In Conversation with Alex Nuñez: Celebrating Pop and R&B Divas in her Feminist Collages
A conversation with Miami-based, Latinx, feminist artist Alex Nuñez. A deeper look at all the glitter, fantasy, sex, and feminist visuals in her collage-based albums, plus recent exhibits, her insanely good artist-focused podcast, and stuff on the horizon for 2018.
Gallery Gurls: So you were a part of two dope female-focused shows in 2017, SHE INSPIRES and the Whitney Houston Biennial, both in New York. Can you talk about those exhibits and sharing space with female artists?
Alex Nuñez: Contributing work to these shows felt incredibly important. There is a consistent lack of diversity in female representation by art institutions. This is nothing new; however, these shows possessed a very palpable sentiment. Power. The artist participation and the line around the block of both openings echoed this desire to flip the current status quo. With the current political climate, incessant misogynistic headlines and rampant situations of sexual harassment and exploitation, women have had it. The artwork was strong. The message was clear.
I met so many amazing female artists participating in these shows. I visited both venues multiple times throughout the run of both exhibits. These artists have used their medium to shed a light on their realities- whether that be by highlighting an inspirational figure or satirizing our present-day society. Both shows asked the artists to reflect on women throughout history.
Whitney Houston Biennial curator Christine Finley asked the artists to contribute a caption about a female pioneer that has influenced their work. Answers ranged from pop stars to relatives, it was very interesting to read these responses in relation to the artists’ work.
Indira Cesarine of the Untitled Space requested that the artwork emphasized the actions and accomplishments of women. 10% of the proceeds of the show went to “She Should Run,” a non-profit organization that “provides an approachable starting place and network for women leaders considering a future run for office and for those who support them”.
I really love your collage-based album pieces, it’s a mash-up of pop culture, feminism, and sex. Can you tell me more?
My father (who is currently a pediatrician in Miami, FL) DJed in medical school. He has hundreds of albums in milk crates- and at an early age, I would obsessively flip through them, admiring the artwork and hanging on their every note. I began freelance DJing while completing my MFA at Hunter College. My vinyl collection grew and I began altering the images on each album cover.
The albums range from late 1960s to early 1990s. A majority of these works focus on the gaze and blatant sexual agenda of these covers. The works combine swirls of Swarovski crystals, drawn feather-like focal points, gold leaf, and at times banana peels.
A vinyl revival has occurred in the past few years and this has had an interesting cross-generational effect. A collective nostalgia consumes each image. Viewers identify with each album as they are associating and accessing a specific time in their life with each work.
"I’m nasty because I won't go quietly. I’m nasty because I want future generations of women to believe that they can follow their aspirations to become a working creative..."
Your aesthetic is really strong and really comes through in each piece. I'm really drawn to the R&B divas, the glitter, glamour, and fashion. Talk to me about the visual representation of your collages.
The work teeters on this fine line of decadence pushed toward decay. Intricate line work, pools of glitter, fragments of mirrors, dried flowers, candy, acrylic paint, espresso, tequila, and whatever happens to be on the floor is incorporated into various works with a common obsessive amalgamation.
My “diva” series of albums enhances the existing cover image and reveals radiating unseen aura- like projections. These women, often centered and staring straight out at the audience, possess a dominating glare. Their confident and hypnotic eyes are embellished with glitz and frantic lines, attempting to captivate a consuming energy. I want these pieces to depict energy portals that at times highlight areas of the subject matter and form masks that both conceal and reveal.
Why did you start your podcast the Sunday Painter? What do you think is special about it?
Sunday Painter began as an alternative studio visit in early 2016 in Brooklyn, NY. Broadcasting weekly on KPISS.FM out of a converted storage unit turned radio station, various guests have covered a wide array of topics and played a diverse collection of music. The show - now turning 2 years - has broadcasted remotely from over 5 countries and has interviewed over 50 artists.
Throughout grad school I became fascinated with the music selection of my peers' studio practice. This project has been an ongoing platform to shine a light on local talent and peer into their sacred creative process. These weekly interviews have granted access to inspiring creatives working across multiple mediums. These episodes are a collage of sound that mirrors their current process and motivation. Artists use this time to explore ongoing projects, upcoming shows and story-tell through various tracks. Some artists use the time to explore a theme or invite a guest to collaborate on an episode.
This past year Sunday Painter organized two group shows, comprised of various artists from previous episodes. Visitors were invited into listening lounges playing previous episodes correlating to each artist. Panel programming at Soho Beach House hosted local creatives and discussed the influential role of music in art. This ongoing podcast has been focusing on artists in South Florida and will be covering Zona Maco and Material Art Fair in Mexico City in February. Previous episodes are available here.
"We no longer want a seat at the table. We want a new venue."
So what’s next for you in 2018?
I am currently a resident artist with Project Art, an after-school program which transforms local libraries into art incubators, pairing artists with underserved youth to create artwork side by side. A group show at the end of the program in June will exhibit works created throughout the residency.
I look forward to continuing programming with Sunday Painter. I would like to create more interactive group shows, panels and alternative collaborations. The show has allowed me to take this project on in multiple forms and I am excited to see the next shape it takes.
Lastly, in your own words, why are you a nasty woman?
My parents taught me to demand what is just and right and fight for my ideals. I don't think that I would be able to create the work I am making without a clear sense of self and strong creative vision. This only stems from my belief that what I am doing is important and it merits attention and reflection. In a society that is constantly undermining my profession, whether that be by underrepresentation in institutions of fellow Latina artists or demanding equal pay for labor. I’m nasty because I won't go quietly. I’m nasty because I want future generations of women to believe that they can follow their aspirations to become a working creative - contributing to a society where your work is VALUED and REVERED. We no longer want a seat at the table. We want a new venue.