Adriana Yvette Monsalve of Homie House Press Talks Curation, Immigrant Storytelling, and Creating Space for Herself and Her Community
AS A COLLECTIVE, WE WANTED TO TAKE TIME TO HIGHLIGHT THOSE THAT ARE DOING THE HARD WORK OF PURSUING THEIR OWN CREATIVE AND ACADEMIC GOALS, WHILE ALSO PAVING THE WAY TO FURTHER THE REPRESENTATION OF MARGINALIZED PEOPLE IN THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES. WE HAVE CALLED THIS SERIES, TAKING OUR SEAT. FOR OUR CURRENT FEATURE, WE SAT DOWN WITH CREATOR, ADRIANA YVETTE MONSALVE.
Adriana Monsalve -she/her pronouns- is an artist and collaborative publisher working in the photobook medium. Along with Caterina Ragg, Monsalve is co-founder of Homie House Press, a radical cooperative platform that challenges the ever-changing forms of storytelling with image and text. The works of Homie House Press, have been collected in the Library of Congress, the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and Maryland Institute College of Art, among other private collections.
Within her photographic practice, Monsalve is a storyteller and visual communicator that produces in-depth stories on identity through the nuances in between. As a daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean Republic of Colombia, she has struggled with the concept of 'home.'
“I am documenting to show you something I’ve found and ultimately, something I am. I’m documenting so you know I was here. .”
Adriana Monsalve earned a Masters in Photojournalism from the University of Westminster. She was awarded the Lucie Independent Photo Book Prize for her collaborative photo book, Femme Frontera, a project which was funded by the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures and was part of the Master Artist Grant for 2017.
SPEAKER GUIDE | AB: AKEA BRIONNE & AYM: ADRIANNA YVETTE MONSALVE
AB: So Adriana, you work both as an artist, a book maker, an educator, and you run Homie House Press, can you talk about how these intersect and how you balance them all?
AYM: Yes! it's true, I do many things under the umbrella of HHP. They have all begun to flow into each other in a really beautiful beautiful way. I first began working as a photographer / photojournalist and that stemmed into needing to create a platform were I can share my stories so then thats where the teaming up with Caterina Ragg happened, and thats how Homie House Press was born... we are 2 and half years young and having so much fun.. it really is a total dream to be doing this with my sister and creative partner in everything that matters. The educational part of what I do also just kinda flows into it as well. Because Homie House is trail blazing in a lot of ways, and challenging the ideas of what photojournalism is, we have to do a lot of educating around this platform because it is indeed radical. When ideas are new and they make others uncomfortable, you gotta be willing to do the work to explain / teach / hold space / essentially educate about it... or else these ideas won't go further than the founders that burn with fire for it... and if you really burn with this fire, you wanna spread it, so educating about it comes as no surprise to me.
AB: What inspires your work? Especially the work you do with Homie House Press; which is essentially curating in one of it’s most exciting forms. What inspires you to continue that work?
AYM: Our stories are sacred. There isn't much that I believe is scared in this world; and books, although beautiful, are definitely not. But the stories we house in them, absolutely are! I am inspired when our personal stories intersect with the narratives of history. That happens all the time, everywhere around me, every day, in so many ways. The book form is so powerful because it is not site-specific. It is one of the rare art forms that can be fully taken in no matter where it is. We, for the most part, make smaller size books. We want to keep these objects intimate and on your person.
AB: How do you personally view the role of your work, in relation to the heightened attacks on brown immigrants by the current administration? You yourself are the daughter of immigrants; how does this affect the ways in which you communicate the stories of the immigrant community?
AYM: Immigrant and immigrant adjacent stories are at the center of what we do here at homie house press. It seems every project we do is somehow connected to the immigrant story. As a daughter of immigrants it is something I have grappled with in so many ways throughout my whole life. The first book in the homie house canon has everything to do with confronting my personal narrative within my immigrant adjacent experience. Come to think of it so does the second and third book I did... honestly y'all, I am always talking about the same thing, I am just saying it in different ways and pulling from different parts of the root to show you broader pictures of the same thing. Everything with me stems from this sense of home that has always alluded me... the loss and finding of home is at the center of everything I do.
AB: What draws you to books as a form of curating and presenting art? Can you describe your process for designing a book, like the most recent release, First Fronteras?
AYM: First Fronteras is so special! We had such a blast putting it together. It was a longer process than we anticipated because we had more collaborators than we had ever worked with before. 30! its a lot. We got to bring in artists as well as family members into the project, so people that dont identify as artist in any way... because the idea behind the project is universal - so everyone has something to say about it - regardless of being an artist. The design was heavily based on this constant idea of FIRST / ONE / BEGINNING. We really wanted to push this word tied to the title of the book. So, throughout the book there are full pages that are a block of color with a symbol and thats it. These are different ways to say First / One across technological platforms and cultures. They all symbolize ONE. Also, you will see that there are not regular page numbers. But instead, at the top right of every page there is ONE in whatever ethnic language is indigenous to the artist on that page. So every page is numbered One, ahahaha! And really, we wanted to use this thing of languages because language has always been and will continue to be a border, its one of the first things you constantly have to confront when meeting new ethnicities outside of your own.
AB: Your personal work heavily explores photography with a large emphasis on individual stories. What drives you to tell those stories and how does it inform the way that you organize your work? (I’m thinking specifically about the use of writing, text, and the documentation of artifacts?)
AYM: The stories of my grandparents inspire me, the poems from the homies do too. Pastel colors always bring bright ideas; and pickles and mayo entice me. Gummies excite me, and dogs embrace me with the closest thing to fully accepting in love.. that I have ever known. Spanish was my first language but because I never went to school in this language, it has become second to English. But photography is the language I use when I need to speak clearly and yeah.. I speak it the most fluently. Writing has become the tool of my choice that I feel goes best with my photography... These days, I am able to write without an image next to it. I am writing more freely and writing as an act of confronting fears, climbing mountains, and claiming what is mine.
AB: Can you name a few artists, book designers, publishers, etc. who are currently inspiring your practice?
AYM: Yes I can! Remi Onabanjo, Erica Ariza, Work_Play, Lizania Cruz, The Menial Collection, Hanif Abdurraqib, Christopher Kardambikis, OOMK, Kimi Haneaur, Candor Arts, Heavyweight, Forest 404, Tonika Johnson, Teju Cole, Pidgeon, Indya Moore, Lizzo, Anis Mojgani, Octavia Buttler, Matt Eich, Jimmie Fails + Mont, Nate Larson, Dorain Ulises Lopez Macias, Cynthia Cervantes, Wesley Morris, Carlos Vives, and Beyonce.
AB: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?
AYM: YES! for the first time ever HHP is practicing say NO. We are (surprisingly) fully booked for 2019. Insane. So we have many projects coming out soon. First of which will be: Self/Ser by River Ceollo. <--- look for this super soon! I am really looking forward to next week, because I am actually taking a vacation... I cant believe it. A short one, but much needed. Upcoming projects... I am working on Diaspora Diction and where the next move for this project will unfold... lots of amazing things coming together for that... excited to dive in, but beibi gyal gotta get a grant first. So if you know of any grants / residencies for in-depth story telling / publishing - pass them along to me!