Natalia Almonte

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Natalia Almonte was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She holds both an MFA in Fine Arts from Parsons and an MA in Art History and the Art Market: Modern and Contemporary Art from Christie’s Education. While at Christie’s, Almonte received the Alumni Association Award for Contemporary Art Connoisseurship. The artist's solo, collaborative and group work has been exhibited in multiple galleries from Smack Mellon in NYC to Área: Lugar de Proyectos in Puerto Rico. This past February she was the artist-in-residence at the Spruce Residency in PA.

In 2018, Almonte co-founded the collective Paradoxluxe which began as a multimedia video collaboration that developed into a curatorial team currently organizing the second and third iterations of the traveling exhibition, WE ARE HERE TO SERVE YOU. The first show opened at the Aronson Galleries on 5th Avenue in February 2020. The project investigates the intangible similarities between Greece and Puerto Rico through the lens of two entities in debt, but not indebted to, imperial powers that already control their economies.

Almonte is interested in the emotional anatomy of the Puerto Rican and coined the term “melancolonia” to describe how colonialism infiltrates the body and psyche to the extent that you don’t understand when it controls you. “Chronic Islandism”, another term coined by the artist, addresses the cyclical exploitation and neglect masked by changing circumstances since the foundational motivations for maintaining colonial grips are the same. Through experimental audiovisual poetics, text, installation, and works on paper, Almonte reflects on the lack of trust in record-keeping that validates the consideration of the subjective testimonial as truth, since fact and fiction are blurred even through “official” standards. Although this all sounds devoid of hope, a chronic state of dissonance is actually a space of infinite possibilities.

Miss Porto Rico (THE Pill series) 2019 Framed digital print (found Polaroid and film photograph) 26” x 38” Although Puerto Rico has no voting rights in the US government, in terms of Congress, Senate, or even voting for the President, the US “graciously” permitted us to represent ourselves individually in the global events such as the Olympics and Miss Universe. With 5 Miss Universe’s, Puerto Rico is in 3rd after the US and Venezuela with the most wins, reinforcing the stereotype of the female Puerto Rican beauty, but more importantly the breeding of women to fit into that stereotype. The print is composed of a 1950s found Polaroid of Miss Puerto Rico and a film photograph of mangroves.
“these dogs are born with the instinctive urge to heel” (THE Pill series) 2019 Framed digital print (eggshell membrane and fronds on a Polaroid) 26” x 38” In the 1950s and 60s, many Puerto Rican women were subjected to forced sterilization by the U.S. government because of both eugenics and an increasing demand in the workforce. This image is a 1960s Polaroid of my grandmother. She was unbeknownst of her own participation in the study for THE OG anti-contraceptive Pill, Enovid, a pill that was tested by American doctors, a pill that was taken by women that could not read English on the form they trustingly signed without understanding the risks, a pill that eventually provoked cardiac arrests on many Puerto Rican women.
American winter coat (THE Pill series) 2019 Framed digital print (eggshell membrane on a Polaroid) 38” x 26” This 1960s Polaroid is of my grandmother. The eggshell membrane placed over her body performs many roles. It comes from an unfertilized egg that you buy from a mass produced factory farm or grocery store, and directly alludes to the unfertilized egg that most females shed monthly. The membrane is a metaphor for the uterine walls and acts as a fragile protective layer over the womb. It resembles a winter coat, a useless article of clothing in the tropics. It references the process of gently removing the membrane from the eggshell and the impossibility of doing so without ripping it.
Ombligo (THE Pill series) 2019 Framed digital print (Polaroid) Ombligo means bellybutton. The bellybutton in the mirror is mine, but the mirror and the rest of the things are my grandmothers’. She told me that every time she looks into that little mirror now she sees my bellybutton amongst her stuff. Taking the Polaroid was my attempt at becoming part of her daily routine. I see my bellybutton as some sort of tether or portal to feel close to her, since I guess it was once... via my mother.
Un día como hoy (A day like today) 2020 video screenshot A pseudo-doc style video of my grandmother’s experience being treated as a guinea pig for the testing of the anti-contraceptive pill, Enovid, during the 1950s and 60s.

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