A Dominican-American artist, Joiri Minaya’s work focuses on the construction of tropical identity as an exoticizing trope. She draws on histories of art, pattern, décor and media in her work, often using her own body and personal experience as a reference point. For #dominicanwomengooglesearch, 2016–17, Minaya prints digital images obtained from a Google search for “Dominican women” on Sintra and hangs them from the ceiling. These stereotypical images become pixelated and degraded when enlarged to lifesize. This blurring and de-personalization of individual women’s bodies mimics how tourists fetishize the tropics (and their inhabitants) as a site of leisure, unspoiled nature and sexual adventure. Minaya covers the backs of these hanging sculptures with tropical-print fabric: a wearable, fantastical, completely artificial identification with the Caribbean. Redecode: a tropical theme is a great way to create a fresh, peaceful, relaxing atmosphere, 2015, derives from two tropical wallpaper patterns designed in the 1940s for U.S. luxury hotels. In the mid-20th century, U.S. military interventions in Latin America reached their apex. Minaya breaks down and pixelates these wallpaper motifs to call attention to the way these patterns commodify nature; the pixels also recall the scheme of contemporary U.S. military uniforms. QR codes, printed on the design, link to products associated with “othered” groups.
— Wendy Vogel
My ideas are concerned with otherness, self-consciousness and displacement.
I’ve made work inspired by women in my family, labor, dislocation, psychology, myth, art history, magic realism and symbols. I’m interested in how historical hierarchies inform and condition current identities; how constructions manifest through the body: how they are received, internalized and then regurgitated by it.
Living between the United States and the Dominican Republic (and having lived in Belgium) has made me aware of my own difference and subjectivity depending on context. Reflecting on this, my work has transitioned from identity in an intimate manner to examining larger transnational and transcultural exchanges.
My current body of work focuses on the construction of the female subject in relation to nature and landscape in a “tropical” context, shaped by a foreign Gaze that demands leisure and pleasure. Like nature, femininity has been imagined and represented throughout history as idealized, tamed, conquered / colonized and exoticized. I’m currently revising existing cultural products that engage in this form of representation and challenging them through my work.
My process is an on-going exploration across media: a painting or a sculpture might be a departing point for a video or a performance, and they might all merge into a final piece or develop independently. The constant in my work is the presence of the body and the interest in creating distinct power positions with it, often contradictory but operating simultaneously. To navigate binaries in search of inbetweenness, trying to both fulfill and sabotage expectations at once.
— Joiri Minaya