Meet the 2024 Fellows: Rafael Soldi

Published: June 13, 2024

Categories: Artist Interviews

About Artist Trust Fellowships

Artist Trust Fellowships are merit-based awards of $10,000 providing unrestricted support to practicing professional artists of exceptional talent and ability residing in Washington State. The first Artist Trust Fellowship Awards were selected in 1987, making it our longest-running award program. In 2024, $150,000 was awarded to 15 artists across five Washington State counties.

Our Meet the Fellows series highlights each of the award winners over the year in a series of interviews, talks, blog posts, and social media highlights. To support grants programs like the Artist Trust Fellowships, visit

Interview with 2024 Artist Trust Fellowship Recipient Rafael Soldi

Please introduce yourself and share a little about yourself and your background

Thanks for inviting me to share! I was born in Peru and migrated to the U.S. as a teenager. This, along with my queerness, greatly influences my work and the stories I’m interested in telling. I received a degree in Photography & Curatorial Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009 and have been practicing as an artist since. I’ve continued my curatorial work primarily through two platforms, the High Wall and the Strange Fire Collective. The High Wall is a public video projection event that invites artists who are immigrants or who explore borderlands and the diaspora to intervene the façade of the Inscape building in Seattle, which is a former immigration detention center. Strange Fire Collective is a curatorial platform that ran for seven years (2015–2022) and features the work of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ artists, writers, and curators. All of these projects are woven into the fabric of my artistic practice too.


Rafael Soldi, Mientras el cielo gire (As long as the sky whirls), installation at Frye Art Museum’s Boren Banner, 2023, photo by Jueqian Fan


Your work tends to challenge masculinity and boyhood from a tender yet visceral approach. Has your practice impacted how you think about masculinity and tenderness? 

My ongoing, long-term research into patriarchal masculinity has taken me to really wonderful thinkers like Bell Hooks and Maggie Nelson, who have opened my mind to understanding masculinity through a feminist lens. The work has also sparked thoughtful and vulnerable conversations with men of all gender and sexual expressions who have opened up about the wounds of patriarchy. I think it’s easy to think of toxic masculinity as one-dimensional, but the truth is that behind a toxic man is a boy who was failed by patriarchy. My work pays particular attention to violence, and the way we use violence and ritual to mask an urgent need for intimacy and connection. I have begun to think of masculinity as a theater of sorts, and if you take time to really think about it, you may realize that arm wrestling, for example, is nothing but an excuse to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. You may notice that sports often act as a foil for accessing touch and more playful and intimate ways of bringing our bodies together that are sanctioned outside of that container. So, I’ve become attuned to the intricate rituals that men construct to touch the skin of other men.  


Art is constantly changing and developing. How has your work developed over the last few years?  

Having been labeled a photographer early in my practice, I have worked hard to reframe the conversation around my work in a more expanded context. I don’t see myself as an artist bound to a medium but rather to a line of inquiry. My recent video installation, Soft Boy, which included experimental performance, marked a monumental step in my practice. It is my most ambitious project to date and now I am shifting my focus to working with sculpture and live performance. Before that, I collaborated with master printmakers in Mexico City to produce works way outside of what I’m known for. I enjoy a challenge and think that the idea is paramount in driving which medium the work needs to exist in. To me, this is critical to a lifelong practice that is dynamic and honest.


Rafael Soldi, Soft Boy

Rafael Soldi, Soft Boy, three-channel video installation, 2023 and CARGAMONTÓN, aquatint photogravures, 2022


What keeps your creative practice moving forward? Why do you create?  

Discovery and curiosity are a big part of it. Staying open to the questions that hound you, especially the hard ones, is really important. I’ve recently thought of my practice as an exercise in getting closer. I’ve noticed that when I begin working with a topic that is challenging or triggering for me, I often start at arms-length, because it’s easier. Each project, each iteration, each step, is a little braver. It’s truly a practice in befriending and disarming your enemy, in a way. The ways in which I’m working with masculinity—working in Perú, working with large teams and performers, expressing my thoughts in Spanish, engaging with tough criticism—would have terrified me five years ago. If we aim to be a little braver each time, to get a little closer, to ask harder questions, to be uncomfortable, we’ll remain authentic.

This year I read Priya Parker’s The Art Gathering, which changed my life and reframed how I think about engaging with audiences and how I make work. A big takeaway was her challenge to think more deeply about purpose, and to always reframe our decision-making through the lens of that purpose. She also challenges us to be specific with who our work (or gathering) is for—very specific. The question she proposes is not the classic “Who is this for?” but rather, “Who is it for first?” This question has guided me to unapologetically take a stance for the parts of the work that may feel opaque to some, but not to those for whom the work is for first.

For example, a work that speaks to the immigrant experience does not necessarily have to concern itself with tending to those for whom the experience is unfamiliar. This specificity allows me to gift the fullness of the work to those for whom it is made, and that is a powerful source of fuel to create.  


As a 2024 Fellowship Recipient, can you please talk about how this award impacts you? 

I am so grateful for this award as it comes at a time of tremendous growth for me. Artists don’t have reliable sources of income, and this instability thwarts cultural and artistic production critical to guiding our communities in thinking through difficult topics and questions. I also like to be open about what it takes to get here, because we live in a robust creative ecosystem and these opportunities are few and far between. I applied for this award for a decade, so this honor does not come without hard work, perseverance, and a lot of disappointment. I think its important for artists to be open about the journeys that lead to our success and not just our achievements.

It’s not always fun and exciting—this award helped me settle debt related to the production of my last film. That’s the reality, and without this award I would still be paying it off for the next few years. Freedom from financial burdens is freedom to create 


How can Artist Trust continue to support artists across Washington State? 

The most impactful way to support artists is to provide unrestricted financial capital to move ideas forward and find stability. It is of no help to have money tied up to a project if you are housing-insecure, or are too tired from working 4 jobs, or are a single parent raising a child. It’s sexy to attach money to projects, but the reality is that artists will create and contribute when they are supported as a whole person. I trust artists to invest in the areas of their life that will make them better artists.

Additionally, we can’t take the foot off the gas when it comes to equity. I have been grateful to see organizations work on making application processes more accessible, and removing barriers such as budgets and project proposals that are not always analogous to how artists operate in the real world.  




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