How do we organize truly intersectional artistic collaboration across time and space? What might running a small business teach us about the creative process? How might a thoughtful creative practice allow us to think deeply about the intersectionalities of struggles?

In episode 74 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, host Cathy Hannabach interviews artist, designer, and art director Veronica Corzo-Duchardt about the personal and collective histories hidden in Cuban architectural surfaces, how current scholarship in diaspora studies and cultural anthropology inspires Veronica’s art work, how to make time for your own writing and creative projects amidst other responsibilities, and why intersectional creative collaboration is key to how Veronica imagines otherwise.

Guest: Veronica Corzo-Duchardt

Veronica Corzo-Duchardt wearing a white shirt and grey glasses, standing in front of shelves. Photo by Anjali Pinto. Text reads "Veronica COrzo-Duchardt, Imagine Otherwise podcast episode 74"Veronica is queer Cuban-American artist, designer, and art director.

Her art work engages with popular representations of Cuba to reflect upon tensions between personal and cultural identity, memory, history, and nostalgia. She uses a variety of media including screenprints, photography, objects, text, mixed-media, and digital platforms to explore the multivalent ways we share and preserve our individual and collective histories.

In addition to her fine art work, Veronica is an art director at Bitch Media and works with clients under her studio name, Winterbureau.

She has collaborated with clients across cultural institutions, publishing, arts organizations and fashion to create culturally-rooted, contemporary, expressive work. Some of her clients include included the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Chicago Design Museum, Adidas, and CB2.

She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. Veronica’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the Centro Pablo Cultural Center (Havana, Cuba), and the Public Works Gallery (Chicago). Her prints and artist books are held in permanent collections at the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Joan Flasch Artist’s Book Collection (Chicago), and the Museum of Design (Zürich, Switzerland).

Veronica is also included in New York Times best-selling book In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney (Artisan Books, 2016).

We chatted about

  • Veronica’s artistic style and influences (2:01)
  • Veronica’s research-based art practice (03:22)
  • Winterbureau design studio and being a small business owner (06:36)
  • Working with Bitch Media as an art director (08:36)
  • Time management and advice on working remotely (10:22)
  • Imagining otherwise (14:45)

Takeaways

Veronica’s artistic style being shaped by her identities

My artistic style is very much an outcome of my various identities. I’m first generation [Cuban American], I’m a child of Cuban exiles, I’m bilingual, I’m queer, I’m an artist and designer. My work is influenced by my Cuban heritage and engages with popular representations of Cuba to reflect this tension between personal and cultural identity, memory, history and nostalgia, which is something I think about a lot both as a first-generation person but also thinking about the Cuban exile community and particularly my parents generation. There’s a huge divide within that culture both politically and in terms of how they identify. For instance, I identify as person of color and I would say that my parents do not. So I think about what that means and in my work, I use variety of media, including screenprints, photography, objects, texts, mixed media, and digital platforms, to get at how we share and preserve our individual and collective identities.

Cultivating a research-based arts practice

I see my work as really research-based….I am very much engaged in using academic texts as research materials and jumping off points….Very much like with my identities, I feel like I’m in between these worlds as I’m engaged in academia….I have a massive library that I pick and choose from that includes social justice texts, texts on intersectionality, and books by Audre Lorde and Angela Davis….I’m also married to an academic and we’re constantly in these dialogues together. One thing that we’ve noticed in our relationship is that there’s a certain point in which she’s digging deeper into the academic texts and I’m just like, “Okay, I gotta go to my studio. I’ll see you later.”

What running a small business teaches about the creative process

I think that running my own business has been an invaluable tool and that includes working with clients. Some of the biggest things that I’ve taken from that is a sense of organization and communication, which are things artists aren’t too well known for sometimes. As a small business owner, you have to do it all and you’re wearing all the hats. But I think that that’s a big thing that has benefited my art practice from the administrative side: putting together proposals, pricing, invoicing, even backup practices, project and time management, and how to build a schedule for a project. Really important, too, is communication and how to talk to people and get your concept across. When presenting ideas to a client, you have to know how to build that story so that they can see the process and come along for the ride so that they don’t just feel that they’re getting handed this solution. People want to feel involved in the process and I think it’s your job as a designer to figure out how to get them there so that they understand why you took the paths that you did.

