What are the origins of your Skin On Sundays project?
It was a quiet November afternoon in Barcelona. The year was 2015. I was smoking weed with a young rapper, discussing the universe and our places in it.
The young rapper asked me: “How are you going to get people to read your poetry.”
It had honestly never occurred to me that my poems would spread much further than my Facebook friends list, so that was an interesting question. In our visionary mental state, we began letting the ideas flow, and that’s when it arrived. I would write my poems on people’s skin.
Just like that, the idea was born, taking into account not only my passion for writing, but the world we live in full of instant gratification often beautiful visual media.
It took a little bit more brainstorming to bring it to life, but in less than a week, the first post was published.
Your work is so personal, your words, your photos. Yet every picture includes someone else and you have also collaborated with other artists and a doctor, addressing miscarriages. How do you collaborate in work that is so deeply personal?
I was initially drawn to write poetry because of my curiosity and desire to explore and understand emotions. Couple that with my love for intimacy, with myself, with others, with ideas, and it’s easy to see how this project flows as a natural progression of that.
I place extraordinary value on the deeply personal both in this project and in my life; I let myself become immersed. It’s just how I am. This project is so much about talking about experiences, both the light parts and the dark parts, in the form of physiopoetry, so I go in prepared to hear whatever people want to share with me, prepared to get emotional, even.
Sometimes, I’m left in tears. I invite the deeply personal into my work because the closer I can get to the root of what we’re looking to share in the physiopoem, the more impactful the final result will be. I want people who see Skin on Sundays to feel connected, so it’s important to go into the process with an open mind and heart.
What do we get wrong when we talk about bodies?
There are some implied “shoulds” when we talk about bodies. How we should look. How we should dress. I don’t think this is healthy. So much is about selling, so there’s no question as to why these bodily shoulds exist.
They work to enhance consumerism.
But then it spreads, and people who aren’t even selling things make it their personal goal to tell people how to look and dress. Even our own egos reward us for judging others, sadly. That’s probably the most unfortunate part about what we get wrong when we talk about bodies. We become bullies, sometimes under the guise of “caring.”
For instance, people say, being overweight isn’t healthy, as if it’s their job to police other people’s health, often strangers at that. Unsolicited advice is generally unwelcome, and I find it even more unwelcome when we’re talking about others’ bodies.
Our bodies are our homes, so it’s natural to take it personally and to feel profoundly impacted when others talk about them. It would be helpful if everyone could remember that before making comments.
Another thing we get wrong is that nudity and sexuality are one in the same. They’re not, and it’s only because we’ve been trained by society to feel sexual when we see a naked body that so many people can’t separate them.
The “training” is largely in the form of withholding. Nudity, even women’s nipples, are considered too obscene for social media platforms, regardless of whether or not it’s art. But nudity does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. Sex is just one of the things a naked body does. It can also just exist, and it can be beautiful without creating arousal.
What do you love about photography?
Before Skin on Sundays, my contribution to the art world rested solely in my words. Now, I have become a photographer of sorts. I love how photos can express emotions, and I’ve become particularly attracted to portrait-ish photos that work with all the ways to move and bend a body, photos that bring in other (perhaps strange) objects to create something truly emotive in the juxtaposition.
I also love how the photography I do for this project creates a connection between myself and the canvas, because it has to happen in person. I’m not just adding words to a body digitally on a screen. It happens in person, we interact with one another in the same physical space, creating an energy that helps the physiopoem comes to life.
What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?
My poetry coloring book Seasons of Yourself is coming out this month, and that has been a long process. I can’t draw, so I collaborated with another artist who drew my poems, but man do things go a lot slower when you’re not working alone.
That’s just the way it is.
That delay was challenging for me, not to mention publisher delays and having to reschedule and re-plan the release of the book. I know these delays are all very normal, but I had to take a lot of deep breaths. That being said, this book is so special to me because a fantastic artist, Claudia Sahuquillo, drew my poems, dug her way around inside of them and translated them into actual images. And now it’s all coming out in a book, the poems alongside the drawings that people will be able to color. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?
What’s something you’re working to unlearn?
I am an emotional person. One of the emotions that can get the better of me is frustration/anger. It makes me scream, cry, growl, and sometimes say things I don’t mean. It’s been a lifelong process unlearning how to deal with my anger.
When I was growing up, I dealt with it in that screaming/crying/growling/mean-talking way I mentioned earlier, so I really do have to unlearn those behaviors.. Sometimes I’m better at it and sometimes I’m worse, depending on my mental state at the time.
The goal is to always deal with anger with an innate calmness and collectedness, regardless of the amount of stress I might have already going on.
When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?
Self-care has kind of become built into my life. Leisure and relaxation are necessary to me, and I really don’t function well or feel happy if there is too little of those things in my life. We live in this workaholic world, but I don’t buy into it.
It’s not for me.
I work hard, and I also chill hard. Without the chilling, my work isn’t even as good, as I’ve found out. I need that space to allow my creativity to flourish and think properly.
My most recent deliberate act of self-care was leaving Mexico City for a weekend to a small town where it’s summer year round. Just relaxing in a garden for a few days surrounded by tropical fruit trees and silence was divine.
What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?
Recently, I realized I’ve gotten over this photography plateau I’d been sitting on for awhile, where I felt the creativity in my Skin on Sundays photos was not growing. My solution was to seek out photography that inspired me and force myself to do more than just enjoy it.
I started analyzing why I liked it, and applying those principles into my own work. Now I’m starting to see my own photos stand out more than they have before.
Working hard and seeing the work pay off in my photography is bringing me loads of joy.
What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?
The holiday season has this pressure associated with it, and with December just passing, I was feeling this sense of obligation to do things I didn’t want to do just because other people wanted me to.
Using guilt to try to get people to do something is an ugly kind of manipulation that society just sort of accepts for some reason. I don’t accept it, and it does not and will never work on me.
When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?
Dedicating so much of my life to poetry and art can be hard on the psyche, because the process of “making it” often comes with financial struggle. I had a breakdown a couple years ago because I was so broke and I thought maybe everything I was doing was pointless.
I began thinking my art wasn’t any good because it wasn’t making any money. That’s what the world so often teaches us, and try as I might to ignore it (because I know so many factors are involved in financial success, not just talent), it seeps in and can really damage my self-worth at times. I’m happy to say I talked myself out of it, but I was seriously considering giving up and disappearing from the world of art.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?
All of our emotions come and go. That’s the nature of them. Self-doubt is no different. If you can remember that while you’re going through a bout of self-doubt, it will be easier to not only deal with, but probably faster to get out of it too. Just know that self-doubt, too, will pass. And when it does, you can get back to your regularly scheduled dream-fulfilling.
It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?
Poetry is everywhere. Just look.
Connect with Jessica
Jessica Lakritz is a writer and artist based in Mexico City. She is the creator of the multimedia physiopoetry project Skin on Sundays, where she uses the human body as a canvas for her words. Jessica loves the sea, hammocks, strangers, her dog Luna, and not taking herself too seriously. Instagram. Website.