Born in Puerto Rico, Nayda Aurora Cuevas moved to the United States with her family at the age of 10, a point in her life, she writes on her website, that “evoked a new sense of self-exploration and need to establish connections with people.” Her figurative paintings — “a visual language to better articulate my observations and interpretations of my [email protected] American Experience” — invite viewers to do the same. Cuevas’ work has been shown throughout the East Coast; last fall, her #FluidIdentity exhibition at the Nobles & Greenough School drew attention when two of its paintings were removed by a school official. In this “Cornered” interview, Artscope managing editor Brian Goslow talked with Cuevas about the ways she approaches her artmaking and teaching from the viewpoint of “Puerto Rican,” “Latina,” “Mother” or “Immigrant,” her recent self-published book, returning to post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico, educating the next generation of artists and having faith in the future.
BRIAN GOSLOW: You’ve shared a lot of work in recent years as part of your #Latina: ReclamingTheLatinaTag and #FierceLatina series, both in gallery spaces and on Instagram. What is your goal in creating and exhibiting these paintings?
NAYDA AURORA CUEVAS: A determination to change how we understand the present. Specifically, creating awareness of otherness by drawing attention to the Latinx community in this country and Puerto Rico. (Editor’s note: Latinx is a genderneutral term sometimes used in lieu of Latino or Latina.)
BG: What process do you use in creating your paintings, both in choosing your subject and the materials that you use?
NAC: Painting the figure using oil has been a passion of mine since high school, a medium I continue to push and experiment with. For the past six years, I have been focused on finding my subjects on social media, as it has consumed our lives and it is the way we all currently are looking at images and each other. I have also explored other mediums such as screen print, ceramics and large-scale paper installations.
BG: Last fall, as part of an artist-in-residency stay at Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts, you had a 100-work solo exhibition at the school’s Foster Gallery called “#FluidIdentity” in which two of the works were removed from the show. Why were they taken down and what was your reaction to it?
NAC: The “simple” answer to the removal was that the middle finger was inappropriate for a school setting. I didn’t have to react, because upon the removal of the art, staff and student body were livid for me. Two weeks passed before the removal was addressed.