‘A Right to Remain Opaque’: Watch Artist Joiri Minaya Pose and Camouflage Performers Into Their Surroundings

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When artist Joiri Minaya began searching on Google using the terms “Domincan women,” she was inundated with pictures of women modeling in what seemed like variations of the same few poses. It seemed like all of the women either had their hands jauntily placed on hips, or lying in the style of an odalisque.

Minaya has used the results that the search engine generated, which she described as “representations that are exotic and obedient to foreign fantasies, yet seemingly assertive and self-confident,” as material for multiple bodies of work. Among these was the years-long series “Containers” (2015–2020), in which textiles based on the flora and patterns foundational to the aesthetic of Afro-diasporic peoples in the Americas that were printed onto full-body spandex suits. In her striking photographs, the artist’s figure is completely obscured by the spandex suit, set against backdrops of similar patterns, so that she becomes part of the scenery.

In an exclusive interview filmed as part of Art21’s series , Minaya explained the development of her artistic practice and how her upbringing in Santo Domingo informs her work. For the “Containers” series, Minaya described how donning the bodysuits and taking on the poses she saw on Google served as “an exploration for myself but to also question this type of performativity.”

Production still from the New York Close Up film, "Joiri Minaya's Pattern Making.” © Art21, Inc. 2023.

Production still from the New York Close Up film, “Joiri Minaya’s Pattern Making.” © Art21, Inc. 2023.

“Place is important in my work” Minaya added, “coming from a place that is determined in other people’s imagination, I’m interested in the idea of opacity… a right to remain opaque” and to find peace “without having to explain yourself to others.” In her artwork, Minaya is takes control of stereotypical images of female subjugation inherent in Western perspectives of her native culture.

“Camouflage is this survival strategy in the natural world” the artist said. “As we navigate society, this idea of blending in or being visible, and having control of that, I think is a tool for liberation.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series New York Close Up, below. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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