Community | 25 Jun, 2021

Navigating Queerness as an Artist

by Pildoranow

At Pildora, we value sustainability, inclusivity and community more than anything. That’s why we are so excited to introduce our very first guest writer – Monica Albornoz on Navigating Queerness as a Creative.

Is it wrong to not make art about what makes us foreign? I wondered this when I was pursuing a studio art degree at NYU. I had grown up in Colombia, and some of my peers were making compelling work about their experiences as Black folk, or gay folk, or Mexican folk, or whatever manner that defined their identity. I thought about it for a bit. Should I make work about my experiences as a non-American? Nope. A quick scan of my soul told me that—although I love my country and am proud to be Colombian—there wasn’t anything I really wanted to say or was itching to explore about Colombia or my experience as a Latina in America. The art I was making at the time always came from the purest, deepest, and in my case, country-less expression of myself. I am Colombian, yes, but what I truly am is a person who will dance to any type of music (thank you, Salsa dance), someone who can’t live without fruits (your fault, mangoes), and a family-above-all kind of person (thank you fam). I have grown to think of my identity as a broadly-applicable, verb-oriented and noun-poor set of descriptors. 

When it comes to my bisexuality, it’s a similar story. There was a time around 2016 when I would see lots of calls-for-submissions encouraging the participation of queer artists. I’d get excited—Ah they want me! But then I would read on and find out that the work they were looking for was also supposed to be about queerness or experiences of oppression. I’d feel disappointed and confused. A part of me felt like the world wanted to give me a leg up, but the other felt that I was being put inside a box. The strong and relentless push for the conversation on queerness about five years ago served many queer artists deserving of a platform and career advancement, but in my case, it did not serve me as intended, at least immediately. 

Five years later, I think the wave of support for queer folk has not so much subsided as much as it has become normalized by the movements in support of other minorities like Black folk and more specific queer identities like transgender and non-binary. The hugely increased representations of queer, Black and Asian people in the arts and entertainment world, as well as the movements demanding their rights have been (to me) unmistakably responsible for a renewed understanding of the other: people are more than labels, they are mysterious, layered, and ultimately unique beings. 

If 2020 left us anything good other than a Biden win, I think it may be to have us on track to become better at learning to un-label people we know, and to offer a truly blank slate to people we’re meeting for the first time. That blank slate, a break from the assumptions we’d been making for decades, is what will give queer folks like me the confidence that if we are successful, it is not because someone was motivated by guilt or that we benefited from our tokenization.

As members come and go from the community studio where I make my ceramic work, I have a feeling that there are not many assumptions in the air. I wonder who these artists are, and know that their physical appearance doesn’t mean much. A skin tone, an accent, a rainbow. The possibilities are endless. Acknowledging the fact that each person is their own narrator gives me the freedom and confidence to be my own, too: to call myself a verb-oriented kind of woman—including one that’s attracted to both genders—proudly, and exactly my way.

Monica Albornoz is an artist and designer living in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys working on commissions for artful functional pieces driven by conceptual thinking. She is currently working on creating her first boutique line of soap dishes, which marry high functionality and aesthetics. Follow her work on Instagram

Written by: Monica Albornoz

Monica is currently developing this functional ceramic soap dish design.
Wheel-thrown soy sauce dishes by Monica.
A recent commission for an abstract, ocean-inspired wall piece for a collector in Texas.
A recent commission for an illustrated tray based on a photograph.