Jaulas//Cages: Emerald Arguelles
In a show of solidarity for those who are being held captive against their will, oppressed, and colonized by this authoritarian regime “Jaulas // Cages” is a week celebrating emerging Latinx Image-makers who I am interviewing to gain their insight and voice on the current danger it is to be outside the white patriarchal standard the current US government is striving for. This week is dedicated to all immigrants, and to those who do work or are currently in a jaula//cage. A cage being anything from physical, emotional, mental. These “Jaulas” are struggles we ALL have been within at points in our life: An enclosure of gender, a cage of identity, the pens of oppression, a box to be tokenized by.
Emerald Arguelles is an internationally recognized fine art photographer based in Savannah, Georgia. She takes pride in conveying black people of various walks of life in the true essence of who they are. Emerald draws influences from anime, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Nakeya Brown. She is currently studying at Savannah College of Art and Design. Emerald has had her works exhibited in Italy, Canada, Georgia, and New York. @emeraldarguelles
The best way to describe my work is as an overall black experience. Every aspect of the black experience is what I aspire to create and give light to. Regardless if it is classified as fine art or documentary. To give black men and women a chance to see themselves in a beautiful light and black men and women who view them to see themselves represented.
When you hear the word Jaulas//Cages, what are you thinking of?
Cages can be so many things. For anyone in America right now, you think of children that have been placed in cages and the terrible injustices Black and brown people have been forced to deal with every day. When I think of Cages, there’s also a mold that Black and brown people have been forced to conform. When they decide to break from it, they are usually demonized and ostracized from communities.
How would you describe your upbringing and how you came to be an artist?
My upbringing was an unlearning process; I had a great foundation. I was brought up around beautiful Black women, extraordinary queer men, and women. However, my resilient father, an immigrant from Cuba who endured so much adversity in his early life, and my mother, who was born in Picayune, Mississippi, in 1961, knew trauma and hardships all too well. As I got older, I learned that they were not conditioned or used to an environment that was loving and accepting. I wasn’t coddled as a child, or ever really looked at as being a child; like most Black women, we were taught to be independent very early. That foundation led me into being an artist; I had a goal to be an individual to be free to do whatever I wanted regardless of how anyone else felt. My goal was to always make people feel seen, heard, honored, and respected.
From your upbringing and work, what does Latinidad mean to you? Does being Latinx inform for work?
Latinidad does not address Anti-Blackness, while Latin America has the largest population of Black people outside of the United States. My work has always been to represent people who look like me. For them to find protection and acceptance in my work. In my upbringing, my Cuban grandmother was an Afro-Cuban but did not allow me in her home, given that I was Black and Cuban. Being Latinx is accepting of all. There is no exclusion of any, a neologism that describes a culture that I am proud to be a part of.
Who and/or what inspires you?
Artists who are continuing to do whatever they want to do has and always will inspire me. Artists who shake tables, start hard conversations to create change either globally or in their own communities, are an aspect of the arts that make me so inspired to continue doing whatever I want.
We tend to only speak about racism in the US. Still, Latinx people tend to shy away from the colorism and racism in our own community. In your statement, you speak about the Black Experience. How do you feel you are challenging Colorism and Racism in your work that is unique to a Latinx Experience?
I believe that understanding that Blackness is multifaceted is critical. I believe in showing Blackness in all that it is; there isn’t one type or a structure. In my work, I want to show Blackness in spaces that systemically have faced immense erasure. I think that notion enforces our place without ever needing permission.
What advice would you have for up and coming Latinx artists?
I want to see more artists that are continuing to change the world. Artists that are demanding the changes that they wish to see in the environments that they are in. I think art has gatekeepers to keep people out and the cages to tell artists the type of art they can make, and it starts early. The oppressors have always been able to tell history. To say to people what and who they are. Growing up and even to college, I had to work so hard to find my history, story, origin, and inspirations. That information should be as readily available and accessible as the stories of white canons.
What do you want to see more of in the art world?
ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU WANT. There isn’t any structure or a linear path to follow. Speak up and protect those around you. We are genuinely all that we have. Always move with good intentions and to be kind. Also, be kind to yourself; you are changing the world everyday by expressing yourself and your vision.
What is next for you?
My goal is always to be happy to provide opportunities for people who look like me and serving underserved communities. My work has quickly evolved to helping others. In my personal work, I continue to learn, grow, and stay consistent in my process.
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