WE MADE OUT OF NEED, NOT OUT OF WANTING—BUT IT’S STILL BETTER THAN YOURS

an interview with noél puéllo by Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz

ISSUE TEN | SPRING 2018

I met noél when we were both going to school in Boston a few years ago. She contacted me to be a model for a fashion project she was doing where she was creating clothes from conversations she had with her models. Being a short and curvyish woman of color, it wasn’t common for anyone to contact me to model for them. Seeing the different bodies of folks that noél was working with really opened my eyes to how much is lacking in mainstream fashion. I’ve been so inspired by noél’s activism within and outside of institutions; from being a part of and leading the Artist of Color Union at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, to calling out non-profits that exploit the narratives and lives of youth of color, to just being a bomb ass gorgeous woman living life, and spreading her love and joy.

—Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz, Co-Visual Art Editor, Nat. Brut

noél puello. 2018

noél puello. 2018

Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz: Let’s start with the basics. Who is noél puéllo at this moment in time and how did she get there?

 

noél puéllo: Right now she's an overworked and underpaid grad student!!! When I graduated from undergrad at MassArt I realized that I didn't give my all to my practice. I was more invested in making the space something that would sustain Black and brown people. So while I was working full time, I was also doing my activist work and trying to maintain a social life. I was clearly just barely surviving. Once I left, I was so burnt out that I couldn't really plan for anything. I didn't apply anywhere, I just couldn't. Which lead me to City Year, which is an actual fucking joke. You are extremely overworked and underpaid, then expected to provide emotional, social, and academic support to young Black and brown students who already have so much going on in their life. So you're a stranger that comes in and tells them “We will help you fix your problem.” I have a lot of strong emotions about this program. But, it made me realize that I really need to figure out my next step and have it actually be beneficial. I applied to grad school and a couple of other residency programs. Tyler responded first and gave me a full ride. It's still the same narrative of undergrad where there are only two Black people in the department, critiques are sometimes more like a teaching session, and there is very little support for Black and brown students. But I told myself that I was just gonna focus on my practice and build relationships because I just can't burn myself out again. I’ll become more involved in my community after graduation. I think we all deserve self-care time, no?   

XIU: Yes, we definitely all deserve self care time. Let’s talk some more about emotional labor and what it means to be a support system when working with youth. You come from having been in a youth program as a teen; how did that impact you and how did you see that playing out as someone working in a space like that (through City Year and MassArt)?

np: As an individual who went through many youth spaces, my experience helped develop the narrative that I wanted to present to my bubble guppies (that's what I called my kids). I remember constantly having these relationships with adults who I knew nothing about. There was a constant want and need for myself to be vulnerable and to break down all the walls I’d built up…but there wasn't a reciprocation of that. Or it would take months of intense hassling for these individuals to open up to me. Like filling out FAFSA is such an intimate process. I have to tell you (and the government) why I'm not able to pay for college on my own. I had to build a narrative of my poverty and the injustices I dealt with on a daily basis that was presentable for white eyes to digest, reflect on, and decide whether my work or college application was something to care for or worth someone to take a risk on. How can you expect this not to fuck with the mind of a young person? Most spaces are more invested in your temporary happiness. I was a part of this nonprofit called New Urban Arts and it provided me with so much joy. I don't ever remember going to that space and not being able to laugh, receive a great hug, and release my sorrows through pure raw art making. The people who I met there are individuals that I will keep deeply close to my heart. At the point of transitioning to another space, college, that wasn't New Urban Arts, I had to come to the realization that I was Afro-Latinx and Poor. That Microaggressions, Systematic Racism, Classism, Fatphobia, and Transbodies being killed all existed in the real world. These things all existed in my world. I thought that I could make art and have a side hustle just like my mentor. Why couldn't I do the same? Which is when I realized that my mentors were mostly white, cis, able-bodied, and straight individuals who, if they did tumble or couldn’t pay rent one month, could ask their families to help them out. My last year there I was so angry and depressed, like, “How could the people who have stated that they love me not tell me about the real world?” How could you work with Black and brown low-income students and not figure out how to have critical conversations? I felt so betrayed by these people. But, I also realized that these people just did not have the immediate tools to even dive into this conversation.

