Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Fabrizzio Subia navigates loss and grief through art
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 5435 times since Thu Jun 15, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When it comes to loss, Fabrizzio Subia may know more than most people.

Having dealt with everything from familial loss to the erasure of his history, the Ecuadorian-American multidisciplinary artist (who has also done things like host the open-mic event Tortas y Talento) this past spring unveiled a video installation "Año Nuevo (2023)"—a grief performance which was on display through early May at Chicago's International Museum of Surgical Science. The piece was dedicated to his late brother and was the sequel project to "Año Nuevo (2019)."

In a talk that sometimes turned emotional, Subia (who now utilizes "he/they" pronouns, acknowledging their life is a journey) discussed constraints against art and how he ultimately decided to do what they felt was necessary.

Windy City Times: Tell me about your life and background.

Fabrizzio Subia: Sure. I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador; it's a city named after two indigenous founders—Guayas and [his wife] Quil. I left when I was eight years old, during the late '90s. I'm 32 now. It was a time of intense political instability in Ecuador; I remember getting out of elementary school and having to cover my nose because there was tear gas. My mom, brother and I came to the U.S.; my dad went to Spain. I reconnected with my dad after my brother's death, and it's been very healing.

Around 2000, the Ecuadorian economy collapsed. That's in another project I'm doing, as my work deals with migration. The national currency disappeared and the U.S. dollar appeared. To this day, the national currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar.

We moved to the West Side of Chicago. We went to the suburbs for high school; after that, we moved to Uptown and I've been there ever since.

WCT: What are LGBTQ+ rights like in Ecaudor?

FS: Oof … There's a lot of machismo there as well as Catholicism. The church controls so much of the politics. A lot of people there don't feel comfortable sharing their identities. There are some brave people there—and I am very proud of them.

WCT: What drew you to art?

FS: Ha—that's such a good question. When I was 6, my mom put me in a painting class after I threw a tantrum. [Laughs] I remember looking forward to going to class, but then we moved to the U.S.

This next part is very important: We overstayed our visa and were undocumented for seven years. So we were very poor, and I wasn't put into art classes again.

And I was discouraged from being an artist as well. Imagine that you're a poor single mother of two—and, to this day, my mother doesn't speak English. I was constantly told that there are no jobs in the arts and that I should be a doctor. I really rejected that [artistic] part of me, and I didn't paint again until I was 27 or 28. But I did write; paints are expensive but you can steal a pen from class. [Laughs] So writing and poetry are the foundation of my art. I consider myself a writer and a performer. So I studied, at age 9, to be a doctor—but I also wrote.

When I turned 13, I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer when I grow up. She said, "That's great. However, that's not going to get you money." I can't blame her; she did the best with what she had. I studied to be a doctor until I was about 25—and I was so depressed. I dropped out of school twice.

At The College of DuPage, I studied art and the humanities. Surprise, surprise: I got straight A's there. Then I went to DePaul to study medicine; but I again became depressed and I dropped out. I then went to the City Colleges of Chicago—behind my mom's back—and studied art; it was incredible and I built a portfolio. I ended up at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—going there on a Presidential Scholarship—and I graduated in 2020.

WCT: So you got what you wanted because you decided to pursue your passion.

FS: Yeah—behind other people's backs … [Laughs] My friend told me I'm living the immigrant kid's dream of pursuing their passion and not their parents' passion.

WCT: How does your mother feel about your art now?

FS: That's a good question. She says, "I'm very proud of you."

WCT: At the same time, she must be very emotional about the [installation].

FS: Exactly. So my brother passed away in 2020. My whole life was just dictated by moving here to the U.S., and all I had for protection and a connection to my previous home were my mom and older brother.

WCT: How did your brother pass away?

FS: [Sighs] That's a hard question. Some would lead people to believe that he passed away from COVID and that was certainly a factor. It was only after his death that I realized how deep his mental-health issues were. He put on a facade [of strength] and I modeled my life after him. [Tears well in Subia's eyes.]

The police report—at least, the one that I got … Something that I have to say is, "Fuck cops. Fuck the police." There was definitely corruption in this case, but the short few sentences said that my brother was hit by a car. What I can say is that the pandemic really took a toll on his mental health. There are so many COVID casualties that are due to the isolation—and being an immigrant is isolating enough as it is.

WCT: So tell me about "Año Nuevo." It's based on the "Año Viejos" tradition [in which people burn effigies to end the old year], correct?

FS: Yes. The Ecuadorian New Year has everyone with an effigy. When the clock strikes midnight, we put them, filled with fireworks, into a bonfire. It's very healing. I've always considered it a grief ritual even though many Ecuadorians see it as a celebration—burning the old to make way for the new.

Once we got our papers here in the U.S., we were able to travel back. I go back every year; it's how I stay connected to my home country. It's strange because so much of my work deals with destruction in some way. The theme of my works has been that Latin American people and immigrants are themselves the result of a culture that no longer exists; it's what's called an "embodied knowledge." We don't know the real history. Colonialism and policy literally burned down our history and that, to me, is very indicative of this celebration—it's us who are burning.

