#ARThags: Joanna Valente, Managing Editor of Luna Luna Magazine
#ARThags – Joanna Valente, Editor and Poetry Champion
The latest showcased indie artist in our #ARThags series is Joanna Valente, a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and are the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. Find out more: joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente
Describe your art in less than 100 words…
I am a visual artist and writer, and have been working in both mediums since I was a child. Professionally, I have received my MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in writing, am the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing By Survivors of Sexual Assault, and the author of five poetry collections.
Choose 3-5 pieces you really like…
I’m including five pieces from my #Survivor photo series…
In a time where our bodies and minds seem to be more separated from nature, I couldn’t help but see this fence and see this as a literal separation from ourselves and humans and earth. It almost reminded me of the origin story in the old testament where the first humans are thrown out of the garden. It’s as if we want to be part of it, but no longer can. In a more political sense, I also can’t help but feel we keep putting walls and borders around us, or are trying to. The current administration in the U.S. thinks separating families, people, and countries apart is a good thing, when I cannot think of anything more cruel or devastating.
Living isn’t easy, no matter if you’re in NYC or a small town in rural America. I feel like there’s so much distraction and needless stress, anxiety, and hardship. I was walking around my relative neighborhood and saw this family, a father on his cellphone speaking frantically, a child on his hip, and a mother putting her hand on her forehead – all as they wait for the light to change. It’s hard not to see this moment, this tiny moment, as metaphorical and universal. The way the light falls starkly like a line on the other side of the bridge, all of it.
This is a self-portrait. As a sexual assault survivor, I am always trying to find ways to claim my body and agency, to find my power. I was at an art and writing residency at the time I took this and found this church pew in one of the rooms and it was so perfect. For me, coming from religious Christian background, shame and guilt around sex plagued me, even before I was assaulted. This only magnified post-assault(s). Wearing a white skirt and using the bench as symbols and metaphors of “purity” and spirituality (especially in opposition to being topless), I chose to draw power from it – rather than let them rule me.
Identifying as queer in any capacity is dangerous right now. I personally identify as queer and nonbinary, but it can be scary in such a tumultuous time, and in a time where even many progressive communities don’t understand gender identity or try to break away from norms and stereotypes. Often times, I choose to pass because it’s easier, but there is a sadness and a sorrow in doing that, in sublimating our truest selves. This self-portrait aims to portray the deep, dark place we put ourselves in to pass, to be what others see as normal.
BadBad Good Witch
Spirituality has always been an important aspect of living. As someone who has always found different religions and spiritual beliefs fascinating, and identifies as a witch (among other religious practices), it can be difficult to find your identity, your practice, and a community that feels right and welcoming. Identifying as a witch in general can be both isolating and freeing. Standing in this river, so cold already in September, in a white skirt with my long hair whipping my face, was me at my truest in that moment. Some people will demonize and other you for having beliefs that don’t reflect their own, thus you are “bad,” or not wanted – and some will praise you for being brave. It can be confusing to know where you fit in on any spectrum, to even have the confidence to be yourself.
What do you aim to capture/reveal/explore in your art? Has this shifted over time?
I hope to destigmatize trauma, particularly sexual and domestic abuse as a survivor myself. In addition, as someone who identifies as nonbinary, I explore and push the boundaries of what we see as gender, binaries, and stereotypes. Through my art, I hope to make people feel less alone and connect others together.
Some say creating art can be solitary. What do you say?
What are your opinions on art’s place in society?
It is society’s glue. It allows us to learn and become better, more self-aware humans, and hopefully, fight against injustice.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given (or given yourself)?
Be kind to yourself and others.
Calling all artists with ARThag souls:
If you would like to be featured on Mookychick, please visit our #ARThags artist submissions page.