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad, Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad, Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017

Which is where my role at Artward Bound (MassArt) and City Year Providence became one that I truly had to reform, because each space had their own guidelines and goals. I vowed to always be 100% honest about every single aspect of my life. Now, this doesn't work for everyone because of personal boundaries, but I needed that to be my role. My youth deserved my honesty, but mostly deserved all the love that they were not getting from their homes or schools. They knew about the work I did and how much I was getting paid. I was always honest about my pronouns, my sexuality, all the mistakes I constantly made, and finally the temporariness of my position. That last note is actually the most important one! This temporary happiness, care, love, and constant attention is exactly that—TEMPORARY! At least for City Year and other youth-oriented Americorp programs. Because of that, I made sure that my kids always had the tools to exist without me and if there was some information that I couldn't provide for them, I would teach them how to look it up on their own. I won't lie, all of this work and love I had for my students did put a vast amount of stress and pressure on me and it drained me to the max.  Especially because there were students who needed you even after you left, even with every single tool I gave them to sustain themselves. Which I'm still struggling with now sometimes, because I am too much of a caretaker and I like the relationships I've built with these young people. This lead me to make the decision to not work with students in high school and under anymore. I know my limit and how much I can stretch myself. The students who I keep in contact with will be my priority until they no longer need me as a mentor and will just have me as a friend. Imma leave this question with a request. Please, if you are going to work with youth, especially Black and brown youth, please do it because you actually care about their well-being. Don't do it because it looks good on your resume or is just something to fill the time. These individuals are extremely valuable and deserve the world.

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad (detail), Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017
HOW COULD YOU WORK WITH BLACK AND BROWN LOW-INCOME STUDENTS AND NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS? I FELT SO BETRAYED BY THESE PEOPLE.

XIU: Thank you so much for sharing, and I totally agree with you—as someone who works with Black and brown queer youth on the daily, the temporariness is always the most difficult to deal with. And I appreciate your transparency about that aspect of your life. In terms of your art, what drew you to work with fabric and textiles as your main medium?


np: When I was younger, I used to see my aunt dress up to go out all of the time. She would have such beautiful dresses, fancy jewelry, makeup perfectly placed, and tons of shoes. I would always get asked my opinion on how she looked, or which shoes I thought she should wear, which sparked my interest in taking fashion and art seriously. Also, seeing my mother make her own curtains, mops, tablecloths, etc. Fabric, and curating a certain aesthetic, has always been a part of my narrative growing up. Which made me really want to be a fashion designer, but when I went into fashion the conversation was so lackluster. One night while I was walking home I saw this building with tons of fabric covering it so that the rain wouldn't get in the way of the construction site. The soft movement of fabric when the wind blew through it and how the colors shined through because of the site or sunset…it just made me so emotional. I knew from then on that I wanted whatever that feeling was to translate into my work. Plus I like figuring out the language that fabric allows me to use.

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad (detail), Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017

XIU: You reuse and recycle a lot of materials in your work. Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas is made of various objects, including your own hair and your father’s prison uniform, which are underlined by the use of Juan Gabriel’s lyrics in the title. What kind of power do these objects and lines hold for you? What kind of effect has bringing these materials together had on you?

np: I like cloth with the history of someone living in it; the smell, the worn texture, the fragility and durability of it. Also, my father spent 22 years incarcerated, so his clothing held him more than anyone else, which again holds so much weight for me. As for the lyrics, I've never been good with words. Even typing these ones now, I'm constantly rereading them because I'm so self-conscious. But when making work, the words always come to me first. It could be in a song, book, some conversation I’m having with someone, or a movie. Like Juan Gabriel knew exactly how I was feeling and he knew that if he sang this I would cry while listening to him. The song starts off with:

Hoy me he despertado

Con mucha tristeza

Sabiendo que mañana

Ya te vas de mí

Te juro mi vida

Que pensando en lo nuestro

Me pasé la noche

Casi sin dormir

 I LIKE CLOTH WITH THE HISTORY OF SOMEONE LIVING IN IT. THE SMELL, THE WORN TEXTURE, THE FRAGILITY AND DURABILITY OF IT. 

My father was being deported around the time I started making this piece. Real talk. How are you gonna release my father after 22 years of imprisonment, telling him he would be able to stay and live a life in the States and then after a month of being released… say JK, “You are being deported.”? He was released on my birthday, too! There was so much false hope that things were finally looking up. My heart was torn apart and then Juan Gabriel comes on (my dad's name is Juan, too, by the way) and I couldn't. I'm poor and sustain my family. I couldn't afford a passport or a ticket. It was so last minute that my grandmother was the only one who has been able to go and spend time with him. I know Juan was probably singing about his lover leaving him, but it just translated into something much deeper for me.  

