Antonia Wright is a Cuban-American artist born in Miami, Florida. Wright received her MFA in Poetry from The New School in New York City in 2005 as well as at the International Center of Photography for photo and video in 2008. Her works negotiate the boundary between performance, video art, photography, and poetry, questioning social norms through physical actions combining danger with beauty, aggression with vulnerability. She has exhibited in the U.S. and abroad and has been awarded artist’s residencies both nationally and internationally. Exhibitions include shows at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), The Perez Art Museum (Miami), Pioneer Works (New York), The Faena Arts Center (Buenos Aires, Argentina), The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Spinello Projects (Miami, FL), Luis de Jesus Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries (SF, CA), Aeroplastics (Brussels, Belgium), The National Gallery of Art (Nassau, Bahamas), and Ping Pong (Basel, Switzerland). In April 2012, she became and founded the first artist-in-residence at the Lotus House Shelter for women and children in Overtown, Miami. She recently won a WaveMaker Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation of Visual Arts Regional Regranting Program. She is represented by Spinello Projects in Miami, FL and affiliated with Luis De Jesus Gallery Los Angeles. Wright’s work has been presented in publications including The New York Times, Artforum’s Critics’ Picks, Art In America, Hyperallergic, i-D, New York Magazine, Daily News, Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, and The Art Newspaper.
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
Villains? It is hard for me to even appreciate a villain because I’m such an empath. I would say Nurse Rachet comes to mind From One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey- my recalcitrant soul loathes her. “Now calm down. The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.” Vomit!
But recently I’ve been thinking a lot about The Bonfire of the Vanities and the role of greed, money, and obviously, vanity plays in the book. It feels like the nadir of 2008 has swung to the other side and we might be at that self appearance-obsessed apex again now. As for protagonist, I’ve been absolutely in love with Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
As for a definitive moment, I would say when I was a sophomore in high school, my mom, who is a writer, bought me several books of poetry by Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I devoured them and took every literature course and creative writing class I could after that. As an angsty teenager, reading these books coupled with taking a lot of hallucinogenic drugs, really taught me how to think about navigating through the world as a choice of words.
3. What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a series of installations that are activated through performances. I created a machine that shoots the ubiquitous police barricade. The audience is instructed to stand within a confined space facing towards a supersized barricade and like a firearm, several rounds of standard “crowd control” barriers are launched in their direction. Ricocheting off the steel bars, the barricade becomes a physical shield, protecting the crowd from harm's way, while psychologically experiencing the violence. The work viscerally captures today's political and protest climate driven by fear and violence.
4. How has your writing process changed over the years?
Getting an MFA in poetry at the New School completely changed my process! When I was in school, I was reading my work several times a month. I found that process to be very performative- co-creating the meaning of poems in the public realm- which eventually led me to study poets who are performance artists. This research caused a major shift in my making- the poems turned into performances and the photography transitioned into video. Time now entered the work in a different way. I would still consider myself a poet - however now as a performance, video, and installation artist I am making what I think of as visual poems. I still subscribe to the sparse economy of words that poems employ but apply it to a visual language. A large part of my process is coupling poetic imagination with technique.
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
Darling and insightful.
*Photo credit Monica McGovern
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.