Outspoken Artist Nikki Luna Talks About Women's Issues, Dream Projects
What time did you wake up today?
Around 8 a.m.
What’s the first thing you usually do when you wake up?
I get kisses from my husband, ABS-CBN football commentator Mikee Carrion, and then make coffee.
What did you have for breakfast?
Coffee and toast.
I do Pilates and go to the gym.
What do you usually wear to work?
Shorts if I’m working in my studio, outside I wear pants.
What’s always in your handbag?
I don’t usually have one.
What inspires you?
The world we live in.
I love the style of all the girls in the movie Dazed and Confused.
How did you fall in love with art?
All I remember as a kid, I would rather draw or create something to articulate whatever it was that I felt.
Nikki Luna, in her studio
Tell us how you became an artist.
I had always been drawn to art, making art—from films and sculptures to architecture, I would appreciate the history and concept behind every art work. Growing up, all my notebooks had more drawings rather than notes, and my table and school walls would be “vandalized” since I drew on them. As far as I can remember, the only thing I’ve been sure of and have felt comfortable with is making art.
Janine Antoni, Eva Hesse, Annette Messager, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Rachel Libeskind, Emma Sulkowicz, and Eileen Boxer.
Favorite local artist peers?
Kiri Dalena, Jaja Arumpac, Renan Ortiz, Yvonne Quisumbing, Toon (Marina Cruz), Maria Taniguchi, Racquel de Loyola, and Lara de los Reyes.
What’s one art work you would kill to have?
Anything from my aforementioned favorite artists.
The Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid; Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the Whitney Museum (because they allow you to protest, critique, and even challenge the institution), New Museum, The Guggenheim, and The Jewish Museum, all in New York; and the Centre de Pompidou in Paris.
What would you like to see more of in art?
I hope more artists create art that speaks of issues that matter.
When’s the busiest time of year for you?
March since it’s National Women’s Month, and November, when it’s the international day to eliminate violence against women.
You’re currently part of a residency program in New York. What are you working on?
I am very happy with my ongoing artist grant. New York’s visual culture is tied to women, art, gender equality, and feminism. I have been able to connect with feminist artists, women’s organizations, and artist groups, such Mary Kelly, The Guerrilla Girls, artists Rachel Libeskind, Emma Sulkowicz, and Eileen Boxer, to name a few, and I look forward to meeting more like-minded individuals. I have participated in some organizations such as Hand Off Our Revolution. I will immerse myself in finding more people and groups who are involved in fostering social progress through art and pushing boundaries of art from its “normal” environment, which is the gallery, and reach out to the public sphere.
How has it been so far?
I love New York and I definitely plan to take advantage of the city’s richness of resources in art and feminism.
Inside Nikki’s work space at home
How do you prepare yourself to be creative and get work done?
I don’t really have a ritual. But my pieces are research-based. The process and the concept behind the piece are more important to me. Then I marry both aesthetic and substance. I do this by immersing myself in whatever my projects are, which means that when I make work about peasant farmers, I have to work with the communities. When I made my pelvic and pineapple sculpture I made sure it came from a woman laborer’s actual human skeleton. I do my best to connect to the art work.
What place is most conducive to work for you?
I travel a lot to get things done. I do have my studio and work table at home, which are necessary when I conceptualize my pieces.
What element is absolutely necessary for your artistic process?
I need to be faithful to the concept. I never compromise.
At what time of day do you prefer to work?
There is no specific time, but I do fall into the artist cliché of working in the wee hours.
What is your favorite creation thus far?
All of them. That’s like asking me who is my favorite child!
I simply want to be able to show more people in and outside our country how I use my art to share the plight of women in developing countries. Many are unaware of our struggles in the Third World but we can help them learn more about us. And feminism is a global issue. I would like to continue to intertwine my advocacies for women with my art by raising issues in our ongoing fight for education, reproductive rights, maternal health, ending child marriages, forced labor, employment opportunities, fair trade, ending gender-based violence, and the rights to water and shelter. To not be killed or sold just because we were born girls. All of this through art. Even in 2017, women’s issues are taking a backseat and society is backsliding.