Working as an art director for Bitch Media

It’s been an incredible journey, especially because I’ve been working for myself for over 10 years and so to have a team again is really cool, to have people to bounce ideas off of. And the three of us [co-art directors] work really collaboratively. I think there’s a lot of ways in which our styles overlap, but we also have very distinctive styles and we work in a way where we own particular things, but we’re also throwing it back when when we can’t look at it anymore or we’re not sure what it needs. We’re constantly helping each other out in those scenarios. Beyond the art direction team, working with the editorial team has been great and thinking about Bitch Media as a nonprofit and how that grows and the impact that we have on popular culture and feminist culture has been kind of an incredible journey.

Imagining otherwise

I want a world that’s equitable. I want a world that values art. Something that I try to get across in my artwork too is a world that approaches differences in people from a place of genuine curiosity versus exoticism or fear. And to quote Angela Davis, really thinking about not so much the intersectionalities of identities but the intersectionalities of struggles and how we relate to each other on that level.

More from Veronica

Projects and people discussed

About Imagine Otherwise

Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.

Sign up for our newsletter

Podcast episodes, articles, and offers right to your inbox to help you rock your interdisciplinary career

Our Privacy Policy

Episode transcript

Cathy Hannabach [00:03]: [upbeat music in background] Welcome to Imagine Otherwise, the podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining otherwise. I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach. [music fadeout]

[00:22] This is episode 74 and my guest today is Veronica Corzo-Duchardt. Veronica is a queer Cuban-American artist, designer, and art director. Her art work engages with popular representations of Cuba to reflect upon tensions between personal and cultural identity, memory, history, and nostalgia. She uses a variety of media including screenprints, photography, objects, text, mixed-media, and digital platforms to explore the multivalent ways we share and preserve our individual and collective histories.

In addition to her fine art work, Veronica is an art director at Bitch Media and works with clients under her studio name, Winterbureau. She has collaborated with clients across cultural institutions, publishing, arts organizations and fashion to create culturally-rooted, contemporary, expressive work. Some of her clients include included the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Chicago Design Museum, Adidas, and CB2.

She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. Veronica’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the Centro Pablo Cultural Center (Havana, Cuba), and the Public Works Gallery (Chicago). Her prints and artist books are held in permanent collections at the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Joan Flasch Artist’s Book Collection (Chicago), and the Museum of Design (Zürich, Switzerland).

In our interview, Veronica and I chat about the personal and collective histories hidden in Cuban architectural surfaces, how current scholarship in diaspora studies and cultural anthropology inspires Veronica’s art work, how to make time for your own writing and creative projects amidst other responsibilities, and why intersectional creative collaboration is key to how Veronica imagines otherwise.

[To Veronica] Thank you so much for being with us today.

Veronica Corzo-Duchardt [01:56]: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to chat with you.

Cathy [02:00]: So as a visual artist whose work has spanned a whole range of topics, you’ve really honed in on personal and collective histories and you use a variety of different mediums to do this. How would you would describe your artistic style?

Veronica [02:15]: I think my artistic style is very much an outcome of my various identities. I’m first generation [Cuban American], I’m a child of Cuban exiles, I’m bilingual, I’m queer, I’m an artist and designer.

My work is influenced by my Cuban heritage and engages with popular representations of Cuba to reflect this tension between personal and cultural identity, memory, history and nostalgia, which is something I think about a lot both as a first-generation person but also thinking about the Cuban exile community and particularly my parents generation. There’s a huge divide within that culture both politically and in terms of how they identify. For instance, I identify as person of color and I would say that my parents do not. So I think about what that means and in my work, I use variety of media, including screenprints, photography, objects, texts, mixed media, and digital platforms, to get at how we share and preserve our individual and collective identities.

Cathy [03:21]: How do you see your work combining your interest in academia or education with art and with social justice activism?

Veronica: I see my work as really research-based. I did my MFA work and I am very much engaged in using academic texts as research materials and jumping off points. I engage very much with cultural anthropology, material culture, diaspora studies, and notions of the archive and visual culture research, and collection and documentation play a really huge role in my practice.

Very much like with my identities, I feel like I’m in between these worlds as I’m engaged in academia. I was an educator for awhile and was teaching classes at school of the Art Institute of  Chicago. I use academic texts as a jumping off point and as a platform to create visual work.

[04:20] My work is really iterative and so I’m constantly going back to not only my old work but my old research. Recently I’ve been doing a project called Surface Histories. It started as a project that I worked on from my first trip to Cuba in 2009. As a child of Cuban exiles, that was a really complicated thing and it was a really strange position for me to be in where I was in this liminal space between native and tourist. I completely understand the language and so I understood the barriers that other people were facing as well as the huge tourist apartheid that exists there.

