- Patricia Campos
Anyone familiar with SLC's local artist Marqueza knows that the artist deals indiscriminately in emotion—from anger, to romance, to sorrow, Marqueza mines it all for truth, seeking the open air of peace. On their first release, Orbit Pluto, Marqueza explored queerness, desire and belonging through homemade interstellar beats and lyrics informed by many aspects of their life, including their Japanese-Venezuelan identity. With the release of this July's shorter but more sonically rich album Salty, Marqueza follows the same searching path—one that's seeking honesty.
And they don't just mean honesty within themselves, but honesty within the tumultuous world outside of their own head. "I'm very much affected by what's going on around me," they say, "not just in my personal life, [but] in my community, in the world as a whole. I've always been overwhelmed by my feelings and my emotions, and dealing with things like racism and homophobia and ableism and all the things that come along with a society that's built on white supremacy and colonialism." For Marqueza, these feelings make it hard to turn to music, even as it's a constant tool for crafting comfort and facilitating connection to their own truth, as well as that of their community.
Marqueza identifies this summer's chaotic activity as a traumatic time for that community, and so they chose to post activism resources rather than promote Salty, identifying the need for platforms like theirs to be used to help people like protesters stay safe. But the album itself can also serve those who are struggling through this moment. "What I want to give with my art is some kind of healing and affirmation, and that's a huge part of the human experience I think, especially when it comes to trauma," they say. On the closing track "Even the Sky Is Crying," the steely-synthed song burns slowly as Marqueza paints a picture based on a memory of protesters marching through pouring rain, while the phrase "justice is love" echoes through the song—a reference to the bell hooks book All About Love.
Marqueza's ode to the protesters' anger is a reflection of their own experiences with injustice and pain. Weary anger shows up in "East Temple," the song a reference to all the scars left behind by growing up in circles of Mormon oppression. But even within that strife-ridden song, Marqueza still finds time to quip in a smirking aside, "Nothing straight about me, I'm a Pisces." The water sign is known as the most sensitive in the zodiac, but Marqueza's alignment there makes it worth mentioning that it's also the most emotionally adaptable and sympathetic, too. Just as Pisceans are deeply introspective, they're also deeply invested in the people around them—qualities that show up all over Marqueza's lyrics in Salty.
And where Orbit Pluto moved like shifting constellations, Salty contains all the changing flow of bodies of water, something that was picked up on by local artists recently when Marqueza collaborated with Craft Lake City for their series of rotating public art installations, Celebration of the Hand. Marqueza made sure that if Salty was going to be the subject of the community project, local artists of color and indigenous artists should be given the first opportunity to interpret it. That decision resulted in a diverse group of artists who, despite not being able to collaborate with one another, created a cohesive end result with their individual pieces. Opening track "801" was interpreted by the indigenous artist Jessica Wiarda, and Marqueza says, "They said when they first heard the song that it reminded them of water, and that there was movement that was just wavy, and that's something that multiple artists said to me about my [songs]. It's just cool to hear that because I see that reflected in the pieces, like water was an element in all of them."
The way the songs shift, too is fluid. Light-hearted sensuality on the flirtatious "Chimera" is followed by soft sorrow on "Lush Life," where Marqueza wishes to be washed away by a river to a freer life. Unexpected turns meet noticeable depth of production, owing to Marqueza's newly-minted mixing skills, which on top of solo production and writing granted more independent creativity than ever. "There's more audacity in Salty," they say. "I took more risks and didn't censor myself in any way, and I kind of want to continue on that trajectory."
But even while embracing this path, Marqueza explains that uncertainty still persisted: "I think every artist might have this weird moment where when they hear their own stuff it's hard to know what's holding it all together. Salty to me felt kind of like a messy mixtape of songs... some of the songs I started over a year ago; one of them I wrote within two weeks of that exhibition, the last one."
But within the watery interpretations of Celebration of the Hand, Marqueza saw a reflection of their values, and Salty came together. "That's affirming as an artist, but as a person, it means I am being honest and I'm always trying to get that across because that's kind of how I feel like I move through the world, too—like water. It's chaotic, but it's always gonna keep flowing. I think there's a healing element to listening to something like that."