Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Arianna "Chikki" Cuesta

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.

Arianna “Chikki” Cuesta, known as Ojos Nebulosos, is an Afro-Domi-Rican photographer and videographer who focuses on the subject of Afro-Boricuas and African heritage.

(picture of the artist as found on her website)

How did you get into photography?

I always loved photography and videography, but after never really seeing any representation for people of African heritage, there emerged a sense of responsibility to bring this discussion to the forefront.

I’ve seen you’ve delved into modeling every now and then. How did this happen?

I never really decided to do it, it is just something that naturally happened when friends asked me for pictures. However, after modeling and reflecting on it, I’ve learned to love myself, so I really gotta thank everybody who encouraged me to do so.

What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

Based on my experience, it can be very classicist and with it comes racism. I believe there’s not a lot of space for people like me or even others with a darker skin complexion. I’ve noticed that a lot of people fail to understand why I identify as Afro-Boricua and sometimes some don’t really bother to know why I do the type of work that I do. I even had experiences where people liked my work, complementing it for being “cool,” but they didn’t allow me to present because it wasn’t what they looked for or because I wasn’t connected to someone in particular. So I feel it [the art scene] still needs to grow because some are still stuck with the classic Eurocentric standards of beauty. I remember once going to a presentation in Guaynabo where the focus was Afro-Boricuas and African heritage, but all of the artists were white, except for a friend of mine. In addition to that, some of the work focused on showing naked women, huge afros, and/or slavery. That experience made me think that we [Afro-Boricuas] are seen as good for some sort of edge or controversial arousal, which is like when people who don’t understand our issues use them as a way to show themselves as white saviours. In sum, I believe the scene in Puerto Rico has to grow by opening the doors to people who are usually put to the side, for example, those who are of African heritage.

Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

I don’t really pursue the mediums. I just go with whatever field calls me. I don’t think art can be put into a box like that because what may be art to you, may not be for others. I also don’t like to put pressure on myself and ask “what’s next?” I just let the art guide me to the direction I need to go.

If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

I would ask her why and depending on her motives I would provide her advice. If she has a real motivation and purpose I would help her out. I can’t give advice to someone who wants to do art because it’s “trendy.”

What is your biggest goal right now?

I always want to give back, no matter what, be it through my photography, presentations, videography, etc. At the end of the day, I want that little kid who came from nothing to have everything.


Connect with Arianna Cuesta through her website or Instagram

All of the pictures in this article were found in Cuesta’s website and used with her consent.