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Displacement and Arrival: Hoesy Corona

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In fabric and vinyl, artist Hoesy Corona tells the story of his family’s journey to the United States from Mexico as well as the broader challenges posed by the environmental racism immigrants face in 2023.

Depicted in changing landscapes reacting to the climate crisis, the figures in Corona’s fiber-based works are at once specific and vague. A suitcase might be decorated in a cherry pattern but the face and features of the person pulling it are obscured by cascading hair. Corona’s vibrant work is often wearable. He has made full costumes, ponchos, and blankets meant to be worn in performance and also displayed in gallery settings. As a result, his solo installations have the dramatic tension of a stage set for the curtain to rise at any moment.

In 2023, Corona is an artist in constant motion. He moved to Baltimore over eighteen years ago to attend Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for an undergraduate degree in painting and participated in the thriving DIY arts period the city enjoyed in the 2010s. A fixture of the CopyCat building’s monthly happenings, Corona cut his teeth producing solo and collaborative performances with Ada Pinkston as co-director of Labbodies (2014- 2020), the now-defunct performance collective the two artists established to highlight underrepresented and queer artists of the region.

 

Hoesy Corona

Labbodies received institutional support and recognition, such as grants from the GRIT Fund and Rubys, as well as invitations to perform at the Hirshhorn and Baltimore Museum of Art. Despite this success, Corona decided half a decade ago to shift the focus of his practice from performances back to painting because he wanted his work to be exhibited by institutions for longer than one night.

“I needed to create opportunities where people could envision my work in a gallery setting,” he explains and in 2022 saw this effort bear fruit. The current Creative Alliance resident artist mounted four solo shows, including one at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD, and received two inaugural fellowships—a Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and an Artist in Residence at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. In May 2023, he mounted his first New York solo show at Praxis Art in Chelsea and perform at the reimagined Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art Festival in Reston, Virginia.

 

Hoesy Corona
Hoesy Corona
I need to be the most knowledgeable person about my own practice until somebody else picks up an interest and wants to dive into it.
Hoesy Corona

This would be a lot for any artist to pull off, but Corona is approaching 2023 with a tightly timed itinerary. For the first five months he’s been in production mode, preparing work for his upcoming shows, co-teaching a college class for the first time at Wabash College, and coordinating with his collaborators for the Tephra ICA performance. After May, he started a new body of work in the Johns Hopkins libraries, probing the historic collection in search of buried histories.

Corona never pursued an MFA. Instead, he home-schooled himself in professional development by taking notes on Creative Capital grant presentations and seeking out opportunities with more established artists. From his first-hand observations he recognized, “I need to be the most knowledgeable person about my own practice until somebody else picks up an interest and wants to dive into it.”

Beginning in 2017, with his Climate-Immigrant series, Corona created a series of wearable sculptures which address the plight of climate-induced global migration in the familiar shape of a poncho made from cut vinyl, acrylic paint, and polyester. The garments depict travelers in motion, wearing backpacks and hats, carrying suitcases and small children, and are directly inspired by his own family’s history of migration for farm work since the early 1960s.

He explains, “These were everyday stories that I heard while I was growing up; stories about the [Mexican/US] border, stories about fear and horrible stories around being deported or being caught, or people swimming across rivers.”

Corona lived in Mexico until he was seven, and absorbed the bold colors of his home country, a palette that still comes across in the lush flora that surrounds the figures on his ponchos, which were also inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs.

The climate ponchos are an opportunity to “pose questions about our moment of flux, the shuffle and reshuffle that we’re in with the changing climate and migration patterns,” he says. “I’m interested in the idea of people traversing spaces, which implicates land borders along with who belongs and who doesn’t.”

The migrants depicted are not necessarily Mexican: Corona regularly distorts or does not show facial features or skin tone in his gallery pieces and his performers are covered from head to toe in bodysuits and adornment that hide their skin. Instead, he is interested in depicting a universal immigrant moving through space and not yet arriving at a destination.

 

Hoesy Corona
Hoesy Corona

Corona recycles elements of performances back into the works he shows in a gallery setting. Fabric and vinyl costumes or faux flower headdresses worn by performers appear in the gallery on mannequins or as photographs the artist prints on fabric and hangs in the space. This reuse connects with the cyclical nature of the works he has been creating, some for over a decade now, on themes of displacement and arrival. For Corona, it means that the pieces can always be in a state of becoming.

The process by which he makes his climate ponchos has changed somewhat over the years. He started by cutting the pieces using a digital plotter, then shifted to hand cutting imagery from memory. He has worked with projected imagery, and finally, in this spring’s iteration, with digital prints of altered photographs as wearables. The return of the concept back to fabric, the original material of a poncho, means the body and its absence is ever present in our reading of the work.

Speaking with Corona, his belief in the power of art to inspire and engage audiences despite the heaviness of the subject matter is striking. He is interested in all possibilities, wanting to “envision a future that is better than our present. That’s a better way to live, I think, than to be doom and gloomy,” he laughs. For him, sharing his art in as many public venues as possible is “not fixing the world, but hopefully it’s creating a more layered discussion” with more voices like his, he says. “I’m never writing anything off—it is always a ‘maybe’ in the future.”

 

Hoesy Corona
Hoesy Corona

This article was originally published in BmoreArt Issue 15: Migration, Spring 2023

This story is from Issue 15: Migration, available here.

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