What book are you reading right now?
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
The God of Small Things, and other books by Arundhati Roy, Dekada ’70, by Lualhati Bautista, and Darfur Diaries, by Jen Marlowe.
Nothing. But I need music and I have to listen to Pink Floyd while working.
How much time do you spend on social media?
I only post about art and feminism and the occasional family picture.
What’s on your playlist?
All of Pink Floyd’s albums.
Describe your clothing style.
Inspired by the 1970s.
My husband and I cleaned out our closet in 2012, and since then it’s only been Zadig & Voltaire and The Kooples. Reformation and Intermix are favorites too.
Flared jeans, shorts, and bikinis.
What’s your go-to outfit?
Flared jeans and a shirt.
What’s the newest piece of clothing you bought?
Pilates and yoga clothes from Koral, Beloforte, and Alo.
Sneakers from Castañer and Golden Goose—can’t live without them. Costume National boots. The Kooples pumps.
What do you like most about your appearance?
It would have to be my love for getting tanned or dark. I love the beach and getting a lot of sun. I don’t like it when I am pale.
Lunch today: business or pleasure?
Pleasure. I was alone at Le Bernardin eating the City Harvest menu.
Juan y Andrea in Formentera, Spain.
Spanish and Japanese.
Drink of choice?
An amaretto sour.
Who are your dream lunch companions?
Feminist artists and icons.
Were you given any great advice today?
“That’s just a platform. Just go create!”
Have you dispensed any advice of your own?
Yes, I told Pia Arrobio of LPA the Label not to be afraid of feminism. There are too many myths and misconceptions about it when it all boils down to women being able to make a genuine choice.
What was the prettiest thing you saw today?
“A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” on view now at the Brooklyn Museum.
Tell us about your family.
I enjoy just spending time with my husband and our two daughters, Alandra and Azul. We don’t have helpers or yayas at home. Mikee is the kind of guy who really is involved in the house, be it with domestic work, cooking, or cleaning. He is completely hands-on with our children and even when he has work, we both juggle and balance our time. We love learning a lot from our daily activities and experiencing the world together when we travel. Being together with the kids is the best enjoyment.
What do you do as soon as you get home?
After Mikee opens the door for me, he gives me a tight hug and a long kiss then the girls run to me.
What does your home look like?
Full of art materials, chairs, and art work.
What’s the newest thing you’ve bought for your home?
Mikee bought two chairs from Herman Miller.
Do you cook?
Sometimes. My husband does most of the cooking because he loves to cook Spanish dishes for us. He’s from Madrid.
How do you entertain?
We invite friends for dinner. Mikee prepares most of the food and I buy the cake.
Misogyny. If you’re sexist and perpetuate rape jokes, I will unfriend you virtually and in real life. And when people spell our names wrong.
“As far as I can remember, the only thing I’ve been sure of and have felt comfortable with is making art.”
Who is your dream date?
I have had my dream date since 2012.
Love of your life?
Quality you like most in a man?
I found it in Mikee. He embraces my feminist beliefs and continues to learn about them, he raises our girls in a non-sexist and gender-sensitive environment. He doesn’t confine himself in gender roles and is an involved parent. He’s been my ally and he still never fails to sweep me off my feet.
Where are you having dinner tonight?
At home in the studio.
What’s for dinner?
Chicken soup from Whole Foods.
What else are you up to tonight?
I’m writing a concept for an upcoming exhibit in Paris, working on an art project collaboration in New York, and also writing a feminist book for urban poor communities and schools.
What time are you going to sleep?
What do you hope to dream about?
These days I don’t have dreams—I’m too tired so I’m always knocked out.
This story was originally published in the August 2017 issue of Town&Country.