I’m really, really thrilled to have Luis Vasquez La Roche join the conversations inside the castle of our skins. His work surrounding questions of identity, nationhood, and the self is exciting and it interrogates what it means to “be” in ways that offer no one pathway or one single reckoning but a beautiful and interesting examination of the complexities inside these various spaces that I think we can all relate to. According to his statement:
My project came through my recent body of work called the search, in which I deal with identity, cultural and some other issues pertaining to belonging within a certain space. I started using teeth because it is a way in which a person can be definitively recognized, apart from DNA, or finger prints. So when I use the word “recognize”, I don’t only refer to your identity by name. Because names, at the end of the day, are just names. Just like everything else has a name to be recognized. What I really was trying to do was consider whether I can pin point who I really was in essence, which I found difficult because I am not one thing but many.
All this came about as I got to Trinidad and all these issues of identity came about. My race was questioned (I was no longer considered black, which for years, I thought I was), so I started looking for something inside of me that I can feel comfortable with using to claim and identify who I am. In having conversations with another artist called Nikolai Noel, he explained to me that in a certain way, everyone has a way how they see themselves and is not necessarily related to race or gender; they use many other ways to describe themselves: personality, career, emotions, nationality, religion — whatever makes everyone comfortable and at ease.
The answer always comes with the context you’re in. So, what if there is no context (there will always be one), what then, will your answer will be? What is that thing that will describe you? So I drew probably 15 or more dentures (same type of denture, different surroundings) and made people take one and tell me what one thing they think they are.