Interview with Jandy A Carvajal
Jandy A Carvajal is an interdisciplinary artist from the Philippines. Carvajal acknowledges diversity in art practice and appreciation. Amidst this variety, he recognizes the place of decoration in art making. His predilection for decorative art is influenced by his Catholic background.
Jandy A Carvajal: Your work explores queer space in Catholicism. By this, do you seek to point out what is “non-normative” or “not-quite-right” in this institution? Will it be ironic to do so, since the institution still deems same-sex unions as “not-quite-right”?
MG: I think that it is more about stating the obvious; the queer space does not aspire to be right. Being “right” would be aspiring to be something that it isn’t. I think by drawing attention to it, even if we want to just fit in, brings a conversation forward. One that would usually only be shunned away or not spoken about, the title “not-quite-right” asks well, what is right? How not-quite-right is it from the deemed truth? I’m not sure if my work states whether or not I agree with what the institution deems right or wrong – I like that, because, I myself, still struggle with a lot of these issues and my moral being.
JC: What are some instances of queerness in the Catholic Church?
MG: If we take the term queer and break it down to the simplistic definition of “peculiar” – some may say that eating Christ’s body and drinking His blood is still an odd action. The queer space is homosexual Catholics that stay within the faith that ultimately rejects them. The queerness is not conforming and staying within - even more so are the homosexuals in relationships that are faithful. The way that I am using the term is more about examining the “non-normative” fleshly desires and pairing them with objects in the faith – this often creates “peculiar” objects.
JC: Some objects that you use, like holy water fonts and green tapestry, have specific meanings in Catholicism. How do you make viewers who do not have a Catholic background understand your works? Do you primarily address a Catholic audience?
MG: I think that people bring their own interpretations and they enrich my work, even if they don’t come from a Catholic upbringing. The objects I use create a language that I find easier to interpret for myself and others identify with the pieces more if they do have a Catholic upbringing. That being said, I don’t think that I aim to only speak to Catholics. I want the work to spark conversation. I think that the work I make poses questions, in their design and peculiar nature – which allows viewers without a Catholic clue, can still penetrate the work and walk within.
JC: Aside from material references, your use of double coding is noticeable too, like with the dipping of fingers in flesh colored fonts. Is the double coding a strategy to avoid censure, in that it only obliquely refers to the often-swept-under-the-rug topic of sex? Or perhaps, is it the other way around, do you want to draw attention to uncomfortable topics by the use of suggestive visuals?
MG: I like how you say that I could be using the double coding as a way to draw attention to uncomfortable topics with suggestive visuals.
I think the double coding is a way for me not to be blamed of being blasphemous. Saying that I meant one thing and if someone gathers something overly sexual in my pieces, then maybe they are the perverse one. Maybe they are the ones with an ”intrinsically disordered” sexual desire. I don’t see my work as overly perverse – I see it as bodily and it discusses aspects of desire and moral issues.
JC: Thank you for your time. I appreciate the thoughts that you shared. One last question: Kim Davis. She represents many others who view homosexuality as wrong. While we cannot completely control who sees our work and their opinion of it, how do you hope they will receive your work if ever they get a chance to see it?
MG: Thank you Joseph for all your questions! I often think about this, I have yet to speak with another person who has been offended by my work – most just don’t fully understand it at first glance. They ask me questions and are usually fond of my compassionate vision. When it is all said and done, I hope that they can view my work and want to accept homosexual Catholics, that it could change their views, if only momentarily. I am not interested in offending or in hurting anyone’s feelings. My work is my reality; it contains fears, desires, hopes, and love.
As for Kim Davis, I’m not sure if she’d give it the time of day, which I am fine