Studio Visit: Xuxa Rodriguez

Studio Visit: Xuxa Rodriguez

Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a visit with Xuxa Rodriguez. The University of Illinois Graduate College Distinguished Fellow working toward a Ph.D. in art history, the Sarah Patterson Pagels Risk Assessment Intern for Collections at the Spurlock Museum and the 2015 ACE Award winner in the student category recently chatted with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli.

You seem so warm and friendly and engaged in the community.

I just like people. I like to know where they're going, where they come from, what they're up to and what they want to do with their lives. What they're excited about. I'm always doing studio visits because I love the processes of art making, how artists compose and revise ideas and maybe toss something out and start all over again.

Do you make art?

I used to when I was 5 or 6. My grandmother started teaching me oil painting. People thought she was crazy or kind of special because oil painting takes a lot of patience and building of layers. My uncle said she knew I would be laser-focused and I was. I painted until I was 15 or so, when I started getting more into photography and other media.

Where did you grow up?

Miami, Fla.

Where did you do your undergraduate degree?

First, I went to the International Fine Arts College in Miami. I dropped off after a semester because they were pretty much trying to produce market or gallery artists and I realized it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do.

Then I went to Miami Dade Community College and took basic courses. Because I paid my way I worked two or three jobs and took classes at night. I was the first generation in my family to be born in the U.S. and who went to college. My parents came from Cuba in 1967.

When did you come to Illinois?

In 2009. I went to Illinois State for a master's in English studies. I knew I wanted to go to grad school and be a professor.

I did four years at ISU — two for a master's in English studies and then my first year for a Ph.D. I realized I didn't want to be there so I did the second year while applying to other programs. It was time well-spent because I got a certificate in gender/women's studies and ran a seasonal performance series called Word Bombing. It's still running.

Do you perform?

I'll do spoken word. I did a mini-musical, "Grad School: The Musical," for Deke Weaver's course in performance art. I studied that because I wanted a better understanding of the other side — what it is like to make and embody a performance because I had been coming at it from the perspective of theorist or critic.

Why do you think you were chosen for the ACE student award?

For a long time, when I was at Figure One, I was kind of the cheerleader for everything going on there. I ran the Running/Hap.pen.stance seasonal performance series. I did all the social media and launched the 5 X 3 artist video interview series that's on YouTube.

What are you focusing on in your Ph.D. studies?

I'm looking at contemporary Cuban-American artists, specifically contemporary Cuban-American performance artists. I'm focused more on women. I'm really interested in Cuban-American artists not especially because I'm Cuban-American but in how they negotiate and maintain culture.

Weren't you a Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program Fellow last year?

That was a dream. That's all I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for Carmen Ramos, the curator of Latino art there.

Topics (2):Art, People