Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero
Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero misses the ocean. She gestures toward the latest iteration of her artwork “Glitter Beach,” a sequined tapestry meant to evoke the sea. It’s on display at Navy Pier— of all places—as part of THAWALLS, a multidisciplinary exhibition organized by Threewalls, Links Hall and Constellation. Outside it’s thirty degrees and pouring rain. “I want to be warm and in the sun,” she says.
Guerrero, also known as CQQCHIFRUIT, is from Miami. She draws a lot of inspiration from the tropical locale, as well as from her Cuban and Puerto Rican roots. “I see it as the origin of why I do a lot of what I do,” she says of her hometown.
Her desire to channel Miami was one reason she started the dance night Trqpiteca in 2015 with her partner Natalie Murillo. The events, which were held monthly at the Pilsen bar Junior’s but are now scheduled less regularly, are part beach aesthetic, part performance art, and part queer dance party.
Trqpiteca is very much in keeping with Guerrero’s immersive projects. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in theater arts, a background which incidentally trained her for much of the material aspects of what she’s interested in now: creating installations, making costumes and designing lighting.
After graduating in 2010, she moved from Evanston into the city, and fell in love with the queer nightlife scene. Eventually she became involved with Chances Dances, a collective that throws a dance night of the same name. The group taught her to DJ, and she is now an organizer of their events. “I think queerness and artists go hand in hand a lot of times,” she says. “I’ve been able to gain exposure as a visual artist because of the connections I’ve made through DJing.”
Chances’ inclusive safe-space policies are in line with Guerrero’s desire to create environments that people can find spiritual release in. “With DJing, you create a sonic environment and you are able to direct energy different ways, which I really appreciate,” she says. “I think that is definitely what art does, ideally.”
Creating healing energy was the intent for her event for this year’s 2nd Floor Rear, an annual festival of experimental work and ephemeral happenings in Chicago’s alternative spaces. Guerrero held her event at AMFM, a new space in Pilsen that blends art, music and design in an ongoing series of curated shows and performances. “Glitter Beach” was set up; the tapestry hung above a glitter-infused sand floor. For the event, Guerrero combined her work as a Reiki Master with her more traditional performative practice. Participants meditated, did bodywork and vocal exercises, learned and performed choreography, and then celebrated with a CQQCHIFRUIT dance party. The good vibe was unfortunately interrupted when a neighborhood man threw a rock through the gallery’s window.
“I think it’s just real that there’s going to be pushback for things that people don’t understand,” she says. “I can do all that I can inside but on the outside of that space, I can’t control what happens. And I think that’s just a reflection of the world that we live in.”
Undaunted, Guerrero persists. As a follow-up to that attack, she’s helping to organize a workshop at AMFM in May that will explore safety and alternatives to calling the police, specifically for art and nightlife DIY spaces. She has upcoming events at Co-Prosperity Sphere and Navy Pier, and will be in a group show at Acre Projects in July. In her new work, she hopes to delve more into her cultural history by exploring indigenous music, folkloric Afro-Cuban dance and percussion.
“I really want to get way more into traditional forms, and sort of see how to transform them or let them marinate in my body until I come up with something that is both honoring those traditions but is also original expression,” she says. “That’s an important part of my mission and vision as an artist, keeping traditions alive.” (Kerry Cardoza)
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.