This semester I signed up for Computer Visuals on a desperate whim (I forgot to confirm matricula and lost all my original classes #prepada), so I was completely unaware that an urban art legend was giving the class, until Sofia Maldonado strolled into CH-117 and introduced herself. I literally did a double-take. Admittedly, I was unprepared and a little flustered. Why? Well… tell me you don’t remember THIS trending on your feed a couple years back.
Photo by Mónica Felix
If you don’t, that’s cool. Kalaña is just a soupçon of Sofia’s project, “Cromática: Caguas a Color,” (albeit, the main course), which is an even smaller taste of the incredible reach this boricua born artist has achieved. If you haven’t stumbled across one of her murals in Miramar, Santurce, Isla Verde or Condado, there’s a chance you’ve seen her work around Wynwood, Miami, or maybe even on 42nd St, NYC (circa 2010). However, urban murals have an ephemeral condition. Nothing gold can stay, and Sofia Maldonado’s work is the 24k plated hoop earrings of muralism: boisterous and bawdy.
Photo by Zach Callahan
Her art speaks for the oppressed. At time the center of controversy, her vibrant use of color levels with her message, drawing the eye to focus on symbols of sex and Afro-Caribbean beauty, while simultaneously carving out a safe place for the community that, at large, has been otherwise forgotten or discarded. In fact, all of her projects involve the community at hand. Her philosophical approach to art is one of humanist intent embedded in the act of creation. Her most recent project, FemTrap, seeks to empower female sexuality through the erotic depiction of underrepresented, Hispanic trap artístas (omg, wait. Traptístas??? #TRENDING).
I met with Sofia Maldonado to discuss her upcoming projects, specifically FemTrap and its many counterparts. What began as an anthropological exploration in the contemporary subculture of Hispanic trap artists has grown into a platform, not only for trap music, but for female empowerment and body movement, reincorporating dance and art into one fluid expression. The initiative behind the movement stemmed from pure curiosity regarding several Spanish trap artists, of whom Sofia Maldonado’s portraits are based. If you want to get extra involved, you can match up the artists from their videos with their portraits: Muevelo Reina, Bad Gyal, Ms. Nina, La Favi, La Zowi, D’Valentina and Tomasa del Real.
FemTrap was born during her residency at Green Point in Brooklyn with the intentions of creating an exhibition space that felt “more like a party for people to dance and enjoy the music,” which led to an exposition in El Local upon her return to Puerto Rico. Sofia Maldonado, along with her students, Melincuencia, Zuh, Karina Stella and Luis R. Santiago, not only exhibited their artwork, but also totally transformed themselves in full trap gear and freestyle pole-danced. A boricua twist on purple drink (Uva Fanta and Palo Viejo) was served in styrofoam cups, while a visual playlist featuring the traptístas from the portraits was projected across the room. Meanwhile, Las Bellas Queens, an emerging girls-only trap group, took center stage for their debut.
Upcoming FemTrap events include; on March 10th, Santurce Pop will be hosting FemmePop in collaboration with FemTrap and a handful of artists, including Check-In Mela (I’m getting a personalized horoscope – so siked), featuring DJ Oxyris OG and Lou Stanz. The musical theme is international trap, so get ready for a fully fledged cultural experience. Also, on March 23rd, La Respuesta will be hosting a FemTrap edition of Rompe Cintura, featuring Las Bellas Queens, Sariekiller, BBYLU and Raitru, along with dancers Zuh and Melincuencia, and live painting by Maga Mercado.
This sounds like a lot, but I warn you, it is only the beginning. Between educating her students on female empowerment and drawing techniques, plus FemTrap and Hielo Air, and enjoying Miradero’s finest sunsets, Sofia Maldonado is a busy woman. However, her vision rises to challenge the future, hoping to pursue her doctorate with FemTrap as the basis of her research. She has an entire museum mapped out in her mind on the subject, and many more projects on the horizon. In the face of such a seasoned repertoire, I couldn’t refrain from asking what advice she might have for a young woman trying to succeed in the art scene. “Stay humble,” she said, as Kendrick Lamar pulled out a chair for me in the recess of my mind…