Interview by M.Tony Peralta (@peraltaproject)What block are you from?
Where are you originally from?
I was born here in Manhattan, at the Presbyterian Hospital on 168th street. At that time we lived in Mount Hope in the Bronx, but most of my mother’s folks lived in the heights. After that we moved to Sfco. de Macoris, Dominican Republic, a few years later back up to the Heights where we lived here and there on 160-181st streets. I usually just sum it up by saying I’m originally from the Heights.
What do you do for a living?
I am currently applying to graduate school, so much of my time is dedicated to painting and studying. Besides selling my work (paintings, prints, etc), I am a Teachers Assistant at SUNY Purchase College, where I received my BFA in painting. I’m also busy with internships, most recently with local Washington Heights painter Knox Martin, as well as with Dannielle Tegeder. I work part-time in the Media department at the United Nations International School in Manhattan. And two days a week I work as a nanny for two awesome kids.
How long have you been painting and when did you decide that you wanted to be an Artist?
I come from an artistic family, my father is a composer, my mother is a singer, and both my brothers are musicians — so art is our business. I like to say that I’ve been painting since I could remember, which is probably the first day I stuck my finger in a jar of paint and put it on a giant pad in Kindergarten. I really decided when I was about 13 and living in the Dominican Republic. It took me a while to get used to the place and make new friends when I moved there, so I mostly stayed home and painted. High school sealed the deal.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by the works of Matisse, Giotto di Bondone, Coco Fusco, Kara Walker, cartoons, philosophy… the list goes on. A lot inspires me, the everyday interactions, sayings, and common neighborhood activities… the shifting demographic of the city is a definite source of contemplation.
Has growing up in Washington Heights influenced your art in some way?
Well the work I make began with my everyday experiences as a second generation Dominican, living in the heights. I’ve created a set of symbols based on the issues surrounding my cultural identity. These symbols are used as abstracted narratives, observed and imagined, encompassing sayings passed down by my mother and people in my neighborhood, and the activities they engage in. The narratives are descriptive of my understanding, or lack of understanding, about my culture and the stereotypes that surround it. One of the crucial symbols of my work is hair, which I have observed to be an object of persistent concern among us Latino women, specifically those of African roots.
I feel it’s definitely budding. Places like the Northern Manhattan Art Alliance are a testament that it exists. The arts have always been in every nook of New York, and while it’s concentrated in a specific part of the city downtown for sure I feel there is a sense of obligation to bridge the gap. We need to make it so that there is an open dialogue between the different emerging art scenes in Manhattan. I have plans in the future to open an art gallery in the Heights. Hopefully others do as well, it’ll begin to make a major difference. We’re already seeing how new restaurants and cafe’s have changed the scene. The city is constantly shifting and it’s statistically accurate to say it will be very different in as little as two years from now. Last summer when I did my performance piece ‘Salon’ right on Nagle Avenue, it was received with respect and curiosity, from both the adults and especially the children. It’s time people from every area of the city, but particularly our own community, begin to have better access to our art and know what messages we’re trying to convey.
The sense of community and familial atmosphere. I feel at home with everyone I meet.
Any parting words or any upcoming project you would like to share with the readers?
Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid, Basil King said that… Hahaha you said parting words so… As of right now I’m working on some new performance art pieces. Local artists interested in collaborating, get in touch. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. I update upcoming projects on my website http://www.luciahierro.com
Check out previous Uptown Artist columns: