Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Monica Cristina Bustillo

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.


Mónica Cristina Bustillo is a young artist who combines photography and content creation for social media.



What got you into photography and modeling?

I always enjoyed watching my family albums and how they captured every moment and made it special. I wanted to make life memorable, so I just took my first camera and started taking photos of everything and everyone. I started modeling only in self-portraits; [I am] still getting used to being in front of the camera.


How did you develop your style?

I try to have a very simple and classy style for my photos.  I combine vintage styles with a pinch of modern edge.



How has it evolved through the years?  

My first photos were taken on Fujifilm Powershots and I edited them in Google Picasa or Pixlr, which were entirely dreadful. Throughout the years, I’ve learned more on my own, started using DSLR cameras like Canon and Pentax, and learned to edit on adobe photoshop and lightroom.


What are some of your influences and inspirations?

I tend to not idolize anything or anyone. I guess my biggest inspiration definitely comes from day to day emotions.



I’ve noticed you have a few tattoos. I’ve also seen you alongside tattoo artists. Do you wish to work in the field one day?

Actually, one of my clients is Tattoo Puerto Rico Corp. I manage their social media image and photograph their work. I love tattoos and have the pleasure of working with amazing artists. I wish to help people expose their art in the best way I can.


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

I’m pursuing an interdisciplinary degree because I enjoy mixing art forms.  I’m currently a jack of all trades, master of none. I’m into photography, writing, acting, modeling, dancing, painting, fashion design, interior decor and the list just goes on really.



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

Honestly, I think there’s so much underrated talent in Puerto Rico who just don’t get good enough exposure that they begin to give up. It’s very difficult to make it in Puerto Rico’s art scene; artists tend to sell out and often change their work ethics just to get noticed. It’s truly disappointing how they don’t get the recognition they deserve just because they don’t do well on social media.


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

*In comes “Puerto Rico se levanta” slogan.* I think Puerto Rico is just one big scene with different cliques. It's a small island and everyone knows each other in some way.  Collabs are rising everywhere. Many artists collaborate with others, which allows room for more connections to network in the field. Artists are trying to “make it” any way they can. We have art expos, art fests, street art, local stores and online, etc. If you want to help, just support your local artists. Here in Puerto Rico, I have collaborated with amazing artists who just need a little push to realize their worth.



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

Oh honey, always have a plan A through Z, meaning always have a backup plan of a backup plan and so on. Life is not easy but art seems to make it pleasurable. You will struggle, you will find yourself eating ¢.50 ramen at night and crying thinking you’re a failure. The important is to be patient and stay in course. If you want to be an artist, all you have to do is go for it. Do not concentrate on being a big shot, concentrate on being yourself.


What is your biggest goal right now?

My biggest goal is graduating next semester and moving from the island to find better career opportunities. I seriously don’t know if I want to keep studying towards a masters or just impulsively buy a plane ticket to start my world travels. Either way, I’m taking my camera with me.



What do you seek to achieve with work?

I expect to travel with my photography and help others do the same. I will do my best to expose art everywhere in its finest form. Countless times, I get frustrated over the value of my work. It’s so disappointing when I publish a photo I worked on and it doesn’t get a fraction of views as a nude. It’s a struggle to expose my work. I’m not doing it for the money, I just want recognition for my work and others’. I know some day we’ll all get what we deserved on what we worked so hard for. I’m not going to sit around and wait for it to fall in my lap.


Follow Mónica Cristina Bustillo on Instagram


All of the pictures found in this article were provided by Mónica Cristina Bustillo