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad (detail), Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017

"Juan: Ya Lo Sé Que Tú Te Vas" Un bolero de soledad (detail), Cafe Bustelo can, coffee, artist's hair, father's prison uniform, ribbon, fabric, and stools. 6.3' x  2.5'. 2017

Bringing them together hopefully brings the understanding of how much pain that I was and still am in. But, the work also has aspects to it that relate nothing to the music, but to the relationships we have. It's been really important to me to figure out how to get my audience interested in my work, but also to be interested enough to do some of the work of figuring it out on their own.

XIU: Yes, Juan Gabriel’s words are so powerful and can speak to so many experiences. Lyrics have that ability, too, as well as titles. The way you title your works gives your audience more insight into your experiences at the time. Hearing that much of your work begins with words, I’d love to learn more about your process. How do you go from the word to the materials?

"Como la Vecina" We made out of need not out of wanting. But its still better than yours, recycled clothing, mop handle, Sazon, sofrito, adobo, and water. 9' x 3'. 2017

"Como la Vecina" We made out of need not out of wanting. But its still better than yours, recycled clothing, mop handle, Sazon, sofrito, adobo, and water. 9' x 3'. 2017

np: This phenomenon called my process is something that is still confusing, even to me. Like how do I get to words from materials?! I guess at the same time that words are in my head, an image of something that could fit those words appears so vividly in my head, too. You know how when someone is talking about the sky on a nice day… you visualize a light blue space, beaming yellow and white light, and white clouds in various abstract shapes? That’s what happens to me with the text and emotions that I translate into my art pieces. My work is also about trial and error and happy accidents are always bound to happen. I don't like rules and having a free-form way of making allows for the practice to be individualistic and hopefully not replicated. For example, when weaving, there is already a preplaced structure. This yarn goes in these holes to bring a row up and these other sets of yarn go in these holes so they stay down. It is so that there is a space for the yarn that builds the fabric to get easily distributed. Now, when I'm weaving, none of that matters to me. The actual craft of Fiber is not what drew me to the program or is what made it my practice of choice. It was the conversation that would happen when someone understood that I didn't do things perfectly, that the work would eventually fall apart, even though I was presenting things in a manner that gave the perception that they were perfectly made and super thought out. Yes, most of it was thought out, but the part I love the most about my practice is that the work lives on its own and puts its two cents into the mix, too. A practice of mistakes and fuck ups. Since that wasn't a perfect answer (in my mind), I'm open for anyone to come and see my practice firsthand. I'm always willing to explain what the words mean to me and how the visual aspect of it formulated in my mind. How I made what I thought I wanted and then had to tear it down to rebuild what I actually needed.

XIU: We’ve spoken before about how we feel many Black, brown, and immigrant families (especially those that are working class) can relate to having to create from what we have out of necessity. I feel that your artwork is also about making labor visible, not just that of your family, but also your own. In Como La Vecina, you touch on the meaning of reusing and recycling materials from your own home. As you said, “It’s still better than yours.” Tell me more about this.

np: Yeah! While growing up, I didn't really understand our poverty. Like basic things that other people had, we either had to struggle to get or we just didn't have. I remember one time I was made fun of in undergrad for not using a washcloth while growing up. I can still hear the laughter of my former friends, dying because they thought that it was so gross and beyond them. Like, my mother works so fucking hard. She had left an extremely abusive relationship while I was growing up. She always worked, cooked every single day, and still participated in all of our school events. We struggled to get soap sometimes, so a washcloth was the least of our concerns (also my mother had five children and a community that she was always there for). But, for that piece in particular, when I was in high school I would always beg my mother for my friends to come over. She normally said no, but this one Wednesday she was just so tired of me asking that she gave up and said yes. You know, as long as I cleaned the whole house and they ate the food she cooked (all of it and asked for more; my mother is a great cook so she likes the compliments). I did all of the cleaning and invited them over. The reaction on their faces to my home was sorta priceless. I think they were so surprised that poor people could have such a nice and clean space. You know, I always went to school clean but never with anything nice like Jordans or Ed Hardy (they were popular at the time) or True Religion jeans. I also didn't have a phone or any form of technology. Even when talking about holidays where you got gifts…. I never said anything because we just normally got things we needed (maybe a DVD if it was on sale). I guess they expected the space to look sparse, but again, my mother would never let that happen. She was always looking for things on the street to fix up and bring home. Or she would use fabric we didn't use anymore to make whatever she wanted, either to have a sense of change or out of necessity. She would make our mops out of clothing that became too stained for us to use or from things that just didn't fit anymore.

