?

I’m from a small city in Ecuador and moved to Brooklyn as a kid- since then i’ve tried to stay connected to my past and culture and in result have sometimes felt sorta not belonging here nor there- that cultural ambiguity does affect my work in different levels – sometimes in literal ways – for example I create colorful abstract collages inspired by the patterns and colors I remember from my home town in Ecuador- as a way to reclaim the past. Other times the inspiration is less conscious – for example my work oRen examines what it is to be different or an outsider or what is taboo.

During your Artist Residency at Kates-Ferri Projects you have on view portrait paintings. What are some of your techniques you use to put your subject as ease?

I like this question – Because the first thing I say to the model is – this is gonna be a very chill experience, we are just gonna hang out and talk- Then I break down the process- I will tell them how long the portrait will take approximately and I’ll say let’s pick a comfortable pose, and I’m gonna paint you in parts – so for example when I’m painting your hands we can talk and you can move your head and so on… I also tell them it is ok to close their eyes or take a nap if they need to, which many people do. I tend to start painting their hands because if we start making eye contact from the get go it will probably make us both a bit uncomfortable- so I ease into the eyes and face a bit later after I’ve started. It’s a very intimate experience.

During your residency you also are in a group exhibition at LKG titled Queery where you have on view oil paintings of same sex families. Can you tell us a little bit about this series and its conception?

I saw a family portrait a few years ago- painted by the 19th century Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla of his kids- it was beautiful and done with so much love- I thought – oh I should probably paint my kids like that – and then I thought, oh I’ve never seen a painting of a queer family, gay parents with kids. That is how the idea began. I started this ongoing project at the beginning of the pandemic- I asked my queer friends who have kids to send me their favorite family photos to work from and started from there.

What take away would you like the viewer, if any to feel from your family portraits?

My family originally consisted of my husband, our 10 year old boy/girl twins and their mother who lives next door to us. The three of us decided to have children together -as three primary parents from the beginning. And then last year their mom got married so now we are a total of 6. Our family is normal to us. People oRen remark that our family is “so unique,” in its structure. I find that reaction slightly alienating, and it speaks to the ways in which queer families are still seen as foreign or other. These paintings are a political statement as much as a statement of love, familiarity and commonality- which is what I hope for the viewer to take with. The paintings serve as a counter narrative to the historic and traditional place of family portraiture within the canon, they create contemporary alternatives that reflect both my own personal family experience as a queer person with children, and those of a larger community.

How do you pick your subjects to paint?

At times I’ve chosen my subjects from a more superficial gaze- asking hot guys to pose for me for example- But now I understand that that is not really what I’m interested in – my surrounding community is super diverse and I find that when my work reflects that it becomes more interesting. I’ve painted about a 100 portraits from life and they are of people of all genders, ages and backgrounds.

There is an experience of intimacy when creating someone’s portrait, in a world of social distancing, has any of that changed or grown stronger?

During the pandemic I could not paint anyone from life- I really missed that inmate time in my studio with someone- this past summer I finally began painting live portraits again- I think all that waiting made painting them again really joyful and perhaps bePer, I don’t know…It is an inmate experience- you are face to face with someone for a few hours talking and kinda just staring at each other with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It’s nice, it is a human experience many of us don’t oRen have.

Do you feel there should be more Queer and/or non-binary inclusiveness within museum collections?

Oh yes! as well as more queer people of different races and economic backgrounds. And just as importantly -within the people curating/running them which means that the ones who have been there a long time have to step aside and let someone else have a turn- which people are reluctant to do.

What can the art community do to ensure these stories get told and are included within the canon or art history?

I think until things improve – the art world has to keep count – for example galleries, museums and critics should feature a number of queer, different race, women artists more often than non queer, white, male artists- within however many shows they have or review a year… there is definitely a lot to choose from.

What would you tell your 13-year-old self?

I would tell myself that it’s all going to be ok and that there is nothing wrong with me- on the contrary that what I think is bad actually makes me a wonderful kid.

How do you know when a piece is complete?

I don’t think there is such a thing. I try to know when to stop- when I look at my work and there is nothing about it that is nagging me- telling me – come change this a bit or move that there- then I know it’s ready, it’s cooked.

How would you describe your work to someone that is visually impaired?

I spent time with someone who had lost his vision when he was a young person and we spoke about art and he described from memory his favorite painting- in detail, such as, there was this color up on this corner and this shape next to it, etc. I would do it in that way, with as many details as possible if I were to describe it to someone who had lost their vision. If I were to describe my work to someone who had never seen anything before- I would probably try to describe less the details that make up the painting but more the details of the feeling and purpose I want the artwork to communicate.

What are you working on in 2022?

I’m continuing the Queer family portraits and the portraits from life. I’m also excited to continue to make paintings from images that I find in unexpected places such as porn or old movies.