ILYSM ZINE: No. 9
Interview by Jenna Elizabeth all artwork courtesy of Amarise Carreras
"I'm deeply interested in the play between the everyday- quotidian (to use the artist's word), the idea of ritual/tradition, and community/love. I'm also equally invested in the visibility of communities of color: sharing our stories through our own eyes, or lenses. The way Amarise describes their work is so apt- beautiful in composition, and evocative of living tradition. Secondarily- The artist is also an educator who has lost income due to cuts in a moment when we actually desperately need educators and arts educators. Those artists who work in gig or freelance modes have ended up in particularly precarious situations now. It is important to support those folx who really do the work and engage with our communities on a person-to-person level." -ILYSM4ARTISTS Judge, Jasmine Wahi
♡: Hi Amarise! Congratulations! We are so thrilled to learn a little more about you in relation to your tremendous body of work.
I'd like to hear more about your background growing up in Queens - as it relates to your medium of photo based performance art...
AC: Hi, thanks so much!! This has been exciting for me!
I was born and raised half my life in Flushing! My family moved their from the Bronx and we all lived on the same block...my Titi and cousins, abuelas and me and my family. My bisabuela and abuela still live on the same block we grew up on and have been there my whole life so when I am there there’s a huge connection to childhood and my upbringing as well as being the place that’s most attached to home for me since they have always been there
Their homes are the closest thing I have in regards to my culture and hearing about Puerto Rico which has turned into photographing and documenting as I learn from my elders there
♡:That intimacy and feeling of home translates quite vividly in your work.
For those familiarizing themselves with your medium, how would you best describe photo based performance art?
AC: It’s very important to me ❤️
It’s mostly been a means of documenting moments of reflection. There’s a lot that happens before the photos are taken and I get to choose which parts to share...whether that be the before and after math of an altar after a time of reflection or something that happened while having a deep conversation with my abuela. I like choosing what I share with photos it gives me space to have moments that are just for me but still share these moments of reflection
With others too *
♡: In your artist statement you mention how your work, "narrates a lost history that invites a displaced body [...] to enter" - can you expand on this theme further?
AC: This body of work has really been me having a lot of discoveries when it comes to my identity and sitting with my truths.
I think many people especially of black and native descendants and families who have migrated experience a lot of dysphoria and loneliness in our experiences.
The work is a place to process tough questions in the most gentle ways I have been able to find for myself...asking things like who am I? Where do I come from? Now that I know this what am I allowed to be? This body of work are very much expressions of my process and clarity.
♡: What does being able to "enter" mean to you now at this point in your career. I love that phrasing bc I find it applicable in multiple respects. But more specifically, as you've gained attention with your work and been able to speak to a larger platform about themes like immigration and sexuality - what has it been like navigating the art world?
AC: As far as the art world goes I would say it feels very new..at times overwhelming and I don’t always know where to start. I’m learning as I’m going most of the time and it can be isolating and discouraging at many points but I know I deserve to be apart of it. I think a lot of people do so I just keep navigating! I want my practice to change definitions of who and what gets to ‘enter’ by being present.
♡: Do you feel like more communities are emerging and breaking through in terms of support and recognition
AC: I do I think a lot of 1st,2nd,3rd generation artists are coming forward in ways that we haven’t before. I don’t know if it was expected but I know it’s happening and I’m excited for me and my friends.
I do think there’s a lot of work to be done and I think it’s just starting!
♡: Agree, and I think having a sense of ownership within these spaces is essential to progress unfolding
Are there any residencies or programs you would suggest to emerging artists, that were helpful to you?
AC: I’ve been able to share work through a lot of local publishers especially ones with bipoc/queer focused missions. Otherwise self organized and group organized things amongst yourself and artists around you in your community can be really powerful ways to share work
When applying to shows and grant opportunities I think it’s always important to look at who is curating and not be afraid to reach out to them epecially through things like Instagram. Really just always seeing what’s available and keep applying no matter the result!
