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Elisa Wouk Almino Translates Art into Words

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When Elisa Wouk Almino started working with the online art magazine Hyperallergic as an associate editor about five years ago, she lived in New York City. She was ready for a change, and after visiting Los Angeles for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA in 2017, she heard Hyperallergic was thinking of hiring an L.A. editor. She leaped at the opportunity and has now lived in L.A. a little over two years.

In addition to her writing and editing work, much of which is focused on Latin American art, Almino is a literary translator. She teaches translation at UCLA Extension, and her next class is coming up in October. She says, “I see all of my work as interconnected — writing and translating, my interest in multiple cultures, and translating from other languages into English. I'm similarly interested in art, specifically Brazilian art, how that gets translated here in the U.S., and how that's received.”

Almino’s multicultural mindset goes way back; one might even say she was born with it. She says, “I was born in D.C., but I’m not an American citizen, because my dad was working as a diplomat. My family is Brazilian, but I grew up moving around a lot.” She lived in Brazil for a few years as a teenager and regularly visits to see family, but has spent most of her life in the United States.

When she moved to Los Angeles, she knew she didn’t want to be the kind of New York transplant who approaches everything from a New Yorker’s perspective. She says, “Right from the beginning, my goal was to place trust in the writers I was working with.” She has about 15 regular Hyperallergic contributors and regularly seeks their input on which stories from the city’s different art scenes feel worthy of coverage.

Elisa Wouk Almino | Melissa Golinsky
Elisa Wouk Almino | Melissa Golinsky

Almino finds it interesting that L.A. is so vast and diverse, it doesn't have one centralized art scene. She says, “It used to be that there was a really lively art scene in the Bay Area, but a lot of those artists have come to Los Angeles because of gentrification, being kicked out and the rent spikes and whatnot. L.A. is also experiencing that, to a degree, but there's still enough space and opportunity for younger artists to come here.” She expressed her appreciation for L.A.’s art legacy, including such cultural institutions as CalArts, Otis, LACMA, the Getty, the Hammer, “and a lot of smaller spaces and nonprofits that I think are really unique to Los Angeles.”

While she is glad to see diverse representation in the L.A. art world, her initial impressions weren’t entirely accurate. She says, “When I first came to Los Angeles for PST LA/LA, that was a wonderful introduction to the city and many of its artists and curators, though to a degree, it was perhaps also a bit of a misleading introduction because Latinx representation is not as strong as it should be at all the major institutions.” While the representation isn’t where she would like it to be, she says that compared to other cities, "You do see a lot more art from Latinx communities and addressing issues at the border and here in L.A."

As an arts editor during the pandemic, Almino is focused on L.A. artists who are making timely work. Among them: Mary Beth Heffernan’s PPE Portrait Project, which helps doctors connect better with patients by attaching a smiling portrait to the outside of their PPE; Alan Nakagawa’s crowdsourced quarantine haiku audio project for the Orange County Museum of Art;  Carmen Argote’s film about her solitary walks through the city’s empty streets; and Cassils and rafa esparza’s In Plain Sight, which sky-typed messages of protest over Los Angeles County and around the country.

Even when an artist’s message is printed across the sky, it’s easy to miss it if you don’t look up. Pandemic or not, Almino and her team of writers are helping Angelenos figure out where to look for art in L.A.

Top Image: Books opened and placed together | Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash 

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