September 19, 2021

Brenda Torres-Figueroa: Afro-Puerto Rican woman explores racial, gender identity through art in Chicago

CHICAGO — Brenda Torres-Figueroa is an Afro-Puerto Rican who examines gender and racial identity as a visible and efficiency artist.

“Performance is an art form that works with identity politics and [is] my way to understanding a little bit more who I was,” mentioned Torres-Figueroa, who moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico in 2000 for a grasp’s program on the College of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The then-23-year-old settled into town’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Torres-Figueroa recalled seeing a big Puerto Rican flag overhead on her bus experience on Division Road into the center of the neighborhood.

“Humboldt Park is amazing. I think it’s a beyond vibrant Puerto Rican neighborhood,” she mentioned.

Torres-Figueroa’s art relies on her life rising up in Puerto Rico. She described Puerto Rico as a combination of three cultures: European, Taino — the individuals indigenous to the island — and African.

“[It] is a beautiful thing that we can have this kind of ambiguous racial identity — but at the same time, in the dynamics of the island and society, sometimes that plays a difficult role,” she mentioned.

Torres-Figueroa skilled challenges due to her complexion.

“Colorism is a very big thing in Puerto Rico as well in Latin America,” she mentioned, “and this idea of the binaries, good and bad, connected to color.”

As a teen, one in every of her grandmothers, who was darker-skinned, inspired her to look to marry a person with a lighter complexion. Torres-Figueroa does not fault her grandmother for that recommendation.

“It was just a reflection of her experience,” she mentioned, “and also colonization and also internalized white supremacy.”

When Torres-Figueroa got here to Chicago, she encountered extra challenges tied to her identity. Generally she mentioned she’s not considered as Latina even when utilizing her native tongue.

“I have people when I talk to them in Spanish, they continue speaking to me in English because they cannot connect my visible identity with my actual identity,” Torres-Figueroa mentioned.

That fueled her ardour for visible and efficiency art. She makes use of clothes to problem societal perceptions.

Torres-Figueroa mentioned it is necessary for Black ladies to take up area.

“I think being a performance artist, the people don’t have too many other options than to look at you,” she mentioned. “With that, the layers of constructions of ideas that they have of you — you have to challenge them.”

To comply with Brenda Torres-Figuerao on Instagram: @Performatum.

From actors to activists, individuals share tales of celebrating their heritage, expressing their identity as Latino, Latinx, or Hispanic, and representing and embracing their various cultures. Have a good time Hispanic Heritage Month with “Our America: Todos Unidos” on ABC Owned Tv Stations streaming apps and Hulu.