Q&A with Resident Artist Joiri Minaya
In Joiri Minaya’s work, there’s a sense that the tables have turned on the viewer.
“I don’t have to stand here and prove to anyone that I’m not the stereotype that they imagine,” says Minaya. Instead, she suggests the audience “confront their own part in this whole system that creates these projections, to begin with.”
That’s a heavy place to start, but it’s the vine that her creativity feeds from. At 27-years-old, the idea of explaining herself — her identity, her place of origin, even the mediums she’s using to create — is exhausting. Born in the Dominican Republic and currently living in New York, Minaya splits her time and her identity between the two — and reflecting on those stereotypes continues to inform her diverse array of work.
“People want to understand things in this clear, linear way but I feel like my experience isn’t that,” says Minaya. “I could cooperate, but I’m not interested in that. I’m very into hybridization and multiplicity and nuance and being multiple things at the same time and being fluid from one point to the next.”
That fluidity shows up in the interdisciplinary nature of Minaya’s work where stark juxtapositions of context are just a jumping off point for a bigger conversation. In her “Containers” series, women are outfitted with floral-print bodysuits and juxtaposed against a natural background.
In “Labadee,” a short video documentary puts the interior of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship launching from Haiti at odds with text from a diary of Christopher Columbus when he first saw land before blending with a recount of the modern day cruise.
At the root of both, there’s the idea of what access tourism means alongside the perpetuation of fantasy vacations and locations.
“It’s an amalgamation of everyone’s fantasies that has accumulated in popular culture in these prints, in these images and in these ideas of what this place is,” says Minaya. “Then the place becomes interchangeable because any tropical place could become the place I’m representing.”
You’ve talked about wanting your artwork to put the audience in a place of reflection, but when you look in the mirror as an artist, what sort of message are you trying to communicate?
I’m kind of against that, which is part of the whole interdisciplinary thing. It’s weird because growing up in a different place from the place where you are living your adult life is an interesting thing because people always link you to your place of origin and that becomes a nutshell — a little package — as opposed to being in the place where you come from where you are singled out in many different ways that are much more specific. Lately, I’m into reflections in different ways — reflecting back on those stereotypes I’m interested in or that I’m not interested in but that I have to deal with — so, by embodying the stereotype, it’s a way of mirroring that prediction. That’s something I’m exploring in my work a lot.
When someone sees this new body of work at Red Bull House of Art for the first time, what impression do you want them to walk away with?
I hope that they get to think of their own complicit role in this system that creates these fantasies and these ideas because usually, the work is making you aware of these things in a way that is uncomfortable or confrontational and makes you stop to meditate. I hope that meditation leads you to a place of self-reflection and change in how you perceive things around this.
When you create a piece of art and you’ve got this intention or impression you’re trying to make through it, is there a sense of relief that you’re able to communicate that way as an artist and individual?
It’s out of my mind! I don’t have to deal with it anymore and I can move on. It’s bittersweet because seeing a piece complete is such a sense of accomplishment, but then you are immediately faced with the frustration of your next idea. It’s like a drug. You fuel all your money into it. You will die and starve and not have insurance because you can’t afford it. You will live in the worse little place because you can’t afford anything — but you still want to make art. There is a sense of accomplishment and relief when you’re art is out there because the idea can speak for me now and I don’t have to constantly talk about this thing and I can talk about something else. I’m getting closer to something bigger or truer and that becomes your portfolio and then it’s like it never ends…
By Ryan Patrick Hooper.
The Resident Artist Exhibition opens Friday, April 6th, 7-10 pm.