“They, Them, Theirs” by Chucha Marquez celebrates the various ways we perform gender and the multitude of pronouns that we choose for ourselves. Their work is inspired by current and historical struggles for social justice and liberation, especially within the context of gender and sexuality, immigration, feminism, current events, and solidarity work.
Chucha’s work is featured in All Bodies Deserve: Creating the Future of Us, a coloring book produced with the Center for Cultural Power through our Culture Change Fund. All August long, we are celebrating and spotlighting artists and creatives taking up space and helping us imagine a reality brimming with beauty, vitality, and gender justice.
Bia Vieira sat down with Chucha to discuss craft and place and their role in producing All Bodies Deserve – our coloring book.
Below is a transcript of their conversation that’s been edited for clarity.
Vieira: So tell me what attracted you to the gender justice coloring book project.
CM: Yeah. Well, like for one I’m very familiar with the center for cultural power. I actually used to work there. I worked there for a few years before my current job. So I was definitely familiar with the organization that was helping organize this project. But also I think gender is one of those things that has been since like college such a big conversation sometimes a very controversial conversation.
I think when it comes to talking about gender and breaking gender down, reimagining gender, all those things, I think it’s really important to have different perspectives and different experiences in that conversation. And of course what we think varies and is different based on people’s experiences and how people navigate the world based on their gender and their gender identities and expressions.
But I do think it’s important to have a variety of perspectives and stories in that conversation. And so I thought I would contribute in that way and just kind of insert my own experiences and my own creative approach to thinking about gender.
Vieira: How has gender been a big and sometimes controversial conversation in your life?
CM: I grew up here in California, I grew up in the Bay Area and it’s known to be a very liberal, hippy dippy kind of very progressive environment to live in.
I have immigrant parents and; my family is very Catholic. And because they were immigrants, they took in a lot of the acculturation process and like this concept of being American. So there’s these cultural beliefs and thoughts about gender that were very different from them.
Ever since I was a child, I never felt like I was a boy or a man. I didn’t really have language until way later in life until I was in college, actually.
A lot of times our families in our communities don’t really know how to talk about anything. And I think cultural values and cultural understanding are that things evolve with time and they change.
I didn’t really have words for my experiences or the way that I felt until later in life. And that kind of really got me thinking first about what gender meant for me, and understanding the history of gender and genders in our communitie. I identify as non binary for awhile and identified as gender queer. I carry a lot of privilege in that even though I am non binary I still like pass as a cisgender man often. My understanding of gender has evolved throughout my life has been about exploration and fluidity and all of that. I think as a person of color as someone who grew up with immigrant families, English as a second language, different cultural understandings and values, like it’s definitely been, an evolution and a journey to even understand what gender really could be.
Vieira: Can you share a little bit about your creative process for the images that you worked on for the gender justice coloring book?
CM: Yeah. I was actually just looking at the book again. I have it right in front of me. It’s so beautiful. It came out so amazing. There were two major things that I was thinking about when approaching these illustrations. First, I was thinking about gender, but not through stuff that is super explicitly always associated with gender. There’s definitely pronouns like they/them/their that is that is very much about gender.
But then some of the other stuff that I did was more about nature and how that can be linked to gender. Thinking about gender is very expansive so I was trying to kind of challenge myself to think about gender outside of what people maybe would usually think about gender. Also acknowledging and respecting my pronouns are very important.
Nature, like gender is very sacred. A lot of our indigenous ancestors are very complex. Our ancestors had a more nuanced or expansive understanding of gender and gender stuff and colonizers came and made it very rigid and very black and white. Colonization has impacted the way that we understand and think about gender and going back to that like super sacred and spiritual understanding of body and gender.
Vieira: Can you share a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist and your medium; how you chose it or why you’ve chosen it or what’s great about it?
CM: I was always interested in creativity and art from childhood, but it was hard for me to see myself as an artist for various reasons… One — representation, right? I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of like artists that were people of color or like children of immigrants or artists that I could see myself in coming from an immigrant family, like art wasn’t necessarily seen as a way to make it in this country; If you wanted to make it in this country, you go to college, you become a doctor or a lawyer.
I would go to the arts and crafts store and pick up some beads and make a bracelet or stuff like that as a child. And then in high school and college is really when I had access to art supplies and stuff like that. That’s really when I started actually playing around with different materials, and paints and having conversations with professors and teachers and students about art. I went to college at UC Davis and within the ethnic studies and Chicano studies departments they have a lot of art classes.
I was really interested in the history of chicana Chicanx art and I took a screen printing class. That was the first time I ever felt like I could actually be an artist. I took the screen printing class, fell in love with the medium. It was like a medium that I finally felt like I could actually do well.
I tried ceramics and painting and I was like, “this is fun, but I don’t feel like I’m really good at it.” Screen printing I was good at, I was like, “okay, this is great.” There’s a lot of different mediums that I love to explore. I’m kind of like a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Screen printing kind of led me into digital illustration a little bit. I’m very self taught. I do sticking point, tattooing, and I do drag performances. I started doing drag actually during the pandemic also, which also was very highly motivating for exploring gender and gender presentation.
I have a drag king and a drag queen character. My drag queen character is a bearded, she’s like a bearded drag queen and my drag king character is like a vaquero clown because the way that I see it — it’s my criticism of latinx chicanx masculinity or men specific– that these are emotional clowns. I started making jewelry also, it’s kind of a thing that I do on this side.
Vieira: Anything else that you want to share with me or with folks?
CM: When it comes to thinking about and talking about gender, I do think that it’s important to have a diversity of perspectives and experiences represented in that conversation.
I feel like when it comes to talking about gender, it’s really about Black and indigenous women being part of that conversation. It’s about trans women and trans fems being part of that conversation and leading those conversations. Gender is still such a prevalent conversation, but it has evolved. It’s really interesting to see all of that. I see all of that but with the added layer of seeing it through the lens of a Chicanx, a child of immigrants, an artist, and whatever, 1000 million identities that I possess.
Vieira: Thank you. Well, that’s pretty awesome.
About Chucha Marquez
Chucha Marquez is a Queer, Nonbinary Chicanx artist and social media whiz. They were born and raised in the South Bay and are currently based out of Oakland, California. Chucha’s work is inspired by current and historical struggles for social justice and liberation, especially within the context of gender and sexuality, immigration, feminism, current events, and solidarity work. Chucha has a degree in Psychology and Chicanx Studies from UC Davis, with a minor in Art Studio and is the Director of Social Media at LaMont Digital.