C&AL: You were born in New York City to a Dominican family. What role does your own Afro-American identity play in the way you approach issues such as identity, race or the body in your work?
TA: I was born and raised mostly in the Bronx. My mother was born in the United States and my father in the Dominican Republic. I suppose I grew up in a typical Dominican home; Spanish is my first language and I consider myself Dominican. I feel that everything that inspires my work emanates from there: the fabrics, the architecture, the color palette.
To me as a Dominican living in New York, representing Afro-Latin culture is essential. There are a lot of Dominicans who are in denial of their blackness; many are racist, even. My main objective is to break with that stigma, with that “I don’t want to be black”-notion.
People often tell me that I don’t look like an Afro-Latino because of my light complexion. But I do – look at my nose, my hair, my features. However, most people don’t understand; they only see the color of my skin. This is a problem I face as an individual but also as an artist. Some people ask me why I explore these aspects in my work, light-skinned as I am, but the truth is that being Afro-Latino is not just about color; it’s not about being dark-skinned or looking a specific way.
At the same time, I also feel the need to empower the female body. In many of my works, I incorporate full figured women. This is something very personal that I identify with and which was always very problematic for me while growing up. Now, as an adult, I accept my body and I would really like for other women to accept their bodies too.