Baltimore was the first city outside of England to adopt gas streetlights and to celebrate the distinction, the city is holding its third annual Light City Baltimore, billed as “America’s first and largest international light, music and innovation festival.”
The month-long festival takes place April 6-21 and features 21 large-scale light installations, featuring 10 Baltimore artists standing shoulder-to-shoulder with artists from Belgium, China, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom as well as Virginia and Illinois. Full details at lightcity.org.
One of the artists on display is Hoesy Corona, whom art aficionados around D.C. and Baltimore may not immediately connect with his more familiar alter ego — Dr. H. Corona.
“I think of myself as an artist of change. My performative alter egos are part of my larger inquiry into who we are and how we construct ourselves and our identities,” Corona says. “And how so often those who exist on the margins of society have to change who they are simply to survive.”
He describes his project-based work as “predicated on a multimedia approach that encompasses installation, performance, sculpture, painting and public art,” exploring what it means to be a queer Latino person in a place where there are few. In his work, Corona considers the psychological and physical ramifications of never seeing oneself reflected anywhere.
“My work is content driven but aesthetically motivated,” he says. “As such, I’ve developed a personal creative vocabulary that I implement in the studio when constructing a new piece. Recurring themes of queerness, immigration, climate change, alienation and celebration are all present throughout my work. I create otherworldly colorful manifestations that seduce and draw in the audience closer to the work while challenging their preconceived notions.”
The 30-year-old, Mexican-American multidiscipline artist is originally from Baltimore, but now lives in Washington, working full-time as an artist and fulfilling a fellowship at Halcyon Arts Lab, an organization that nurtures the development of socially engaged artists.
He’s been creative for as long as he can remember, with his earliest memories being of holding pencils or playing with non-hardening clay. Corona attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and studied painting and independent curatorial studies.
“I was trained as a painter so some early influences include Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Hockney and Paula Rego,” he says. “As I developed my practice, I started to embrace the notion of being an uncategorized artist — as such I’ve been influenced by national artists Teresita Fernandez, Coco Fusco, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Guillermo Gomez Peńa, Nick Cave and Kalup Linzy; and local artists Valeska Populoh, Joyce J. Scott, Melissa Webb, Paul Rucker, Ada Pinkston and Laure Drogoul.”
His work has appeared at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, Current Space, Delicious Spectacle and Panoply Performance Laboratory.
“I am also an arts organizer as the founding co-director of Labbodies, a nomadic arts organization that creates opportunities for new media and performance artists to exhibit their work,” Corona says. “With Labbodies, we have a strong focus of working with artists of color, queer artists and non-conforming artists.”
For Light City Baltimore, Corona’s project is entitled “Alien Nation 2,” and he focuses on bringing to life a small excerpt from a larger project that took place last summer at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
“For that project, I wanted to do something of a global scale that implicated a broad audience and included as many people as possible,” he says. “So, I conceived of the idea of climate-induced migration as a very real issue of our time that needs to be voiced.”
In Alien Nation, he considers the impending plight of climate immigrants worldwide. The performers will wear what he calls “climate ponchos,” which include head gear that obscures their faces, an approach he chose because of the mystery and anonymity it affords and because of its ability to absorb laser and light effects. Always silent, these figures will roam about the festival’s two-mile space at the Inner Harbor and in various locations create repetitive sculptural forms and movements for attendees.
The clear wearable climate ponchos are adorned with images that depict the archetype of the “traveler,” with the people depicted wearing backpacks, carrying suitcases, wearing hats and some holding children.
“They are all on their way somewhere, in one direction a lot of the times,” he says. “This simple showing of people in movement, in transition, resonates with a world-wide issue and echoes the reality of the festival goers as they themselves traverse the festival footprint to see light installations.”
In his ongoing series, the Nobodies (2009-present), Corona utilizes colorful sculptural garments fitted to the human body to create other worldly experiences for the viewer.
“I revel in the simultaneous visibility and invisibility that the garments bring to the wearer. In these public performances, I invite audience members to play a part in the act of nobodying, an operation that consists of making somebody, nobody,” he says. “Nothing all of a sudden becomes individualized, becomes body and eyes becomes no one.”
Corona’s roving performance at Light City will take place on April 14-15 from 8-11 p.m. His work can also be seen in the “Queer(ed) Performativity” group show at D.C. Arts Center curated by Andy Johnson, April 13-May 20; and in May, he will be traveling to Athens, Greece with Transformer D.C. as part of a Sister Cities grant. In September, he will be part of a group show at the Strathmore curated by Laura Irene.
And who is Corona aside from his artwork?
“I love my friends and family, I love drag queens and I know I’m procrastinating when I start a new series on Netflix,” the Scorpio, who’s single, says. “I love fresh empanadas and my go-to morning drink is fresh cold brew with coconut milk.”
He devours podcasts like “Latinos Who Lunch” and “Modern Art Notes” and is himself at work on a forthcoming Latino podcast with artist Mercedes Estefani called “Vale N. Tina Podcast,” dubbed in honor of Valentina from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which he says will focus on art, politics and Latino culture.