In Conversation With Lucia Hierro

The Cost of Things

“I didn’t want to do things that looked like what you would find on a Shit-Dominicans-Do list. I didn’t want the very obvious”. The Dominican-American and New York City native artist Lucia Hierro explores the body as a collection of signifiers that includes language, taste, and culture. Tahir Carl Karmali talked with her for Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL) about her personal artistic history, the relevance of her Dominican familiar background, and her particular views on commerce.

TCK: What drives you to create on topics that deal with the economy and commerce?

LH: I think the realization that you have when you grow up in a house where things are economized, economical, and rationed, you learn about the cost of things. And that everything from leisure to your new shoes, or school, to the books, everything cost something. I was told it every day and I knew that. So I think that’s where the connection comes in to the work, and also through having studied a lot of Dutch art history in undergrad. In these classes, I realized that there would be some strange fruit and a frock that was not similar, and then I’d ask questions and, well, yeah these are from their colonial conquest. I wasn’t learning about Dominican artists, I wasn’t learning about other Caribbean artists. But they’re in here. They’re in these paintings. They’re in somebody else’s lens.

That’s stayed in the recess of my brain, and when I got to making the still lives, I was pulling from things that were every day but overlooked. I didn’t want to do things that looked like what you would find on a Shit-Dominicans-Do list. I didn’t want the very obvious. It was a little more personal. A little more hidden, an embarrassment. I find that those things would speak to me in a way that was maybe preserving something.

TCK: Is it important for you to create work that relates to your community and that can speak to your experience?

LH: Of course. I think that cheesy thing of wanting to be the artists that I wanted to see when I was growing up is really important to me. This idea that museums always ask: oh how can we diversify the public that comes in? Well, show artists that they can relate to!

This is important because then you’re going to have two viewers in front of the work that are going to enter it differently, and hopefully be in dialogue. It was a moment when people came together. Somebody would see that painting that I had inside one of my bags and they know that. And then the young Dominican is like, what are you talking about? This is all the ingredients to make sweet beans. And they’re both like, wait, what? And that dialogue is amazing to watch.