Student Spotlight: Dante Mario Migone-Ojeda '19
BY Daphne Palasi Andreades, October 2, 2017
The Student Spotlight series highlights the work of current MFA students, asking them to share thoughts on their practice by answering curated and peer-submitted questions.
Dante Mario Migone-Ojeda ‘19 is an MFA Visual Arts student in his first year, who works primarily in painting and printmaking. We sat outside of Hamilton Hall to discuss his work.
What themes or subjects are you currently exploring in your work?
Identity. I think that communicating identity from any perspective is hard. I guess that’s why I’m here though. I figured New York is the best place to do it because there’s just a multitude of identities and a multitude of experiences, and being in proximity to all of it just seems like the place to be for learning how to explore and communicate these nuances better.
Where are you from originally?
Southern Illinois. That’s a whole identity crisis in itself.
And your family?
My family’s from Peru. It’s also a very mixed family—My mom’s side of the family is Japanese, Spanish, and indigenous, and my dad’s side is all Italian. So I’m all over the place. That’s why navigating identity is hard. Because what parts of that identity are parts that I can claim? Not even that I can claim, but that I do claim? It’s weird. It’s tough to know exactly where I’m at, but that’s something I’m trying to work on with my work, too.
What challenges do you face in your practice?
It can be tough just because a lot of these issues [of identity] are so deeply personal and come with so much baggage that it’s really easy to react just in anger, and I think a lot of my work tends to do that. So that’s why I’m saying it’s good for me to be here, good for me to see a multitude of experiences, and ideally be in a place where my experience isn’t as unique as it has been in Southern Illinois. So that I can maybe get away from just pure anger, and even just letting that anger be my first reaction but hopefully being able to get to this place where I’m able to synthesize some of the nuances of these identities.
Because like I said, the work that I have made so far has been kind of angry. So maybe it’s time for me to try to hit a middle ground here.
What themes or subjects are you currently addressing in your work?
Right now, like I said, I’m more or less just addressing identity—my identity—and how it exists as ‘other’ and as American, simultaneously, because the difficulty of navigating my identity is really navigating that dialectic. So that’s really tough. But I also deal with broader political issues, as well, that I think are also representative or influenced by that complexity of identities.
What materials are you working with at the moment?
Right now I’m working with silicone, skin-like silicone. And also cement. I’m working a lot with cement. So I’m working with canvases that sort of take on the appearance of walls.
Is that related to Trump and the wall in Mexico?
It’s related to everything that a wall can stand for. It’s not just related to contemporary politics. I think walls have deep implications and have always had deep implications. Like In the art world, they have. They’re very important in the gallery structure. But just in a broader sense, walls are things that are a visual language that anyone can access. Like seeing a wall or anything that approximates a wall is… It’s something that’s like a universal language. There’s no question of what a wall means.
It means separation. And so now, one of the things that I’m trying to navigate is—I was saying that I struggle with my work being really angry—so one of the things that I’m trying to navigate now is how a wall exists as a site of intersection. It’s not just a site of separation, but the potential of all these boundaries and borders as these really impotent symbols of separation that are actually more of a physical manifestation of a joining point.
Is there any theme or medium you’re interested in exploring in the future?
I actually really want to work a lot in public art. I’ve done some work before. I had a commission for a public sculpture in St. Louis. I have an idea for a piece in mind that would exist well, I think, as a public installation, a social practice idea. I would be interested to see how that would play out, and interested to see the dynamics and the places that I have to insert myself in order to make that a possibility.
Who are artists or works of art that you find yourself coming back to, or that challenge or inspire you?
I find myself coming back a lot to a video piece by Francis Alys. Its called The Green Line, and it’s this amazing video project, where he takes a can of paint, sticks a hole in it with a nail, and he takes a bunch of cans of paint with him on this trip, and what he does is he walks this line, the green line in Jerusalem that used to represent a wall that was the border of Palestine during the Six-Day War.
He does all of these interviews with a variety of Arab and Israeli citizens who live in Jerusalem, and there’s a bunch of iterations of this video, and it’s just him tracing this green line, this site that used to exist—like actually used to exist—as this visual separation, and he’s giving form again with this green line of paint as he’s walking through the city. And the whole time you’re hearing these voices of people who lived in this moment of history. And it’s a really beautiful piece that doesn’t doesn’t seem to be lashing out in anger, but it takes a stance simply by the action of it happening. It gives an opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard, while really staking a position in its own. Which I think is a beautiful way.
What’s been your favorite class at Columbia so far?
Definitely my U.S. Latinx Literature class. This class is amazing—Professor Negron-Muntaner is awesome. She’s the coolest. Though I haven’t had that many classes so far since I started grad school.
How do you think artists can continue growing as artists?
I think that artists, in a sense, have a responsibility as culture creators to create a moment. And if we want to keep growing as artists, it doesn’t matter if your work is political or not, it’s recognizing this responsibility that we have.