Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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thank you for joining me
PUERTA: Thank you for wanting to talk to me
RAMOS: your sculptures are phenomenal
tell about them
a fragmentation of flesh and mass
that invokes a lot of strange feelings about the body
PUERTA: oh gosh, so much to say about these beings.
My work is centered in disrupting the body and its landscape, (emotional or physical) and merging those boundaries into one mass. I do also in turn, take the body, and turn it into an element more infused with the landscape (wall decorations, feet on a rug, etc).
It is a dance in the excess, in blurring lines, and making flesh a material and material into a flesh.
It is sort of emotional vomit
RAMOS: i love that - on my own nerdy level, although totally identifying with the emotional aspect and how everything living can be part of an emotional tapestry - i also think about the atomic level and how everything is pretty much made with the same atoms
i also think of it from an activist perspective as in, everything is equal, plants, animals, humans...
what is your intention?
PUERTA: I am definitely democratizing the human body and everything else.
We live in a reality that puts so much value on human beings and disassociates itself from all other things. I reject that, we are just as important as a rooster and a telephone.
More than anything, this work is centered in the empowerment of the feminine "hysteria." I wanted to create a reality in which these feminine figures were able to express their feeling of being "pushed to their limits." As is the case I believe with so many women who have to play this balancing act in order to not come off as "Crazy" when they want to be wild and free and explore the depths of their oppressive history and it's implications still today.
I call this all a self portrait because it has elements of my personal cultural and familial history all subtlety tied into it but it is really a world of a visceral discomfort and yet a celebration of sorts that I hope resonates with people.
RAMOS: let me catch up with you here
PUERTA: sorry, so much to say!
RAMOS: this is wonderful, i just want to make sure we discuss all of it... so there is this concept of democratizing the body or the massing of all things - there is also this concept of the rights to be hysterical - and in a way they are related but in other ways they are inverse
let me explain
so by democratizing masses on an atomic level I am assuming you intend for everything to have a right and a voice
now the hysteria can be both the right of one of those voices, in this case of the woman, but also it sets the woman apart from all the other atoms you'd like to combine as one - does that make sense?
PUERTA: Yes, for me, this is all about "her condition." Or rather, I began to think of the hysterical woman and asked myself, "what would the rug that she would stand on look like? What would the typewriter she would use be?" And it became about creating a world that is both of her and for her.
I also want to clarify that I don't believe in the hysterical woman in real life. This is about reclaiming that ridiculous notion and taking it to its more excessive points in order to revel in it and say fuck you to the male gaze.
RAMOS: ok ok - so i had some of this wrong - and you are glorifying the hysterical woman (which i believe is a real thing) by creating a world for her, a world of sorts in which she is accepted
am i closer?
just want to make sure we are on the same page
PUERTA: well a world that is made of her, literally. And a world that she makes, literally. And a world that makes her.
so the world does not accept her per say, she is in some ways isolated in her own world of hysteria and has made a whole landscape and mis-matching of cultural and emotional expressions of it.
In this world, there is no alternative, just a constant reshaping of the body and reveling in the chaos of a new world in which you can go "crazy" and can feel empowered by all the weird ugly biological happenings of being feminine.
RAMOS: ok let me catch up again - this is really powerful
now there are forces in society that tells women to be more like men in order to be successful ... that is to be less crazy or hysterical, because it makes you more reliable or consistent or predictable
now this i believe is very unfortunate
because there is a lot of power and wisdom in hysteria and our landscape should adapt and make room for the value within what men and women bring to the table
it has been difficult, in history, for this landscape to be created or for it to create itself, but i believe it is becoming increasingly possible - slowly for sure, perhaps too fucking slow
PUERTA: I feel like we are just now starting to have the space that allows women to be themselves and that was something that was not given to them but something that has been actively carved out by generations of rebellious women being unapologetically themselves. I actually think that the Internet has given woman a platform to "take matters into their own hands" and create networks of solidarity. We no longer have to wait for the patriarchy to tell us what to do next because we now can see each other and talk about our bodies in a safe space and be constantly amazed/outraged by how common our oppression has been and continues to be.
RAMOS: yes - but let me say this and offer another angle
men too have been oppressed in a way
and it is a way that is not obvious
men have this overwhelming pressure to be manly
and that is very limiting as we naturally have a bit of both qualities
PUERTA: thanks for bringing that up! I was just typing this (which I think addresses what you said):
and just to take the cis-sex thing out of the equation, i believe it is a more feminine time than ever before. Which is not to say that there is not SO much work to be done but rather that people are questioning the toxicity of masculinity (some elements are wonderful but the whole power hungry thing is a problem...) and anyone from any gender orientation (or not) is starting to get the space to embrace being more feminine
which I find to be such a deep well of emotions and expressions that we are still discovering and getting the room to explore
some of which are by perhaps a patriarchal standpoint, "grotesque" and where my work really lives.
RAMOS: yes so it is less, at least for me, about femininity or masculinity
it is about an emotional and spiritual awakening
and if this happened it is more likely that men would be more supportive of an equal landscape
PUERTA: Yeah and I really hate throwing men under the bus. I love men and really have had so much support from men. So I really want to say patriarchy which is perpetuated by everyone all the time.
I do think that men have to keep other men accountable for that power balance but I'm more hopeful that that is happening
RAMOS: let me offer some statistics i recently heard by feminist activist Minna Salami
out of all the heart attacks, 2/3 happen to men
and out of all cases of depression, 2/3 happen to women
that alone expresses an unjust pressure on men and an unjust lack of inclusion of women
if both would be equally valued and considered, those statistics would be more balanced
so i believe this gender inequality (to generalize the term) is a problem for both men and women
PUERTA: I agree but I also see and have experience the weird backlash from being an ambitious woman from men who think that I get opportunities due to being a minority woman. Perhaps it is just an expression of their own insecurities and of course, that is probably what is happening, a more deep down issue that is expressing itself in shitty ways but I think I need to hold my ground and women in general need to hold their ground right now and keep pushing along even if the other side might not be ready or capable of dealing with a shift.
its that tricky situation of not having the energy nor interest in educating the other side on the shitty things their group has historically done and what they do unconsciously that puts other people down while also sympathizing for the fact that we were all born in a world that was already set into motion with oppressive systems in place.
But as you say, it is a painfully slow process and I actually feel mostly uplifted by most people in my generation and younger generations, at least in the U.S. South America still has a long way to go.
RAMOS: look - i think you are right in the way you feel - i just want to express that for me is not about going against the existing system
in the words of Buckminster Fuller:
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"
and that is what your work is about for me - it is celebrating the hysterical, the emotional nature of women, as an asset and not a liability
and if we continue to do this - there is no doubt that a new system will be born
one in which our strengths are generative of all things that the world needs and has to offer
PUERTA: Yeah I struggle with the political implications of my work and even of this conversation. I think it is really tricky to make work about being feminine and looking into hysteria and cultural clash without keeping politics out of it. I do ultimately want this work to resonate with anyone who feels or has ever felt strange in their body and in the world and maybe like this world isn't for them or they aren't for it.
so it is inherently pinning my world up against this world and my systems in my artwork up against systems in this world but I wonder if there is a way to have a departure that is centered in the feminine without it being about being against the masculine or specifically being against men and their experience. Maybe those things are intertwined and I have to look at that and address it. I am still trying to figure it out.