Our Featured Artist: Luis Enrique Mejico of Chicago

EDITOR: Every month, EFNIKS features a new artist in the title art of each section of the website. In addition to featuring their work, EFNIKS wants our readers to get to know the queer and trans creatives whose work you see. Below, a chat with this month's artist, Luis Enrique Mejico. 

 

EFNIKS: Welcome, Luis! How is your week, how is life, what’s happening on social media, let us know?

LUIS ENRIQUE MEJICO: Hey, folks! Thanks for having me. Things are good! I'm currently at a fellowship in Michigan - it's been a good two-ish months so far, and I leave at the end of August. There's not a lot of cell service here, so I've been relatively off the grid. But it's been great!

EFNIKS: How do you identify: race, ethnicity, gender, pronouns, sexuality…?

LEM: I'm a Latinx person; I moved to the US from Peru when I was 7. Gender and pronouns are a constantly shifting thing for me. I think non-binary has been a label that I feel most comfortable with, but it's weird to identify with something that just states what you aren't (as in, not either gender, which itself presupposes that there are only two). I use xe/xim/xis as my pronouns, and have for the last two or three years - they/them has always felt too ambiguous to me.

EFNIKS: What is your background with respect to art and various artistic media? Any formal training or education?

LEM: I started making art in high school; I went to a school with a really great arts program, and started working primarily in sculpture. Over time, my interests have shifted, and I started working a lot more in performance, fibers, and video when I got to art school.

EFNIKS: Is there anything about you, your experiences, your values that informs your art and how you present your style?

LEM: I think that my trans identity informs a great deal of how I move through the world, including my artmaking and presentation. I know that some folk want to make clear that queerness is just one aspect of their overall personhood - while I agree to an extent, I think that there's a lot to be learned from the potentials and possibilities that queerness presents. This largely informs my practice, as I create work that pushes back against our understanding of what bodies, structures, and relationships can look like, feel like. I tend to center femme and non-male experiences; there exists a great deal of power outside of white cisheteropatriarchy, born out of defiance. This is the work that I am interested in making.

EFNIKS: Do you feel any expectations or pigeonholing about how people approach you, given your race/ethnicity, gender presentation, and sexuality? Do people place limits (even if subtle and suggestively) on what you can do?

LEM: Absolutely. In my work, I've lately gotten to associating the trans experience to that of an actor on a stage. It's not so much about gender "performance," but more about the knowledge that the performance is watched and digested by another. An actor does not perform a fiction; plays aren't lies. They're forms of reality, and aren't more or less valid than what we already accept to be "truth." The catch is that this performance is then judged, scrutinized by the viewer. It is evaluated by the audience, often in comparison to what the audience has seen before. My personal experience of transhood is similar; I know that my presentation, femme or not, is not something that even I perceive to be "passing" or "good;" that isn't my concern. My concern is that it is "real," and because I am enacting it, it is. But always, always I am aware of the damning eyes of others. It is this awareness that creates anxiety for me. Then layer that on top of what people already presuppose about me, in relationship to being femme - it's a mess.  

EFNIKS: Tell us about the pieces featured on EFNIKS.com for the FEMME edition?

LEM: The pieces I’m sharing are performance and fibers pieces from the last few years. Almost all of my work is based in performance, including works that are more object-oriented. Even then, the objects I make are meant to be suggestive of bodies; not necessarily human bodies, but bodies that have their own agency and anxiety. Andean peoples had the notion that all things are embedded with life. I was very inspired by this, and started making objects that have life - or at least I consider them to. The text quilts are an example of that. I’ve been making objects that are meant to be hunched over, shy, anxious, desperate and longing for something.

The other images are of performances. The image with the two faces is a still from a performance in which I hired two singers to turn an argument between a previous partner and myself into an operatic work. The others are from performances in which I took submissions from the public and turned the submissions into performance works. My practice often touches on relationships; how they’re formed, what sustains them, and how they end.

EFNIKS: Art is important to EFNIKS, and we want to continue to push art and artivism as regular and recurring parts of our mission--what would you tell up and coming artists about finding spaces where they can flourish and shine?

LEM: The world is fucked. I don't think that queer people are from the future, but I do often feel that we exist outside of time, that queerness is an anachronism. White cisheteropatriarchy is a poison, and it infiltrates every aspect of our lives every waking day. People like myself - of color, Queer, so on, must fight to generate our own spaces, our own language, in opposition to extant oppressive structures. I say this with a grain of salt; I never know whether or not talking like this just sounds like hypothetical masturbating or not, but eh! So it goes.

EFNIKS: Anything you want our folks to know, any words of wisdom you want to drop on the children?

LEM: I'm still a child so I don't know if I'm in any place to say anything; but I think that something I've at least learned over the last few years is that ensuring you have a community around you is incredibly important. We all need to not only feel a sense of belonging, but beyond that, a sense that someone has our back. In time of great oppression and opposition, we need to stick together. Communities enrich us, and I've tried to make time to get out of the studio and into spaces where I feel supported and loved.

EFNIKS: Where can we find you on social media? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, got a SoundCloud? Personal website?

LEM: Yeah!!! Im on insta as predatory.wasp, and my personal website is luismejico.com; I gotta update that...

EFNIKS: Thank you for your time, Luis. You’re a dope human.

 

Send questions and comments on this story to feedback@efniks.com.