I went with a group of folks and we had an exhibition down there. People were taking photos of little kids in uniforms and people looking out their windows of houses that were about to fall apart. And I didn’t quite know how to handle that. So I just started taking photographs of surfaces. I had brought my macro lens and started working with that and really thinking about these surfaces as a place in where history exists and where all of these stories have amalgamated through the years—both political and personal stories. I used that as a jumping-off point.

[05:25] Since then, I’ve been really obsessed with Shannon Lee Dawdy’s work Patina: A Profane Archaeology, where she talks about the surfaces and materialities of post-[Hurricane] Katrina New Orleans. For me, there’s a lot of intersections between New Orleans and Cuba with regard to ancient cities and the tourist culture there. So that’s a book I have been engaging with a lot. It is full of bookmarks and underlining and I’m constantly going back to it.

I’m also constantly looking at work in diaspora studies. I have a massive library that I pick and choose from that includes social justice texts, texts on intersectionality, and books by Audre Lorde and Angela Davis. Freedom is a Constant Struggle is another huge influence on some of some of the stuff I’m working on right now.

I’m also married to an academic and we’re constantly in these dialogues together. One thing that we’ve noticed in our relationship is that there’s a certain point in which she’s digging deeper into the academic texts and I’m just like, “Okay, I gotta go to my studio. I’ll see you later.”

Cathy [06:38]: So you mentioned your studio Winterbureau, where you do both your own work as well as creative projects for clients, specifically focusing on the creative industries. Have you found that there are certain things that you’ve learned over the course of doing client projects that you brought into your own work and vice versa?

Veronica [06:54]: Yeah. I think that running my own business has been an invaluable tool and that includes working with clients. Some of the biggest things that I’ve taken from that is a sense of organization and communication, which are things artists aren’t too well known for sometimes. As a small business owner, which I know you know, you have to do it all and you’re literally wearing all the hats.

Cathy: So many hats!

Veronica: But I think that that’s a big thing that has benefited my art practice from the administrative side: putting together proposals, pricing, invoicing, even backup practices, project and time management, and how to build a schedule for a project. Really important, too, is communication and how to talk to people and get your concept across.

[07:46] When presenting ideas to a client, you have to know how to build that story so that they can see the process and come along for the ride so that they don’t just feel that they’re getting handed this solution.

People want to feel involved in the process and I think it’s your job as a designer to figure out how to get them there so that they understand why you took the paths that you did. This is both true for client work but also engaging with audiences and your artwork. Of course, I’m not always there to represent my artwork, but I do always think about how to create entry points for people to access my work, whether that’s through the medium that I use, the context it’s presented in, titles, descriptions, and the presentation of the work itself.

All these things I’ve learned from working with clients in a professional capacity and also running my own studio.

Cathy [08:37]: In addition to running your studio, teaching, and doing the 97 million other things that you do, you’re also an art director at the feminist media company Bitch Media. I know you work with a team there, and I’d love to hear a little bit about what you and the other art directors do there and what’s been particularly fun about being part of that awesome team.

Veronica [09:00]: Yeah, I mean it’s been pretty fantastic. It started off as a rebranding project, so we were rebranding their print magazine.

It’s myself and Margot Harrington, who’s based out of Chicago, and Jessica De Jesus, who’s based out of LA. We put together a proposal—well Margot, really, put together a proposal for all of us—to redesign the magazine. That relationship went well and then their old art director stepped down and it just flourished into this ongoing relationship.

It’s been an incredible journey, especially because I’ve been working for myself for over 10 years and so to have a team again is really cool, to have people to bounce ideas off of. And the three of us work really collaboratively. I think there’s a lot of ways in which our styles overlap, but we also have very distinctive styles and we work in a way where we own particular things, but we’re also throwing it back when when we can’t look at it anymore or we’re not sure what it needs. We’re constantly helping each other out in those scenarios.

Beyond the art direction team, working with the editorial team has been great and thinking about Bitch Media as a nonprofit and how that grows and the impact that we have on popular culture and feminist culture has been kind of an incredible journey.

