Above Image: Alicia Grullón, "May 30, 2020: As 'Hero' Pay Ends, Essential Workers Wonder What They Are Worth-https://www.npr.org/2020/05/30/864477016/as-hero-pay-ends-essential-workers-wonder- what-they-are-worth", 2020, archival digital print. Courtesy of the artist.
A native of New York City and Moore's 2020 recipient of the Jane and David Walentas Endowed Fellowship, artist Alicia Grullón is a multidisciplinary artist who uses video, photography, social sculpture and performance to bring attention to issues like immigration, climate change, and racial and economic disparities. Grullón's exhibition From March to June: At Home with Essential Workers, on view at The Galleries at Moore through September 25, 2021,is a series of self-portraits created in the artist's home in New York City during the COVID-19 quarantine, from March to June of 2020. In this body of work, Grullón simultaneously documents her time at home as well as current affairs affecting the nation during quarantine. As performances, these artworks are sites of mapping, engaging in participatory approaches of record keeping with the body.
We recently spoke with Grullón about her body of work, the current exhibition, and her Walentas Fellowship.
Your projects use video, photography, social sculpture and performance art. How were you introduced to these mediums and what made you choose to select them as your core body of work?
I started out as an actor getting my BFA in drama from New York University, so using performance and being in front of a camera comes as second nature for me. I started using performance in my visual art work as a result of my MFA thesis in photography. Putting them together to create my artwork was a no brainer, but it took me a bit to get there! My social sculpture work is an extension of using my body in a process with other people to question the world around us. As a part of society, I naturally see myself embedded in this process even if I am not facilitating a project. Engaging with others on what this process might look like and become is what draws me to do social sculpture work.
Your art brings attention to issues like immigration, climate change, and racial and economic disparities. What is one issue that you're most focused on highlighting through your artwork this year and why is it personally important to you?
This year hasn’t changed my focus on any of these topics. They continue to be relevant and I feel this will be the case for many years to come. So much still needs to be addressed and worked through to make a breakthrough. COVID and 2020 on a whole has definitely highlighted this.
Image: Alicia Grullón, "April 13, 2020: NYC death toll jumps by 3,700 after uncounted fatalities are added-https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2020/04/14-new-york-city-coronavi rus-death-toll-jumps-by-3-700-after-uncounted-fatalities-are-added-1275931", 2020, archival digital print. Courtesy of the artist.
From March to June: At Home with Essential Workers at The Galleries at Moore features photographic self-portraits created in your home during the COVID quarantine. What was the experience of creating art in isolation like for you?
It’s funny you ask this question because as I made the transition years ago from theater and to photography; I wrestled with the transition of working in a group to working in isolation. What I learned along the way is that I am never in isolation when creating. For me, so much about how I create depends on how I am relating to life around me. This includes, but is not limited to, social justice issues, history, and living on stolen land, as well as neighbors’ stories and other human encounters where we process our personal experiences with those on a larger public scale. Creating From March to June: At Home with Essential Workers was a natural extension of this process. On a personal note, it was also how I worked through the pain of loss.
Were there any individuals in particular that inspired this current project?
No one particular individual inspired this project. In part, I think everyone did. Friends and family. Strangers. We were all suffering from the uncertainty of what was unfolding. Perhaps in part, this project, at least for me, is servicing how we can make sense (if that’s even possible) of what has and is currently unfolding. How can these lessons serve to transform our futures?
Image: Alicia Grullón, "April 28, 2020: As Amazon, Walmart, and Others Profit Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Their Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike-https://theintercept.com/2020/04/28/coronavirus-may-1-strike-sickout-amazon-target-whol e-foods/", 2020, archival digital print. Courtesy of the artist.
Last year, you were selected as Moore's 2020 recipient of the Jane and David Walentas Endowed Fellowship. What does this opportunity mean to you?
This opportunity has changed my life. Literally. When I got the news in 2019, COVID wasn’t anything anyone would have predicted. The fellowship has given me the chance to create a beautiful new project and is helping me shape my future goals as they change to the world around me.
What are you currently working on for your fellowship?
At the moment, I am finishing work and doing research as I develop a larger social practice project.
What advice would you give to recent Moore graduates as they begin their artistic journey post-college?
Embrace change. It will happen, so you’ve got to flow with it. Whatever life brings along, dive into the experience. Have close friends and family to talk things through with. Have a group of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of. Try new things and ideas.