Since my brother passed away, I've been thinking about making art that isn't so community-based but more for myself. But what's weird is that with this project—"Año Nuevo (2023)"—I thought it would be an individual project in which I meditate on grief. I don't know what grief is, but I know that you have to do something—maybe perform—and that brings people together. The [effect] of my grief ritual has been generational. The performance itself was intense because we burned one effigy an hour for 24 consecutive hours.

WCT: Do you feel like you've healed?

FS: That project made me feel like I'm a different person and that I'm in a different place. I don't know if that's what healing is, but I can say that I've lived the happiest moments of my life. Doing this project—even a grief performance—was a happy moment for me. Art is my therapy.

WCT: What's your advice to the next generation of LGBTQ+ BIPOC artists?

FS: Firstly, don't take advice from me. [Laughs]

I will say that community's a responsibility. It's healing. When you find your community, make sure you take care of the others around you.

Also, it's okay to take your time; it's a scary world out there. Protect yourself, more than anything. If you're an artist, you're going to be made to feel like you have to make work about your identity for a white gaze. Treat your artwork like it's a gift to one specific person. Also, know who your audience is.

I don't know if my words mean anything, but if you need anything, I can be there. Hopefully, you'll feel the love and connection that I've felt with my art communities.

This article was made possible with a grant from Comcast Corporation that was awarded to News is Out, a six-newspaper collective in which Windy City Times takes part. See .

This article shared 5435 times since Thu Jun 15, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

GLAAD marks World AIDS Day with launch of global resource hub, new HIV report
--From a press release - New York, New York — Friday, Dec. 1 — GLAAD marked World AIDS Day this year by sharing the results of its fourth annual State of HIV Stigma Report, a national survey among U.S. adults measuring ...

Gay News

Wrightwood 659 to present 'Daniel Goldstein: The Marks We Leave Behind' on World AIDS Day
(CHICAGO, Nov. 29, 2023) —Alphawood Exhibitions will present Daniel Goldstein: The Marks We Leave Behind, an exhibition of works from the San Francisco-based artist & HIV/AIDS activist's iconic "Icarian Series," ...

Gay News

'When Black queer people win, everybody wins': Foundation releases report to improve equity at community orgs
In November, Lighthouse Foundation released its 2023 update on its research project, the Black Queer Equity Index, providing a guide that non-profit leaders can use to improve the experiences of marginalized employees and clients. Since 2020, ...

Gay News

Scotland announces five-year plan to help nonbinary people
Scotland's government has announced a five-year action plan to improve the lives of non-binary people, Yahoo! News reported. Among other things, the first-of-its-kind plan in the UK (and, quite possibly, in the world) includes actions to ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Bishop removed, business news, Jezebel shutting down, MAP head
Pope Francis removed the bishop of Tyler, Texas—a conservative prelate active on social media who has been a fierce critic of the pontiff, PBS reported. A one-line statement from the Vatican said the pope had "relieved" ...

Gay News

Howard Brown Health Workers United members gather for post-strike rally
Howard Brown Health (HBH) Workers United members held an evening post-Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) strike rally Nov. 15 in front of the new multi-story HBH Halsted clinic. It was the conclusion of their two-day strike that ...

Gay News

Eye-opening LGBTQ+ women's survey shatters myths and spotlights challenges
The realities, ambitions and hardships of queer women aren't often given deep analysis by researchers. Mainstream socio-political conversations, research data and legislative choices frequently center individuals whose lives are marked ...

Gay News

'Jersey Boys' stars reunite as Midtown Men on Dec. 2 in Glen Ellyn
The original stars of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys—Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer—will reunite as Midtown Men on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at McAninch Arts Center's Belushi Performance Hall ...

Gay News

Mayor Johnson names new CPDH commissioner
Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the appointment of esteemed public health leader Dr. Olusimbo "Simbo" Ige, MD, MS, MPH to serve as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). The announcement took place days after ...

Gay News

IDHS head Dulce Quintero reflects on making history, being an advocate
Dulce Quintero has always believed in helping people—and decades of doing so has resulted in an especially noteworthy achievement. Recently, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker appointed Quintero, a member of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, as ...

Gay News

UN committee criticizes United States' LGBTQ+ record
Reviewing the United States' record on civil and political rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) condemned the country's record on LGBTQ+ rights, according to Human Rights Watch. In 1992, the United States ratified the ...

Gay News

Former CDPH head accepts position with the CDC
Former Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady is now with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, according to Axios. The CDC announced on Nov. 9 that Arwady will ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Election results, campus items, Puerto Rican icons, healthcare suit
Historic developments took place during the Nov. 7 elections that happened in some states. LGBTQ+ Victory Fund candidate Rue Landau won an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council—making her the first out LGBTQ+ candidate to ...

Gay News

Black Excellence Awards winners named, inaugural Chicago Black Arts Hall of Fame inductees honored
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Nov. 7, 2023)—The nonprofit Black Arts & Culture Alliance of Chicago is proud to announce the winners of its 23rd Annual Black Excellence Awards, honored last night in a festive celebration at Black Ensemble Theater. ...

Gay News

Three states sue to block abortion-pill sales
On Nov. 6, three states—Idaho, Kansas and Missouri—sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Health and Senior Services for approving the abortion pill mifepristone and allowing its ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.