"Beatriz" She drowned and no one saved her, recycled clothing, ribbon, hair, and stools. 7' x 3'. 2017

"Beatriz" She drowned and no one saved her, recycled clothing, ribbon, hair, and stools. 7' x 3'. 2017

One of the friends that came over fell in love with one of the mops and even asked if she could have one, which is where that piece comes from. You know, even as a poor Afro-Latinx family, we still knew how to make something beautiful out the nothing we had. The piece is sorta reflecting on the projected glamorization of poverty; how our mop could easily become something that Urban Outfitters would sell, or some coffee shop would put on their wall. The piece also has to be watered constantly in the Fabuloso and Sazon mixture I made. It’s meant to call out establishments that glamorize our poverty but also to reflect that my mother probably just wanted a real fancy mop but instead made something even better.

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

THIS BECAME MY MOTHER, THIS BECAME HER TRUTH, AND THIS IS WHAT WHITENESS HAD DONE TO HER. . . AND I NEED PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT THIS IS THE AMERICAN DREAM MY MOTHER HAD TO LIVE FOR OUR SURVIVAL. 
"washed cloth" little girls forced to become grown men, recycled bed sheets, embroidery, plastic, wood, and staples. 6'.3' x 2'. 2018

"washed cloth" little girls forced to become grown men, recycled bed sheets, embroidery, plastic, wood, and staples. 6'.3' x 2'. 2018

XIU: That is so so real, the glamorization of poverty is so pervasive right now. How do you see this playing out in the art world and in art institutions?

np: The artist that comes to mind is Santiago Sierra. He’s an individual that hires people who are extremely desperate for money, illegally employed, or unemployed. He has them perform a meaningless task (or does something to their bodies) for the same amount of money they would be making at the job that they are already being exploited at. Then he brings these people into the gallery space for these individuals who go to galleries to see the spectacle. He gives the narrative that he's not trying to improve the lives of these people, but that he's wanting to bring awareness to the larger public that these injustices are happening. Like dafuq?! Why?! Why exploit  poor Black and brown people even more? You could have paid them a real amount of money. You can’t demonstrate that fucked up shit is happening in the world by using the actual people who are affected by it. Especially since he’s in the position of a white male artist who is profiting extremely high numbers off of the documentation of this work. This is just one example. There are so many others in pop culture that then leads to the same representation in art spaces. Like Kim Kardashian doing a photoshoot in a “poor” looking house hold and pretending to play lower class. Or when photographers go to an extremely poor country to take pictures of aesthetically pleasing places, but don't know the actual effect of poverty in these places. I think the part of this that is most wild to me is when the artist does nothing for the community or people they are exploiting. Do you know what this does to our representation? Our visual narrative? Like, why is it so hard when you make a piece about an individual, that you pay them a fair amount for their vulnerability? Or that you give half of what you made to them so they can  decide what to do with it (so that white savior narratives are not perpetuated). I feel like this answer comes from the vast amount of anger I have that the 1% hold more than half of the country’s wealth in their pockets. Money that could be used to end poverty, feed people, and develop a world that is each…. but that T for another day and over long island iced tea (which is my favorite drink at the moment).

XIU: In de lujo, you also talk about the luxury of nostalgia—especially for people who are part of a diaspora; those who had to leave everything behind, those who’ve never had records of their family or can’t trace back to their ancestors—there is an understanding of how difficult it is to actually have objects and memorabilia to experience nostalgia. Let’s chat about this a bit more and how you chose the materials for this work.

 

np: de lujo was the first project where I really thought of this narrative. I remember one morning when I was in high school I noticed that there were no baby pictures of me around the house. Mind you, in most Dominican households, every picture that is taken is always put on the wall. Especially the school pictures that we had to pay for or whatever posed family pictures we took at Walmart or Sears. When I notice that I only had pictures of myself from that recent year (I was about 13) I started questioning my value in the family. Like, was I not good enough as a child to have these pictures up? Are there really favorites? I left that conversation there, but about 10 years later I also realized that there were no pictures of my mother as a child.

