If you’re around Atlanta’s DIY scene, chances are you’ve seen Sophia Mackey or her work. A Sociology major and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies minor at Georgia State University, Sophia’s art can be recognized by its compelling colors and powerful messages. Here, she talks to me about how politics fits into her work, how we need to step up our representation of Afro-Latinx, and why we need to paint a better picture of the South.
Where are you from?
Well I was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a prominent hub for Dominican people and culture. I stayed there until I was four when I finally moved to metro Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been here ever since.
Tell me a little bit about your work.
A lot of my work focuses on my intense mood swings and/or my leftist politics. I recently finished up this 6-piece set of political pieces and I call them ‘Leftie Posters.’ They’re these little 5×7 watercolor and ink posters with illustrations and leftist reminders. I sort of made them for myself but also for others. A revolution of some sort seems so big and scary and distant in these times and I wanted to make these to point out the little ways we can make society less shitty and painful. But besides that project, I’ve also been working on more modeling clay work, like making charms for necklaces and even making small sculptures. It’s good to have both political and personal pieces going on (although they often overlap.) I hope to start selling those along with some prints of my Leftie Posters soon!
Your art has a very distinctive visual style. What inspires the way in which you approach and portray the subjects you illustrate?
So like lots of artists who grew up in the school system, I was pushed towards drawing “realistically” for years before coming into my own style. Even though I hate realism, learning it helped me learn where highlights and shadows and lines fall. I sort of took all the technicalities I learned in school and eliminated the strict rules and decided to have fun with my own expression.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest issues within the Latinx community that we need to address?
I feel erasure of Afro-Latinxness is an extremely big issue within the Latinx community. In the media, we really only see white Latinx and lighter Latinx folks on television and in films. More than that, there’s a lot of hatred towards and dismissal of Afro-Latinx folks. Whether it’s just blatant racist comments about darker skin and curlier hair or complete ignorance towards the systematic economic oppression of Afro-Latinx folks, it’s a constant issue and it must be addressed. That’s why I made one of my political posters say “Acknowledge Afro-Latinx,” because there’s simply no positive acknowledgement of our existence.
What makes you feel strong?
Wearing my hair out when it’s big and curly makes me feel strong. Holding hands with my partner in public makes me feel strong. Feeling safe enough to be loud without judgment makes me feel strong. Knowing how to cook the Dominican food my mom cooks (and cook it well) makes me feel strong. Making art and sharing that art, drunk dancing, hugging my friends, having an eyeliner wing sharp enough to slice, wearing my bright ass yellow high-tops. Lots of things make me feel strong; I’m lucky for that.
Why do you think it’s important to give a voice to the Latinx experience of being a Southern woman?
The South gets a lot of shit for being The South. Everyone thinks the South is just a whole bunch of racist white folks. And those racist white folks do exist… in abundance, don’t get me wrong. But when you think about it, it’s complete erasure of the strength, perseverance, and beauty of the people of color who remain or enter the South. We out here making a space for ourselves, especially in Atlanta. Atlanta is a hub for Blackness, Latinx-ness, Queerness. It’s beautiful here. We need more of that narrative being told when we speak about the South.