oday we have the pleasure of interviewing “Uzumaki” Cepeda
a Bronx-born, Los Angeles-based textile artist known for examining how senses of safety, comfort, and agency are negotiated through objects and space. As a first-generation American woman of Dominican heritage, Uzumaki’s textile tableau acts as a safe space for black and brown people, while addressing the stigmas of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and colorism that often affect queer people and women who feel unprotected by American policies. Her practice consists of transforming everyday objects with brightly-colored faux fur to create interactive installations informed by traditional iconography of domestic spaces. Uzumaki’s dream-like and vibrant work draws from her childhood imagination growing up both on the islands of the Dominican Republic and in the Bronx.
Enter a colorful and playful world of faux fur textiles reflecting the DELI by Caliva brand brought to life by Dominican textile artist, Uzumaki Cepeda. This creative collaboration is an extension of Uzumaki’s first gallery launch in DTLA. Uzumaki aimed to launch a gallery that’s welcoming, safe, and inclusive for guests from all walks of life.
- Our interview with Uzumaki -
Your name is extremely unique, where’d it come from?
This is an artist name I came up with myself. I saw a rappers naming themselves, and I'm like hold up, like I can fucking name myself too. I was inspired by music and how people were able to reinvent themselves while they created their art. So I reinvented myself by calling myself Uzumaki. In Japanese it means spiral, it's chaotic like my life, cuz it be a fucking Whirlwind
Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from the Bronx, New York.
What's your ethnicity?
How have you struggled in the past to appreciate and love your body and when you have struggled, how did you overcome that struggle?
You know loving your body and appreciating your body for what it is, is important. I feel like growing up in this era, women are expected to be in this Cookie Cutter shape, especially nowadays. Surgery is so accessible now and before I feel like it was just titties. But now, it’s titties, ass, small waistline, and hair down to your toes. Whatever the fuck, there's this societal structure that has been built around what an ideal woman is supposed to look like… so when women don't traditionally fall into that category, they're deemed as ugly or unattractive or whatever the fuck! That shit is super toxic and at the end of the day every woman you know, or every person who identifies as a woman, we all don't fall into these categories.
It's unrealistic and I also feel like it's a very misogynistic narrative that has been shoved down our throats. I also remind myself that when I do look at myself in the mirror because I'm not gonna front, I'm not gonna sit here and act like I don't want to get my titties done, it’s just one of those things. But, also it’s weird how women in society are held to this perfection and men can walk around with shit stained draws and not be on top of their shit. It’s like yo, y’all hold us to this unrealistic standard but yet y’all over here dirty as hell smudging us. It’s not every man that’s nasty and shit, but it's one of those things where it's like yo, let's be real. I remind myself, if men aren't held to this standard, then why the fuck are we being held to this standard? That shit is fucked up and I definitely feel it's completely unfair! You know what humbles me? it's like yo, every woman is shaped different for a reason, so why the fuck would we all want to look the same?
That's some robot shit yo! That’s some sheep mentality weird psycho shit… like every woman is not meant to look the same. I feel every body type is beautiful.
"Everyone is beautiful, we're all different."
What always brings me back to loving my body is that if I love myself then I know people are going to love me, because if you love you for who you are, you're going to allow somebody else to be able to love you properly. There is somebody for everybody.
What message do you have for other women who struggle to appreciate and love their bodies, what message would you have for them?
Be real with yourself and don't change your body for anybody. Start looking at different Inspirations… I feel inspiration is all around you, but be realistic with yourself. You can find beauty from all walks of life and I always find the beauty in them. Here is another thing, start with yourself and make a list of what you like about yourself? from physical attributes to your personality, what do you really like about yourself?
You gonna have to sit down and think about yourself.
"You owe it to yourself to find something that you like about yourself when you're operating in this human body."
No matter what religion we believe in, we got this one shot living in this existence and you owe it to yourself to find something that you like about yourself.
I have to remind myself to love myself, especially when I'm not feeling fucking pretty, I'll look at myself in the mirror and I'll tell myself a thousand reasons why the fuck I'm ugly as shit, but then I step away and find even more reasons why I do love myself. I'm a person that believes beauty goes beyond physical attributes.
I've met the most badass bitches on earth that I would never fuck because they are nasty ass people, like their spirit is nasty. It's like all right, because you look good as fuck. But your mouthpiece, like bitch! Fuck! Like, you are a terrible person, right? That doesn't turn me on, be real, that’s my advice.
One thing, that you want to change in the world, for present and future generations of women to feel beautiful?
Capitalism needs to change. I feel there's always shade being thrown to women before selling a product. It's like, oh you look like this, then you must not live a happy life. Well, you should come through and use this product because this is going to make you feel prettier. Like, I wish I could destroy all of that!
Capitalism plays a big part in our oppression for real though.
The way they sell us these products is by destroying somebody, tearing them down to rebuild them back up with this product that they want us to eat up!
If I had the power I would destroy all of that shit, because it’s so unrealistic.
I feel like that would be something I would change to help our future generation.
What art pieces do you have that best represent self love?
I feel I do a lot of semi-nudity art and a lot of people are just like, “bitch you're being provocative, and you’re selling sex.”
Like bitch do you know how long it took me to be comfortable in a G-string or in front of a camera!? Like bitch! that took some work, that took some introspect and it took looking at myself saying you look good!
Cuz girl! you can wear whatever the fuck you want!
Photography and semi-nudity to me is one form of empowerment. We're taking our power back!
When I'm taking a picture showing my ass, I look good! But that’s for me. That's not for you, you know what I mean!? I think that's my swimming rebellion in the form of body positivity.
"Semi-nudity is really a form of liberation and art."
What inspires you?
My friends and my family. My experience living in this world because my art is taking everyday things and making them something out of this world. I made a fuzzy bedroom,
that shit was inspired from when I was younger because I never had a bedroom to myself, I shared a bedroom with my mother.
Life inspires me and my art encapsulates different moments in my life and making them something special.
What does your artwork represent?
I feel like my artwork represents a safe space. My mission is to create a safe space for black, brown and the LGBT community because, I feel growing up we didn't have that safe space. Even now we don't have that safe space so, I strive to make it.
What does your work aim to say?.
Be yourself! I know that sounds corny, but it's like real shit!
I just feel like women are always being put into these traditional boxes even as an artist you are told you can’t be an artist. People still downplay the fuck out of what you love, you know, right? I definitely feel my work is like, yo! do yourself a favor, take a risk and be as weird as possible if you want to be. Yeah, like I feel that's what I want to my work to represent. I’m just going through my journey being an artist.
What's the process when it comes to making your artwork?
Choosing a color palette. I always start with color first and then I work towards other things later. Then, I think about the idea of whatever I want to do and then I make a quick scan to see if anybody has ever done anything remotely like this. I’m also very big on not doing some shit that somebody else has already done. I'm super big on that.
What's in store for you next?
Imma hold another art show and I have a couple things dropping.
Where can people find you?
People can't find me on social media on
my website www.uzumaki.gallery
Visit my art gallery in Chinatown, Los Angeles
Address: Uzumaki Gallery, 424 W College St suite B, Los Angeles, CA 90012