So, one day out of the blue I ask mama if she had any of these pictures. Coincidentally, her mother had just sent her photos of herself as a child and teenager. This had only happened because my grandmother in the Dominican Republic had finally gotten a smartphone and had learned how to send pictures. I was in the middle of class when I got the pictures and I instantly started crying. The type of cry where you have to stop and catch your breath because the pain is too strong. I have never felt a greater emotion of pain. I had just realized that I didn't know my mother at all; I only had this cultivation of pain, labor, kindness, and pride that she developed through her survival here. I only knew the woman who was broken and constantly had to build herself up every day. I knew a mother. The tucking in, the cooking, the cleaning, the stereotypical narrative that a woman has to play in latinx culture. I didn't know Idelka Celia Puello. I didn't. Which then made me wonder if she even knew herself outside of her role as a mother. How do you build your future without having access to your past? I can't even say that I remember her telling us stories about her youth or even a moment where she would reminisce about days back on the island. My mother came to the states as a teenager and instantly went into the working field. She also had me only after two years of being in the US. But again, I only knew stories of abuse. With all of that information and all of that narrative, I needed to make something that spoke to the eraser and the narrative one builds off of that eraser. All of the cloth in the piece was all sheets, dish rags, and old clothing she used to wear. I I vectorized the image in Illustrator and embroidered whatever was visible in the image (each had some sort of photodamage or unclarity) on each and every sheet . On the back, holding the fabric from touching the wall, is this orange-yellow plastic that got sprayed in a Fabuloso and Sazon mix. This put back together the abstract version of my mother. Fabric: the ones her body touched every day. Embroidery: the representation of her narrative being erased unintentionally. Plastic: the American version of herself she had to create but also submits too (also its the color of my mother’s hair when her blond hair dye fades out and the Black hair returns). And Liquid: the labor she puts into every single day.  This became my mother, this became her truth, and this is what whiteness had done to her…. And I need people to know that this is the American dream my mother had to live for our survival.

XIU: These sculptures speak to me so much about visibility and invisibility, what and who is seen and in what ways. In "washed cloth" little girls forced to become men you use embroidery in a way that demands the viewer to look both closer and beyond. How does this speak to visibilizing you, the artist, beyond the art?

np: I think about this question a lot and I don't think I have formulated the perfect wording, but I'll give it my best shot. I think of my work as individuals, as people who are trying to speak but can never get the words out. They have to physically show you because they feel it more than anything. It's almost like listening to a whisper, you just have to focus really hard and ask to listen again if you didn't hear it the first time. Since my time in higher academia, I find myself in spaces where artists of color are not only constantly being asked to make their pain visual, but to also provide all of the tools for everyone to understand. We’re being asked to provide text for every piece so that white spaces can understand you without you. So, when I am making, I want the work to have a piece of me that is only didactically visible to the people from whichever community I'm speaking to.

DO YOU REALLY WANNA UNDERSTAND, EVEN THOUGH IT ASKS YOU TO DO A LOT OF WORK? THE SAME WAY YOU ASK US TO UNDERSTAND WHITENESS? GENDER CULTURE? A ROTHKO? ARE YOU WILLING TO DO THE SAME AMOUNT OF WORK THAT YOU PUT INTO FIGURING OUT A ROTHKO OR POLLOCK . . . WITH MY WORK?
"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

But, for the people who are not, I provide you with enough to ask some more questions after. I give enough for you to get your mind circulating. What you do with it after is really up to you. This also shows the investment of the audience. Do you really wanna understand, even though it asks you to do a lot of work? The same way you ask us to understand whiteness? Gender culture? A Rothko? Are you willing to do the same amount of work that you put into figuring out a Rothko or Pollock...with my work?

XIU: On your most recent project Untitled, you spoke about how inclusion isn’t hard, it's just that folks aren't trying hard enough. We’re sold these new modes of representation and expected to celebrate it, but, as you mentioned, these representations are still subscribing to the ideals we’ve been taught forever. How are you fighting this through your art? What does representation in pop culture, fashion, entertainment and art truly look like?

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

"de lujo" there is so much luxury in being able to navigate nostalgia..., embroideries, recycled clothing, curry powder, adobo, rag, and plastic. 6.3' x 2'. 2017

np: Like, it really isn't hard! How hard is it for you to use fat models, or to explore Latin American culture that isn't Mexican, or to represent people who are constantly overlooked? Do you think of people who are Disabled? Queer Fat Black Femmes? People in Poverty? People who are smaller than 4 ft? There are so many more categories that I can't even think of right now.  If my work engages a physical body, I'm constantly trying to figure how can I get the most diverse representation. How can I make the people who constantly feel left out or underrepresented feel good about their existence? But also knowing my place when it comes to representing people so that it doesn't become exploitive, because I don't belong to every group. People aren't looking for saviors all the time. The way I do it with my work is tricky, because my work is normally abstract and not always about representation.

