Tiffany Alfonseca: “The Representation of Afro-Latino Culture Is Essential”

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The full title of this article by Fabiola Fernández Adechedera is “In Conversation with Tiffany Alfonseca: ‘The Representation of Afro-Latino Culture Is Essential.’” For full interview of Dominican-American artist Tiffany Alfonseca and a photo gallery of her spectacular work, see C& América Latina.

Tiffany Alfonseca is a Dominican-American artist who, from her studio in the Bronx, New York, creates vibrant and colorful pieces that celebrate Black and Afro-Latino diasporic culture. C&AL spoke to her about her path to becoming an artist, the necessity of representing her roots in her work and her new series In Quarantine.

[. . .] C&AL: In your work as an artist, what are the topics you are interested in exploring?

TA: It’s very important for me to incorporate Afro-Latino culture into my work. Growing up, I was never taught about it, and I didn’t see it represented in paintings or drawings. I want to develop an artistic body of work with the next generations in mind and provide them with something where they can see themselves, and that they can relate to. The problem is that Latinos and Afro-Latinos in the United States grew up learning about American art and especially white art. I never learned anything about Black art or Latino art, until a couple of years ago. I think this – highlighting Afro-Latino culture, which is still widely underrepresented – has been the driving force behind my work.

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. [. . .]

For full interview and photo gallery, see https://amlatina.contemporaryand.com/editorial/tiffany-alfonseca-afrolatinidad/

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