Interview with CHamoru artist, Cecilia Gogue
Håfa Adai Pulan children! I've been wanting to incorporate interviews into Pulan Magic's Mystic Mag with Guam locals or CHamorus who bring their healing light and passions into this world. Cecilia Gogue is one of my dearest friends since childhood, and I couldn't have thought of a better person to start this Interview series with. She is a CHamoru artist based in Los Angeles, California who truly embodies her identity as a CHamoru woman and aims to "combat the erasure of culture."
Enjoy the interview!
Q1: What is your background as an artist?
A: Growing up on Guam I was only required to take art class in 7th grade, I remember enjoying this class but I didn’t identify as an artist. It would’t be until 13 years later that I would take another studio course (and only after taking every art history class available to me at my community college). Now that I can look back on things, I can see now that I didn’t believe that making art was for me. I think this was a colonial facet of my mind; I didn’t think I was good enough and I didn’t feel this was something for people who’d never been exposed to fine art. I found my art practice in the all-nighter process of completing my Drawing 101 final where I drew for some crazy amount of hours (like 20 hours straight) and my soul found that comfort in true expression. That night I drew latte stones with legs and cute ass shoes. I called them latte ladies, they had every shoe from ballet flats to thigh high boots and peep toe platforms to strapy sexy stilettos. I see now that this was the lego building block of my art practice. That experience made me switch my major from Biology into Studio Art and I received my AA in Studio Art from MiraCosta College in Oceanside, CA then my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sculpture/New Genres at Long Beach State.
Q2: How has your practice evolved over time?
A: My practice in art school was pushed by midterm and final deadlines, some days I miss that chaos and others I am grateful for the opportunity to work as my life allows me. When I graduated from undergrad in 2018 I quickly went into doing studio assistant work for multiple LA based and gallery represented artists. I’ve been able to be apart of wonderful things in the LA art world because of this work, but my own practice hasn’t been as fruitful as I wish it was. This is mainly because after after a day of work in someone else’s studio I wouldn’t always have the energy to give to my practice. This brought my studio practice to a more craft-based avenue where I’m making things that I enjoy making without the heaviness of the critical facet of fine art. I also have to acknowledge that the trauma of academia as a BIPOC student is still affecting my practice today and thus keeping me in this nonchalant way of making. Instead of the floor loom weavings I was making in 2019, I am now making hand dyed ready to wear and beaded objects where both processes I can easily fit into my everyday chaos. My art practice has had to evolve into wherever it could fit in my life as a full time working single mama with all the familial responsibilities of the firstborn and eldest daughter. Overall my practice has evolved through many mediums: printmaking, drawing, video art, performance art, fiber arts, digital fabrication, foundry and mold making. This is just a list off the top of my head of some of the ways I love to express myself!
Q3: What does your work aim to say?
A: The underlying thread throughout my work is to combat the erasure of culture, to say “we’re still here, colonization did not kill Chamoru culture.” I make work from the perspective of my identity as a CHamoru woman, so the work has consistently been reflective of that experience.
Q4: What inspired you to create Mangoes and Mugwort?
A: Mangoes and Mugwort was born in the pandemic while I was in quarantine with the time to finally experiment with natural dyes. I dyed all the clothes I could in my closet, then all that I could from my son’s closet. I showed these processes on my IG story and was commissioned to make shirts for a friend’s children. This commission was so much fun to make I ended up making a whole line of children’s tees. That was the first launch of Mangoes and Mugwort, I was inspired by the increase of woman run small biz that I was witnessing on my IG feed and was open to a new avenue of small income in the shit show of the pandemic.
Q5: We noticed you have a spiritual process to creating your jewelry from Mangoes and Mugwort. Can you explain this process for us?
A: I think of beading a lot like weaving, it’s all methodical and meditative time for me. In some pieces there are patterns to keep and in others there is an emphasis on chance being the deciding factor. When I am beading pieces for Mangoes and Mugwort I try to listen to what beads want to be together, I am also intentional about the properties of the crystals I use in pieces to ensure certain protections or favors.
I feel like I am beading deconstructed rosaries, assemblages of prayers that are protective talismans.
Before I launch a collection I always cleanse the pieces with the moon and before I mail them I uses smoke and a prayer to send them off.
Q6: What advice do you have for other Pacific Island artists trying to share their work in the western world?
A: Find your people!!!! The ones that will keep you rooted in why you are doing any of it and keep them so close. As Pacific Islanders we face constant struggles of our cultures not being known or understood by most the people in the western world, it can be very taxing to constantly have to educate others about yourself to just be understood. In art school I had multiple crits that didn’t even talk about the point of the piece because no one understood the CHamoru legend/custom/idea I was referencing and that hurt me, but I was able to get through the grit of this world by keeping close to those that helped bring out my most authentic CHamoru-warrior-jungle-wandering-self.
You can find Cecilia Gogue's handmade jewelry and pieces available on Instagram at @mangoesandmugwort