Fourteen people making Orlando a better place 

People we love

Page 10 of 13

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz


You might know Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz from her inclusion in the prestigious Florida Prize exhibition at Orlando Museum of Art. In portrait and video she appeared, face painted white, wearing a crown and brandishing a sword as "GuerrilleReina," part of her Reinas/Queens performance series based on physical manifestations of personal anxieties. Or you might have seen her on YouTube as Chuleta Yoprimero, a no-shit-taking, doobie-wearing Nuyorican calling out art-world nonsense and teaching people how to bling out their coquito bottles for the holidays. Either way, Raimundi-Ortiz's work holds a space uniquely her own.

Throughout her life, Raimundi-Ortiz's focus has been on using her art to tell the stories of people whose narratives are often blurred out, like her own feelings of "ni de aquí, ni de allá" and otherness, or stories from her Puerto Rican parents, who migrated to New York with limited academic education and worked hard to provide for seven children.

"Without access to having their stories written, my parents were going to be forgotten," she says. "They were going to live their lives and then die and be part of a faceless trajectory." Telling those stories has included a performance series called El Camino where Raimundi-Ortiz, dressed in typical white Puerto Rican bomba dress, tries to find a quebrada or ravine in the city in which to wash clothes by hand, and Wepa Woman, a series of comic-book style murals and paintings featuring a superhero tasked with Nuyorican cultural preservation.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Raimundi-Ortiz moved to Orlando almost seven years ago for a job as an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida's School of Visual Art and Design UCF and hasn't missed the alternate-side parking since. In June she contributed a drawing ("Otra Vez/Not Again") and essay for art magazine Hyperallergic about the Pulse shooting's "eerie similarity" to what she'd experienced during 9/11 in New York City. "Like a nasty blow, you're left stunned, then dull and throbbing," she wrote. "The outpouring of love in Orlando has been beautiful to witness, but I am still numb."

She says the next installment of her Reinas series, in March, embodies a mother meditating on the loss of her child, which stems from her anxieties raising her brown son in a world where people of color still die from police brutality.

"Parenting is already stressful enough," she says. "Your skin being a dangerous place to live in is an extra element that your counterparts don't have to think about."

Raimundi-Ortiz says going forward, she wants to bridge the gap between the academic art world and local Latino artists.

"I've made enough noise and have enough clout inside the machine to speak to the people in here about the folks on the outside and wedge the door wider," she says. "The onus is on the next generation to ask themselves, 'You can draw? OK, now what?' and walk through."

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