Cathy [10:22]: I know you do a lot of that work remotely, but you also travel quite a bit to Portland to the Bitch offices to work fairly often. Those kind of part-remote/part-on-campus, always-going-back-and-forth positions are increasingly common in a huge number of industries, including academia and certainly all of the creative industries. I’m curious if you have any advice for folks—other writers, artists, cultural producers, even academics—who want to do well at that kind of remote work but also want to preserve work/life boundaries, which can sometimes get challenged with those kind of half-and-half positions. Any advice?

Veronica [11:01]: Oh god, yeah, that’s really tough. It’s a constant negotiation where sometimes I’m really good about my boundaries and sometimes it’s just like, we’re working on deadlines and they all go out the window. We all communicate. We have endless video meetings through Zoom. We’re on Slack so that we’re all communicating.

About half the team is remote. So there are people in LA, people in Chicago. I’m the only east coast time zone [person], so that poses its own difficulties. And there’s people in Portland. I’ve gone through the various stages of deleting Slack from my phone and just turning off my notifications and then putting it back on.

[11:45] But what I’ve really tried to do is doing time blocking. The advantage of being in an east coast time zone is that I get to start my day when nobody’s really up and looking around for me yet.

Cathy: That’s one of my favorite things too, I get a jumpstart. It’s really great.

Veronica: I love that. I mean, that does mean that sometimes it’s 6:00 [pm] and you’re in a meeting, but I really appreciate it. What I’ve been trying to do is block my time so I’m going into my art studio and working in the morning and then getting to my desk and checking in and everything. We’re usually checking in three times a week, we’re on call for meetings. But you know, the magazine is its own beast and so it takes the time that it takes.

I would say that I feel the most satisfied when I can feel like I’ve worked on my own stuff before I stepped into any client-type of work. So I try to do that through the Pomodoro technique where I’m doing some time blocking and making sure I get at least an hour or two on my own work or also on client work. Also, taking my dog on a walk and things like that.

[12:50] I’ve just been trying to be good about outlining my day to try and make sure that I have those chunks in there before it starts because I think that once it kicks in, it can become really reactionary. And I’ve definitely had days where we’ve been in back-to-back, six hours of video calls and I’m just like, “Oh my god, what has happened to my day?” And I don’t want to do anything creative after that. Not that my job isn’t creative, but…

Cathy: You don’t have any energy after that.

Veronica [13:20]: Yeah. I don’t have any energy to start thinking about larger issues and go back into my studio. I’m just like, “Ugh, I need to go physically move.”

Cathy [13:32]: What projects are you currently working on?

Veronica [13:35]: Right now, I am actually gearing up for a show in Philly at the In Liquid gallery in February. It’s a five-person show curated by Philly artist Julianna Foster. The exhibit centers around artists working with photographic processes that relate to materiality—mark making—and using photography as a source material to create prints and objects. It’s a really lovely pairing of artists. So that’s the big project that I’m working towards right now.

Cathy [14:06]: Do you like working on group shows more than solo shows or vice versa? Or are they just so different you can’t compare?

Veronica [14:12]: They’re totally different. I think there’s a pressure with a solo show because you’re really creating your own narrative and so you have to be thinking about all of those parts. When you’re working on a group show, it’s different because you’re bouncing off other people. So I think both are fun and interesting in completely different ways. In one, you’re feeding off of your own work and really trying to calculate that interaction in a different way. And then when you’re working with other artists, bouncing off of them can be really great—in the same way that it’s really great for the three of us at Bitch.

Cathy [14:45] So this brings me to my absolute favorite question that I get to ask folks on this podcast, which gets at the heart of why you do what you do—that world that you’re working towards when you create your art, when you do client projects, when you collaborate with your fellow artists on Bitch magazine. What world do you want?

Veronica [15:05]: You know, I want a world that’s equitable. I want a world that values art. Something that I try to get across in my artwork too is a world that approaches differences in people from a place of genuine curiosity versus exoticism or fear. And to quote Angela Davis, really thinking about not so much the intersectionalities of identities but the intersectionalities of struggles and how we relate to each other on that level.

Cathy [15:32]: Well, thank you so much for being with us and sharing all the ways that you imagine and create otherwise.

Veronica: Thank you so much for having me.

Cathy [15:43] [upbeat music in background] Thanks for listening to another episode of Imagine Otherwise. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire and this episode was created by Christopher Persaud, Rebecca Reynolds, Michelle Velasquez-Potts, and myself, Cathy Hannabach.

You can check out the show notes for this episode on our website at ideasonfire.net where you can also read about our fabulous guest as well as find links to the people and projects we discuss on the show. [music fadeout]