Tartan Artist of the Week: Yin Raquino

Yin Raquino is a phenomenally talented artist, whose work spans writing, visuals, and performance — the last of which they study in the Acting Program at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama.

They gracefully and astutely answered our questions and provided some examples of their work for our issue this week. Their brilliant intellect and all-encompassing love is clear across their answers, and we hope you gain peace and insight from reading about their work, artistic process and inspirations:

Name, pronouns, what kind of art do you do?

My name is Yin Raquino, I use they/them pronouns.

I think my art is based on self-exploration and who we are as romanticists - without the ego. One of my main themes is dismantling the self to return to the self, so I find what I do to be very spiritual — spiritually invigorating art. I love love, and so I lead with that objective as well. To be loved and to be in love, that’s a driving force in what I do and I care about it a lot.

Where are you from, geographically and emotionally?

I am from San Diego, California, but I have a very strong tether to the Philippines, because of my family there and my ancestry — my identity. I feel a beautiful and strong tie to the ocean, and water, and the moon because my mom is a Cancer. So every time I look at the moon, I just remember that cosmically, that’s also my shelter, and a safe haven. I think it’s very symbolic and beautiful that when I look up, I’m reminded that we all share the same sky.

Emotionally, I’m from a very nonlinear place that is accompanied most by empathy and love and forgiveness and gentleness, but also, ruggedness and roughness. I really hope that that makes sense — but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned for myself in the past how many months was, nothing is ever linear. It just goes to show in the way we flow with emotions and with energy, it’s not supposed to be possible in the sense that we get to put it in whatever way we want — the way that our bodies are able to absorb and fathom all these complex emotions at once — that’s where I’m from. And I don’t think there’s a name to it. I don’t think I should try to force one upon it, because I can still recognize something without confining it into a label.

How did you begin your artistic journey? How old were you?

I think I always knew that I wanted to pursue something artistic. As a kid, I have always been very into memorizing shows and scripts and punchlines, and I never really thought much of it other than I really enjoyed it. And I drew — I was very passionate about visual art when I was younger. And I had a few inspirations at the time that would teach me how to draw, but it wasn’t necessarily “how can I find a way to find my own style of sketching and drawing”, but they taught me how to draw in their way — and that was an interesting stepping stool because that’s what first introduced me into like, the idea that there is some sort of structure to art that others are gonna want you to follow because that works best for them but they don’t see, at least not in that moment, that that’s not how it works for everyone?

Of course, as a five-year-old, I didn’t understand that. I thought that by pursuing … It was more egotistical if anything. It fed my ego because I thought that if I could make something so spectacular with nothing but a pen and paper — what else could I do? It was magic.

And I don’t know why I ever stopped, but I think it was good for me, too, solely because I wasn’t creating “my art” — I was creating art but not for the purpose of “what can I discover from this process” or “what does this tell me” — it was a mockery, maybe … I’m still figuring that out! But, then I began to write.

... I think I began writing in fourth grade? So nine, or ten, or eleven — around that age. I was approaching the very awkward and enlightening tween years. But that’s when I realized the impact of words. And how the degree of it [sic] can alter depending on which ones you pair with which. And recognizing too that, to be able to do that adequately, or poetically, that’s a superpower too. Because it evokes something within people and maybe that was the first time I could clock in that I had the power to do that. Um and I used to keep a book of story ideas that I would have and I’d make it a goal to think of like three to five each day just for the sake of making some. I think I got a little too meticulous in the later parts of it because I was like — well what else can I do? I was forcing creation and we all know that the repercussions of doing it on our bodies tend to be a lot.

And then skipping around — one of my best friends, Gianna Patterson, she saw this in me, and she brought up the idea of going to a performing arts middle school. And I had never done anything to that caliber before, in terms of taking risks. So we decided to go together.

And at the time they didn’t have creative writing as a major — but they did have theatre. And by that time I was twelve. And I remember my love for it coming gradually. Because my original intention to take the class was me being fed up with the fact that I was so shy. And now it’s become something that is just one of the best things that we can do for ourselves and for others. Learning how to understand other people, and assess and forgive. The choice to learn to learn that you have a choice.

What does your personal artistic process look like?