♡: You studied photography and film at Virginia Commonwealth University, did you find their courses helpful in finding your voice as an artist?
AC: I did! The courses were challenging and my work wasn’t always understood by other students and many professors..even that gave me insight on why my work was valuable. I was thrown into it all and eventually caught on to things and gained my confidence!
♡: When did you start photography?
AC: I started in high school! My AP art teacher let me opt out of drawing exercises and use his camera instead!
♡: That’s great, have you stayed in touch as your career has advanced?
AC: Yes I have! I shoot Mr.Mann an email every once in awhile on what I’m up to. I’ll definitely let him know about this!
♡: Shout out to Mr. Mann
AC: Hahaha I love it!
♡: On your application you mentioned you were a teacher at nonprofit and public schools - what has life as an educator been like since COVID-19?
AC: It’s been challenging! I lost my position due to the shutdown and it’s been difficult not being able to be around students on a daily basis
♡: Are you still in contact with your students?
AC: Unfortunately I haven’t been! I teach elementary level so their contact is amongst technology is limited to none
♡: That’s really frustrating. I know how difficult it can be, my mom is a teacher and that barrier is really challenging
Is there a particular piece of advice you found helpful in getting students to trust their inner voice, and explore their feelings in art?
Or in general, that worked for you I’m learning to trust your confidence ?
AC: As you mentioned it’s mostly been about guiding kids to feel confident! A lot of my experience working with the demographic I do kids have a hard time seeing their environments and who they are in the world as valuable.
Photography and the arts has been such an amazing way for them to express their individual personalities and ideas
I advise them to not be afraid to just try it...why not take a picture of that thing you saw or of yourself 20 times? do it because you can!
♡: You mentioned that your great grandmother was a significant figure in your work? Can you tell us more about her and why she was of particular influence in your work, did she or your roots help instill this sense of confidence?
AC: When it comes to my family she’s the matriarch! She is 90 and still alive with a lot of stories and memories on how my family got here. Her spiritually is rooted in ancestral praise which has informed me so much on what we have survived and come from.
Her along with my abuela, mother and Tias have such a huge sense of pride. They know how much they have endured and are very self reliant. I think it comes from the experience of having to rely on their own will and the same goes for myself.
♡: What is your relationship to spirituality versus religious themes in your work?
AC: I’ve had a lot of different experiences with religion. I grew up with Christian parents who wouldn’t dare seek out knowing what older generations in my family practice. I think African and indigenous practices have such a long history of being seen negatively even by our own people! and it’s rooted in our experiences with colonization, it’s real.
My abuelas are very private about their practices. In my work and with my own spirituality I want to think of ways to bring our yoruban and Taino ancestors to the forefront. I’m learning how to do this with reverence..They want to be seen! They deserve to be!
Learning about her practices has allowed me to see validity in my queerness as well.
It’s all centered around the expression of seeing what came before me and seeing them within myself. My spirituality is centered in shape shifting and honoring the past with these shifts.
♡: Last question, what are three things you are loving that you would recommend to our readers at home now?
AC: Hmm sorry I am thinking of what to recommend!
I would recommend reading Autobiography of a Family Photo by Jacqueline Woodson (at your own pace). I like reading through old poetry written by nuyoricans..there’s this anthology edited by Roberto Santiago. Latoya Ruby Frazier’s photobook of the series The Notion of Family. Otherwise I have this pretty good cookbook “Puerto Rican cookery”
♡: It was lovely getting to know more about you and your process, where can people find more of your work and ways to support you?
AC: My website is amarisecarreras.com and my Instagram is @malta_india_
where I post some work!
I’m always open to selling prints!!
Amarise Carreras is a photo based performance artist from Queens, New York City. They received their BFA in Photography and Film from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018. They explore identity within their diasporic experience, through installation, performance and documentation. Amarise has shown in galleries such as Candela Gallery, Photocarrefour Gallery, and will be screening photographs internationally with Isla Collectivo throughout 2019-2020.