Melissa Misla’s APT 9D is Nuyorican art in two places at once

APT 9D, Melissa Misla’s MFA thesis exhibition, explores Nuyorican, Puerto Rican, and Taíno iconography in the Klapper Hall Gallery at Queens College MFA school in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens from April 9-13, 2019. Free

Opening Reception: Tuesday, April 9, 2019 from 7:30-10:30pm
Exhibition: Wednesday, 2-5pm, Thursday 6-9pm
Closing Reception: Saturday, April13, 4-8pm

Melissa Misla’s Artist Statement

APT.9D finds connections between New York and Puerto Rico through the apartment interior.

Showing how the home maintains cultural traditions of any diaspora, the works utilize iconography of the Nuyorican community in collaboration with Puerto Rican and Taíno themes.

Using mixed media techniques and interactive approaches, the work extends the personal home with its viewers and reminds us warmly of home, as well as the connection with those on the Island post hurricane.

Melissa Misla

APT 9D Review

APT 9D delivers a strong and slightly disorienting feeling of being in two places at once.

It is very here (New York City) and at the same time very there (Puerto Rico), or vice versa depending on where you are right now.

The work speaks of home, Mom, and noisy family meals.

It complains gently because you are eating fried plantains and arroz con habichuelas (rice & beans) for the seventh time this week. But really you love the way Mom makes it. What are those herbs she keepe in the bottles on the windowsill? Misla activates these memories so strongly, you can almost smell and taste them.

From art history, you can see Duchamp, Diebenkorn, Rothko, Rauschenberg and even Oller, the Puerto Rican Impressionist who was a teacher of legendary French Impressionist Cézanne.

Leaving people out of the picture allows you to fill the room with your own memories. It also speaks to the false narrative that the Indigenous Taíno of Puerto Rico (also the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba) were wiped out.

A 2000 study of Puerto Rican genetics funded by the National Science Foundation found that a majority of Puerto Ricans, 61%, still carry Indigenous genes. This is the reason for the current resurgence of interest in Taíno heritage.

OMG, I’m not dead. Let me pinch myself to make sure. Would you pinch me too because I’ve always been taught that I was dead. Discovering that you are actually the living dead is the ultimate humiliation of being conquered. Well we were here before you, have been here all along and we are still here. More and more we are here together with you.

Misla’s work is swimming in that Puerto Rican sense of humor. APT 9D speaks to how in the Latin world, nothing works quite right, but somehow we make it alright. We might not have much stuff, but if you hang with us, you will remember having a good time together.

We are masters at turning something shitty into something wonderful. We can even turn a slum into a pearl.

Misla creates a mystical transformation of the simplest things, in the most elegantly beautiful way. It’s a talent required to survive in a world out of balance, a characteristic shared by the Taíno, Spanish conquerers, and Africans who all figured out how to survive each other (more or less, for better or for worse).

Looking at the work is very much like staring at the sea or the forests that are all around Puerto Rico. For many Latinos it’s hard to look away because these are memories you want to keep. If you are Puerto Rican, you can’t look away from APT 9D because you probably lived there at some point and anyway it lives in you.

In modern times, the artist is shaman and in the Caribbean, the drum is always calling. This is an MFA thesis, but Misla has already found her inner drummer. Or more likely, it found her.

APT 9D is a story of home, both in the smallest and the broadest sense. It is an apartment in New York City and an island in the Caribbean, la isla del encanto, the island of love. “The beans are done. Would you turn off the stove?” “Si Señora.”


Melissa Misla

Melissa Misla (1989) is a New York artist with a Puerto Rican heritage who lives and works in Elmhurst, Queens. With neighboring Jackson Heights, it is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in New York City.

Misla did her BFA at Hunter College (2011). APT 9D is her MFA thesis. Her day job is at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art which itself is going through a complete shutdown and reopening transformation this summer to make its exhibitions more representative of genders, races, places and time frames.

The Puerto Rican Diaspora

Like many young artists, Misla explores issues of identity within her diaspora. As in all immigrant cultures, the Puerto Rican diaspora is going through a generational change. Some lament what we are losing, but it is inevitable.

The first generation was more Puerto Rican. The second generation was a little of both. The third generation is completely American and the heritage is largely forgotten. It belongs to los abuelos, the grandparents.

However, Americans with a Puerto Rican heritage (let’s not forget that all Puerto Ricans are Americans anyway) are going through a rediscovery of their roots. This has been driven by the frustrations of the immigrant experience and the DNA study that showed we are still here, we weren’t killed off like we were always taught.

When any immigrant group arrives in the United States, we get excited because we believe that we are now Americans. The second generation gets disappointed with the realization that despite our best efforts to be good Americans, we are not really invited to the party. This begs the question of who am I, so the quest for identity becomes very important.

We find strength in our roots. Knowing were we come from actually makes us better Americans, Americans with a little extra somethin, somethin, Latin heritage. Don’t expect us to continue carving petroglyphs into rocks. Today we make art in the same ways everybody else does.

The sacred heart of the Latin world is the family. A solid work ethic and strong family ties are contributions we bring to the American fabric. This is were Melissa Misla takes us, into the heart of a Puerto Rican family in New York City.

APT. 9D Tickets

The best things in life are free…

Klapper Hall Gallery at Queens College

The gallery is on the 4th Floor of Kapper Hall at Queens College MFA school.

Queens College MFA School

65-50 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11367

Learn more about Melissa Misla at

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