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Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Sarah Cortes

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPRM chapter.

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 or La Central in Isabela, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico 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.

Sarah Cortes is a musician and visual artist who focuses on painting and drawing.


What got you into visual arts?

I loved to draw since I was a kid and I always used visual arts to express myself.  

How did you develop your style?

I believe the process I follow goes in hand with other mediums like music and everything else that’s oversaturated.  

How has it evolved through the years?

It has evolved a lot. Sometimes I think it’s going through an identity crisis, but then I realize it’s me who’s going through an existential crisis. I guess that, other than being of the creative process, the work I do will go more in tone with what I want to represent rather than a style per-se.


What are some of your influences and inspirations?

Usually, I’m a little shy about sharing this kind of information when talking about my influences because I feel I would get the same ignorant reaction I always get. If I say Andy Warhol or pop art, people usually tell me: “That’s trash and overrated.” But then I tell them “But.. isn’t that the point?” I think Warhol’s work was specifically introverted and representative of what would, otherwise, be preaching to the audience. Take for example, “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano, which I also love, especially because it was not meant to be scandalous, but it ends up representing a completely different approach. On another hand, and being less expressive about what inspires me, I’m also heavily influenced by music, sounds, society’s double standards, etc. You know, the usual.  

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

Sound art or photography. I’m technically a musician, an incredibly shy one at that, but the sound art scene in Puerto Rico interests me a lot.


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

Unfortunately, the art scene in Puerto Rico hasn’t been recognized as a cultural priority by the current government and I believe it is truly upsetting because artists, poets, historians, musicians, dancers, actors, comedians and others continue being marginalized while austerity measures are prioritized and taxes are elevated, all of which makes being an artist or cultural worker of any field harder. There’s a lot to talk about here. Despite everything, I have some optimism. There are foundations which work to promote art, museums in municipalities, small businesses and everything that helps the cultural nucleus of the country. Not to mention the support artists give each other and the way we all strive towards an equal goal, is one of the most rewarding attitudes we can give to each other as a community. It is important to recognize all of that.  


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

I believe it is positively a radically emerging movement that promotes artistic sensibility towards the country while opening doors to create new opportunities and ideas for this generation and those that come after.


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

Whatever you do, do it with dignity and respect towards yourself.

What is your biggest goal right now?

Participate in art events or to help create them. I also want to continue building up my portfolio.

What do you seek to achieve with work?

Continue doing what I do and support local artists in whatever way I can. So far, I’m very happy to be part of this community and humbly thankful to be a part of the events I have participated in. Something that I’ve always wanted to do that might or might not happen is an international residency of art and culture in Puerto Rico. There’s a lot of work to do, so with lots of ambition I’m trying to move my career in that direction. De aqui pa lante.


All of the pictures in this article were provided by Sarah Cortes.

Fernando E. E. Correa González is the author behind over 20 self-published poetry books. He has been published by literary magazines & journals [Id]entidad, El Vicio del Tintero, Sábanas Magazine, Smaeralit and Tonguas. Other than writing, Correa is also a filmmaker, podcaster, photographer and master’s student. He currently lives in his native Puerto Rico.