Artist Kevin Quiles Bonilla (all images courtesy Kevin Quiles Bonilla)

The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.

Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them. 

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What’s your name?

Kevin Quiles Bonilla

Where are you based currently? 

I’m currently based in Harlem, New York

Kevin Quiles Bonilla, “Edge (Colonial Wall)” (2018), (5) C-prints, 42 x 20 inches

Describe who you are and what you do.

I’m an interdisciplinary artist, and my current work explores contemporary representations of colonialism, and the constant transits through unsolid grounds. Several catalysts — the devastation of my home island Puerto Rico by Hurricane María in 2017, followed by the uprising of 2019, the earthquakes of 2020, and the recent COVID lockdown — have continuously brought the colonial status of the island and its people back to the surface, revealing our seemingly perpetual unsolid ground. Through photography, video, performance, and installation, I question the amalgamation of outcomes that arise through my lived experience as a Puerto Rican, as a diasporic migrant, as a queer person, and as a person with a disability.

Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.

I’m very proud to have continued nurturing my community of family, friends, and colleagues despite the ongoing pandemic and lockdown. It can be very easy to seclude yourself and allow the uncertainty we’re experiencing to take hold of us, which is what happened to me when all of this began. That’s why I’ve tried to use the tools I have to continue checking in with my people — to see how they’re feeling, what they’re doing, and what expectations they have for the near future. And every now and then, have a dance party.

Kevin Quiles Bonilla, from Unearthing through many (2019), performance

Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?

I celebrate queerness through my work, through acknowledgement, and through dancing.

What’s been top of mind for you lately?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the essential workers who are rarely acknowledged by the media: the custodians at hospitals, the employees at supermarkets and pharmacies, the public transportation workers. People who continue to provide a certain level of normalcy throughout all of this.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about home. Puerto Rico has been through several traumatic moments in the recent years, most recently the earthquakes in early January. All these events have created a sense of PTSD for a lot of islanders (and their loved ones), but there’s always this desire to return to normal, as we’re seeing now in the US as well. I feel there is no regard towards taking time to acknowledge mental health concerns.

Kevin Quiles Bonilla, Colonial Wall Push (video still) (2016)

Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)

My support system is the community I’ve slowly cultivated since arriving in New York: friends, colleagues, mentors and professors. My family and friends back home. People who I care about, and I know care about me. People with whom I feel comfortable to show my work in progress. People that have ultimately influenced me.

I’m currently doing a residency at LMCC, and it’s definitely helped to continue meeting with my cohort and friends virtually during the lockdown. We have developed a comfort in each other to share how we’re feeling and coping each week.

How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?

Pride is celebrated all the time, but I will celebrate Pride Month virtually.

Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?

I’ve truly loved how the community has rallied and created new virtual platforms to continue discussing ideas, to maintain studio visits, and to continue educational programming. This has all been made possible by both established and up-and-coming artists, curators, and educators coming together to support the community throughout this time.

Kevin Quiles Bonilla, “Carryover (Blue tarp at Chelsea Piers)” (2019), C-print, 20 x 30 inches

In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?

I aspire for a community with more empathy and more care.

What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?

I am going to hug my friends, and I am going to go dance!

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Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.