My personal artistic process is beautifully all over the place. Of course, I start off with my writing, and again love letters is a big thing for me — I like to think that the way that I dive deep into my characters is asking them, and discovering their love languages, because even with someone who seems to possess all the great evils, we all want to experience love, it’s something that we all crave and fight for, and start wars for, so I lead with that. I think about who they love, who they have loved, who they want to love, how they love themselves, the significance of love in their life, the presence of it or the lack thereof. And I just take notes, and try to sketch. I make magazine collages with color themes or specific phrasings, and I just allow the words and the images and the colors to take me, which is one thing I love about collages so much, is that they tell me what to do. And I just listen to them, and I listen to they way they want to be cut, and I honor that. And I listen to the images that need to be put in the center, and the images that need to be hidden or tucked in, because they’re not ready yet. And I can sense words floating in my head and in the air, and whichever ones need the most light in that moment — I write it down.

I feel like my artistic process changes from time to time though, as I continue to learn more about myself, and who I am as a person and how that translates into my artistry, but also how that translates into me being a lover and someone who wants to experience connection so deeply. It’s like a healing process too, I feel, like I mentioned earlier — my artistry is very spiritual to me, and I made the discovery not long ago: how can I make it spiritual? How can I make the decision to better myself in this moment with this material I have right now? What does this lesson teach me?

What are some projects you are working on right now that you are proud and excited about?

I’m very happy to say that I’m currently on my sixth journal and it’s been a whirlwind! I’m just so lucky that I have a place to put all my musings, no matter their weight, because I trust that my journal will hold them. And I have a lot of admiration for the object that holds my heart, ever so delicately. I plan to write more songs, I plan to — is cooking a project?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

If I could make a book out of all the advice my mentor has given me, it would be the best seller for years, and years, and years. She is the wisest person I have ever met, and I can’t seem to put my finger on to one, but this one came up when I was looking at all my previous works. And you will see it on the graduation cap piece — I hope that I quoted it correctly — but I remember that at the end of my senior years, she told me that the lives that we get to touch, and the lives that we get to love, that is the winning. I forgot about that. And I think that this quote appeared to me at a very great time in my life, because I am going through a lot of lessons, and these lessons are very hard, and visceral, that I forget that in the end I am winning because I have these experiences. I am grateful to do so in a place that will hold me when I fall.

How does your community inspire you?

I have a lot of different communities, and sometimes I have trouble trying to combine them when maybe they shouldn’t be combined — maybe they’re beautiful enough in their own little spaces. But my communities inspire me in a sense to become a better friend. To learn how to be a better person when comforting someone, or how to be a better or helpful presence, while also learning how to balance that with myself. Overcompensating and overexerting my energy for the sake of someone else’s peace is not taking care of either side. They inspire me to continue to pursue balance, and to choose myself and to choose my work and to choose peace, even though the road to peace can be very bumpy and rough … but it’s the little dent that reminds us of what we’ve gone through to land at our divine destination. I have multiple places, and there’s a place within myself and that compassion and support is all around me, and within me. They inspire me to love wholeheartedly. And I think that’s one of the best lessons that anyone can receive — the reminder that their love didn’t go to waste.

What made you decide to pursue your art at Carnegie Mellon?

There was this calling to Carnegie, for me. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s just as simple as that. I just knew that by picking this institution, I’d also be picking myself. That’s a hard thing to do. And I knew that the journey was going to be difficult, but again, it’s just the fact that this difficulty can also be seen as an opportunity. That’s my reasoning. I think that we deserve the chance to just say that it felt right and just leave it there. Everything we experience after will align and make sense.

I just knew that the way my art would flourish here would — something about the way that my art would flourish here captivated me. And I pursued it.

What's the best part of being an artist right here (CMU, Pittsburgh, the world) and right now?

Right now, I am in a very intense state of emotional contemplation, and physical contemplation too, so I think the best part about an artist, for me, is that this is a safe place where I don’t have to mold my sadness into anything else, and I can give it free reign, and there’s permission for it to unapologetically fester and spoil, and that, in art, that’s regarded as something beautiful — not that it never reached that capacity of beauty before, but creating things from situations that hold a lot of weight has been enlightening to say the least. There’s just something so sacred about continuing to get to know myself, and the experience through a very in-depth and emotional process of creation, and I think that’s the best part of being an artist for me — I think I’m the most in tune with myself that I’ve ever been. And I think that alone creates great art.