Interview with an Artist: Nicky Rodriguez
This week, Caliber chatted with artist Nicky Rodriguez. You can check out Rodriguez’s work here.
Interview conducted by Sophia Stewart.
CM: Tell us about yourself in one sentence.
NR: I'm an artist whose work aims to shows others the power of our voices as individuals.
CM: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
NR: I'd always known as a kid that I'd be doing something with art, but I'd never once in all the schools I'd gone to been told or shown that art could be a career. It wasn't until I was about to graduate high school that my art teacher convinced me to apply to two art schools because why else wouldn't I be going to school for art? It hadn't crossed my mind but once I actually looked at these schools I knew that it was the right decision. Everything made sense then because all I wanted to do was make stories and I could see now that there were opportunities and environments where that desire could be fostered and grow.
CM: What is your favorite part about creating art?
NR: I think my favorite part about creating art is the conversation(s) that arises through process and creation. Every time I make something new it's coming from some form of experience or exposure. When I make something it's the result of conversing about and exploring my ideas and then sharing them in a visual way so that others can engage with the conversation on their own level. Any time I'm at a zine fest and someone picks up one of my zines and tells me they can relate to the what I've put down and we can engage in a discourse, that truly makes me happy beyond words.
CM: What is the story and inspiration behind your zine, Se Casó la Bruja? (Available now at Pegasus Books)
NR: I created Se Casó la Bruja primarily as an exploration of my relationship with the Spanish language but also an exploration of my relationship with water. I've always found myself to have a deep connection to the ocean, albeit not knowing how to swim despite being born in Hawaii and being Puerto Rican. Once I moved to California, the closest to the ocean I’ve lived since Hawaii, I found myself drawn to the ocean and the sense of peace it provided for me. In periods of anxiety or depression, the ocean acted not only as a bringer of peace for me but also a mirror to help me reflect on what problems I was facing. Se Casó la Bruja utilizes my inability to swim despite my desire to enter the water as a metaphor for my inability to confront the fears I was facing regarding the future. The ocean shows up in a lot of my work in many different ways because it always served as a sort of symbol of home for me, as well as holding powers of clarity.
CM: Se Casó la Bruja and other work of yours feature Spanish language poetry and text. What is the relationship between Spanish and your work?
NR: Spanish is inherently part of my identity regardless of me having been born in the states and having to have learned English first. Spanish was what I heard growing up and it's the language that I consider to be home. As I continued to create more personal work in school and was able to gain an understanding of my identity, it made sense to create works in Spanish to connect with that part of me that had been dormant all these years. It's also a way for me to practice because I, unfortunately, don't have much opportunity to speak Spanish outside family conversation, but in using it in my comics I'm able to connect to other individuals with similar experiences and provide an entryway into understanding the interactions of a bilingual Latinx across time and space.
CM: Your art speaks directly to issues of social justice. What do you see as the relationship between art and activism?
NR: I think art is an important and powerful mouthpiece for activist movements. The visual language is a bold one and is capable of bridging the gaps of language, access, and the different ways of learning and understanding information. As artists we’re able to utilize its power to tell a story that would otherwise be hidden away because of how news is accessed and filtered. Activist art can exist in social media, in print, along walls, in so many different ways such that it is always interacting with someone in some way. Art gives people a voice and with that voice, they get power to draw attention to their message and cause.
CM: In times of political crisis, what do you believe to be the role of art and the artist?
NR: In times of political crisis, I think it's important for artists to be considerate of the news and art they see so they can build up self-awareness. I also think it's important for an artist to see how they can use their creative output as a platform to further conversations. Even if you think something isn't affecting or going to affect you doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to spread the word to help those in need. Art is just as much of a rallying cry and during times of political crisis, it is an ever important one.