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Can you describe your mom in three words?
Oh my god, yes! I love my mom. My mom is very dedicated, she’s firm, and also easy-going. My mom is a warrior. The reason why I believe this is because we have only known our parents for a portion of their lives, which is a crazy concept for me. And for the time that I’ve been my mom’s daughter, I’ve seen her be so firm; when she wants something she fights until she gets. There is no going home for her, you fight for what you want until you get it. I wasn’t always privy to that because I was a terrible teenager and I didn’t realize that behind the scenes my mom was fighting for so much. As an immigrant mom and a single mom of two children, she’s always fought, not just for us but for other people’s rights as well. She’s a union representative, and she has that background of being an activist for people’s rights. That relates a lot to how she treats us (my brother and me) and how she talks to us. From the moment she learned English she started speaking up for people who didn’t know English. When I was in middle school I would write speeches for her, so at 11 or 12 years old I was writing speeches on people’s rights, because my mom didn’t know how and didn’t really have the tools to communicate that the best that she could in front of a panel of people that were better versed that she was. For this and many more things, my mom is inspirational to me.
How has your mom inspired your work?
When I started painting towards the inside. When I was painting things that I saw, like landscapes or other people, I felt very detached from my paintings. When I started painting more from the inside, my life, my dreams, myself– what my life was really comprised of, I thought of my mom. I thought of her life, what she’s been through, and of the way in which she compartmentalizes life, which is something that I’m learning. She makes me see things in a more serious and firm way when it comes to my life and my career. When it comes to painting, she makes me not want to give up. She may not know anything about painting, but when she comes to a show, I feel the weight of her presence and I feel how proud she is. She’s inspired me to be resilient in everything that I do.
What is one quality of your mom that you see in yourself?
The laughter. My mom has a very unique laugh. You know those people that when they laugh, everyone else laughs? That’s my mom. I see pictures of her in the 80s with a big afro, and everyone else in the picture is smiling but she’s screaming. Now I know where I get it from. I love my mom’s laugh. I see the joy that she brings into every relationship that she has, and I see that in myself.
What is one quality of your mom that you strive to have?
She takes no B.S from no one. When she hears that someone is being prejudiced against, or is facing an unfair situation, she finds a way to stand up for them and help them. That’s one quality that I want to acquire and I’m learning. She is the kind of warrior and strong woman that I want to be. I want the people around me to see these qualities in me. I want people to see me the way that I see my mom.
Does your mom have a favorite work of yours?
Yes. It’s called Mami’s Kitchen. It showcases this memory of the first home that she was able to buy in the Dominican Republic. In one of the pictures that I saw she’s in the kitchen, getting things ready, and cooking, standing right next to her friend. I was in her belly during this time. But her friends told me this was a housewarming of sorts, and everyone talks about how she was such a great host. My mom has told me this was such an important moment in her life, because buying a home, at a young age and as a woman, was such a big deal. She managed to have a home to call her own, which is so much more than falling into traditional gender roles. When I grew up in that kitchen, I thought it was such a magical place. I never went in the kitchen, I only ever saw my mom come out with delicious food. My mom looked like a magician to me. To me it was a magical place, that I wasn’t allowed to go into but that I immediately connected to. Fast forward to today, the kitchen is where my family meets. My brother, my mom, and I meet in the kitchen. For some families the meeting place is the living room, but for us the kitchen is where we talk and touch base.
What is one activity that you enjoy doing with your mom?
Working out together. In our apartment complex there is a gym in the basement and we work out together whenever we can. But the main thing we do is we make videos together. Even when we work out together, we always end up making a video. We make funny videos in the kitchen, always in the kitchen. I share them so that people can see the relationship we have. We didn’t always have this relationship, especially since I was such a difficult child.
Anything else you would like to share about your mom?
I love my mom. I’m so grateful for her. She’s done so much, and I didn’t always see it and appreciate it. I wasn’t very vocal about my gratefulness growing up. Now, I’m beginning to see it as we nurture our relationship. It’s a growth that I appreciate her being open to. Especially because I know that not every child or parent is open to this growth. I appreciate my mom’s openness and that we’ve come so far as a family. I love my mom. Those words carry more weight to me now than when I came out of the womb.
Do you have other motherly figures in your life that inspire you?
My sisters. We are not blood-related but they are my sisters from church. The one who brought me to church, her name is Nofa, there’s also Sandrine, and our Pastor Sandra. Pastor Sandra is like my second mom; she’s strong, she’s firm, she’s seen life. Nofa is a speech pathologist and graduating from John Jay this year. Sandrine is a real estate agent. They are vastly different and no one does anything art-related. They are very inspirational women and every time I sit with them I have the privilege of being counseled. I’m grateful to have women in my life that inspire me and take care of me and of my heart. I have the honor of going to them every time I have a problem of any kind. They understand because being much older than me they’ve been through it. To me they are my spiritual moms and they inspire me every day. I’m so blessed to have them; they have taken every cry, every break-up, every tantrum, just like my mom. These are women that are not related to me but have seen me; have seen the bad, the ugly, the worst, and have chosen to love me. I’m so grateful for them– that’s real love, agape love.