Hey folks! This week, we head northeast to Rhode Island, where feminist artist/scholar Suzy Gonzalez is currently working on her Master’s degree! She donated art to us for last year’s online art auction. Check out this awesome Chicana below!
Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Hey Suzy! We’re stoked to be talking with you! Thanks for setting time aside for us. Can we start with where you’re from and where you are now?
Suzy Gonzalez (SG): I was born in Austin, TX, grew up around Houston, went to college in San Marcos, then lived in San Antonio for a bit. I am 100% Texan. I began my MFA degree in painting last year at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, so I’ll be here for one more year. Only time will tell what my next adventure will be!
TWPC: Awesome! Congrats and good luck to you in Rhode Island! This next question is especially important because of the history behind the term and the movement. How do you define your feminism?
SG: I like this question because I know that every person has a different answer to it. There is no correct definition of feminism. My feminism began as an interest in women’s rights but has expanded quite a bit over the years. With more contemplation, I have come to understand feminism as a fight for the rights of all living beings. I find that issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and speciesism are all intertwined in a web of complexities and are all fighting for similar things in a way—for marginalized lives to be considered valuable. I’m not an incredibly religious person, but I do believe that you should treat others the way you would like to be treated. I’m a Chicana vegan feminist with overlapping interests in both human and non-human animal rights.
TWPC: Rock on! That’s a great way of thinking about things—treat others the way you want to be treated. We strive for that in our Collective and the way that we work with writers and artists. What keeps you busy?
SG: Right now, school. Everything. Painting, drawing, sculpting, animating, writing, teaching, trying to explore everything that I can while I’m still here. Grad school is definitely the busiest I’ve ever been and probably the busiest I ever will be. Additionally, I am doing my best to be active with artists and activists outside of school.
I think it’s important for artists to be in conversation with those outside of their usual bubble to provide a fresh set of viewpoints. Besides, I want my work to be seen by the general public, not just “academics.” I’m also involved with a feminist discussion group called the Dinner Party and a new Rhode Island School of Design group, the Latin@ Collective. These safe discussion spaces seem to be pretty necessary for my well being because they allow me to relate to those whom I have things in common with. I’ve found that within institutions, (or maybe just life) if there isn’t anything available that you can identify with, you are probably going to have to create it yourself or find others with whom to create it with.
TWPC: As busy as you are, we’re glad that it’s with things that you feel are fulfilling and helpful for your personal growth, that’s amazing. What influenced your decision to help fundraise for Third Woman Press?
SG: Oh, it was a no brainer! It’s so great to see an organization like this coming back to life. I’m always happy to be associated with like-minded people with relatable interests and/or experiences.
TWPC: And we thank you so much for your contribution! Your piece Feminized Protein was a really cool asset to our online art auction last year. Sara has been gushing about you. She met you in San Anto at an art show, right?
SG: Aw! I think you’re speaking of the Yes, Ma’am zine release in San Antonio, yes? Well, it was great to have Third Woman Press there! It was my first time running into you all and it was so nice to see literature aimed towards my demographic. Yes, Ma’am is a self-published zine by Elle Minter and myself. I was really happy with the fundraiser, as we were able to support a number of people all at once. We had mujeres showing work at Lady Base Gallery, performing with Zombie Bazaar, and ended the night with a performance by Saakred. It was an all around love fest for women and queer individuals to express themselves through so many different creative outlets.
TWPC: We completely agree! It’s always so refreshing to be around others who share common interests and passions. What tips do you have for emerging feminist artists?
SG: Please just be yourself. Keep all critical suggestions in mind, but if someone says something stupid or offensive to you, let that make you stronger. Heck, make a painting about it. And if you’re up to it, speak up and tell them what’s on your mind. You will probably both learn from it. Another thing—if someone is in a more privileged position than you, it’s likely that they will not see where a lot of your work is coming from. They may see it as too political or too aggressive, or too personal. Just know that your work is your unique creation and never forget the importance that lies in having your voice heard. Do not let anyone silence you.
TWPC: Well said! It is so important to remember how powerful our voices are. There’s a saying: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” Great advice, mujer. Is there any specific area, field, or place that you feel really needs a feminist intervention right now?
SG: Oh geez, there are too many.
Issues of immigration reform need to definitely intervene into feminist spaces, and not just into Latin@ feminist groups. The growing statistics of women who are assaulted while crossing the border are horrific. Something seriously needs to change.
It’s also a huge problem that animal rights groups like PETA tend to ignore and even promote the objectification of women within their campaigns. I hold a multitude of critiques towards this organization, but I really just think that animal rights groups need to maintain an awareness of human rights and vice versa.
Finally, I hope that some day Latinas have way more representation within museum collections and exhibitions. There was only one Latina (Pauline Oliveros) out of 103 artists shown at the Whitney Biennial this year. Value and appreciation of artwork needs to go beyond the white aesthetic that has been continually trending within the elite art world. There is so much more work out there that is actually challenging social conventions!!
TWPC: Once again, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves, mujer! It’s especially interesting that you comment on PETA, as many of their tactics are so problematic. There should always be room for the rights of women on any platform. To take things back to a lighter topic, what do you like to do for fun?
SG: I think that making art and thinking creatively are actions that can find a way to exist within the realms of both work and play. If I find myself working on something that I’m just not into anymore, it’s really hard for me to finish it up. Aside from that, I enjoy watching goofy movies, riding my bike, going to concerts and art openings, hanging out with my chihuahua Winnie, cooking tasty vegan food, and reading way too much nonfiction at once.
TWPC: [Laughter] We’re glad you’re keeping time for doing the things you love. And that makes us wonder … is there such a thing as reading too much at once? Are there any activities you do specifically to recharge after doing community organizing?
SG: I guess “reading too much at once” to me means that I’m sort of picking and choosing intros and chapters to read rather than a whole book because there’s just no time for that right now! I think it’s good though because the complexity of identity can ledn itself to a multitude of reading topics and they sort of all have influence on the work I make.
After community organizing, I find it best to get some sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep. Also, further discussion can be super helpful if people are still down for it.
TWPC: It’s funny how much we take sleep for granted as kids! It is arguably one of the best things you can give yourself! Rest. Since you helped TWP raise money, what is one thing that excited you about the revitalization or what would you like to see TWP do overall?
SG: I think it would be great to organize a TWP event, maybe some sort of feminist or people of color book/zine fest/fundraiser in San Anto or anywhere where a whole bunch of publishers could gather and gain support from each other and the community! That is my only request. [Laughter.] Otherwise, please keep doing what you’re doing!!
TWPC: We love the sound of that idea, Suzy! We’re just starting to get our feet wet, but plan to go in the deep end soon!
Many thanks to this awesome mujer for donating her time and energies to Third Woman Press! And again, we’re sending good vibes to Rhode Island! For more information on Suzy’s current projects, check out her website! We have many more awesome people to showcase as we continue Feminist Fistbumps. Stay tuned!