But, right now I'm working on this piece that is trying to figure out why Fat Black Femmes lack representation in queer visuality? Why are we constantly being asked to hold all the weight of the world, but rarely ever ask to participate in intimacy? Are we the modern day mammies? Are we lovable? Sexual? Why “No Fats, No Femmes, No Blacks?” Why do I only get 10 Tinder likes? Are you gonna respond? But this narrative is one that reflects our experiences (noél and trinere). Always the friend never the girlfriend. Basically, what I am trying to say is, I'm figuring it out. Right now, I'm just making really beautiful photographs of Fat Black Femmes and hoping they get the visibility they deserve.

SINCE MY TIME IN HIGHER ACADEMIA, I FIND MYSELF IN SPACES WHERE ARTISTS OF COLOR ARE NOT ONLY CONSTANTLY BEING ASKED TO MAKE THEIR PAIN VISUAL, BUT TO ALSO PROVIDE ALL OF THE TOOLS FOR EVERYONE TO UNDERSTAND.

I guess the reason why the text above is a little all over the place, is that I'm doing it on a such a small scale with little funding, and I'm not well-known yet so that even with my production, it's still not mainstream. But with magazines, movies, entertainment, music, and galleries and with all of its  money and pull of the social narrative…they could put all of their minds together to create a visual representation that normalizes and glorifies all the good people that exist. Stop giving us visuality that we might never achieve. For example, more queer rappers, including all types of people in fashion shows, funding young existing artists, highlight more Black and brown-owned stores, celebrities (and the 1%) giving a lot more of their money to people who actually need it. Again, just a couple of thoughts… I have so much more that I'm thinking of here just sitting on my couch.

XIU: Who are you looking at right now? Who’s inspiring you? Who would you like to shout out?

 

np: I'm really into illustrators right now who have Brown and Black people just chilling or doing everyday things, or represent queer narratives, or Dominican Things. For example, brohammed, Callum Green, Kelechi Azu, Tacodemuerte, Jeremy_sorese, Julia Mata, Dimel Rivas, Tina Thu, Jacob “Bao” Nguyen, and Devin Osorio.

 

Forever and always inspiring me are Doris Salcedo, David Hammons, Pepon Osorio, and all the people around me. Salcedo and Hammons for the obvious reason, but the people around me are my true inspo. Seeing a body of people who experience so much hardship by just existing and pulling through every single day is what I live for. Like, seeing the work that you do, Ximena, with Sweety’s (and the Sweety’s gang) on your own is so powerful. Watching my best friend Trinere help build the future our young people. Leonor Marion-Landais producing a thesis show using bobby pins as her main material. Kelechi Azu-Madeleine Vasco-Carmela Wilkins constantly hustling. All the women in my life, especially Idelka Puello and Susan Guzman, all my queer friends who are surviving and loving, ughh my peeps are the reason I live and breath… I wake up every morning to be like y’all and to one day be able to give back to all of y’all (#supportyourfellowartist).

 

Lastly, my shoutout goes to that boy who sat next to me on the bus at West Broadway Elementary School. We sang Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time until he got home. The next day, he came to me crying that he was moving back to his home country. If you're reading this, I think about that day all the time and wonder how you’re doing!

“Untitled,” Trinere Rodríguez 

“Untitled,” Trinere Rodríguez 
 

XIU: Finally, is there anything else coming up for you soon that readers should look out for? Any final thoughts?

 

np: Yas. Right now, there are some proposals in the air (keep your fingers crossed for me) that if I get, models might be needed soon. Also, I’m going overseas (I know I’m being vague but I was sworn to secrecy), and will be working with an amazing group of people alongside one of my favorite artists! With that being said, follow me on Instagram @noel_puello and you'll see what happens next!

 

Thanks Ximena for interviewing me!!! I hope everyone who reads this interview likes what I have to say and if y’all wanna talk more hit me up on Insta! Always down for a good conversation and coffee!! Bye bye.

noél puéllo is a queer, fat, afrolatinx femme from the tiny city of Providence, Rhode Island. She is currently working on getting her Master’s in Fiber and Materials Studies in Philadelphia at the Tyler School of Art.

Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz is a multimedia artist, curator, and educator based in Brooklyn and is originally from Perú. She is the co-curator of Visual Art at Nat. Brut as well as Teen Programs Coordinator at the Brooklyn Museum and co-curator of Sweety’s, a gallery and platform dedicated to supporting and exhibiting artists of color.

Nat. Brut: The Responsible Future of Art and Literature
 

Nat. Brut  (pr. nat broot) is a journal of art and literature dedicated

to advancing inclusivity in all creative fields.

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