A.M. Rosales is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and translator from Cochabamba, Bolivia. They are a collaborating artist at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and an MFA candidate at Portland State University; their work has been supported by the Precipice Fund and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Why do you write? What compels you to write? I write because I am angry. Writing was not something I necessarily wanted to do. It’s never been a childhood dream or aspirational job. There’s a million more useful things you can do with your life besides being a writer including being a teacher, a counselor, or a social worker. But I felt an obligation to speak from my positionality in the world; I discovered that I had things to say. I write because so much of what I find out there is underwhelming or doesn’t speak to me because so many writers lie about the world as I know to be—they lie about its manifold complexity—or worse, they debase it. Someone has to put forth alternative narratives, so I figured that someone might as well be me. Let me try.
What upcoming writing projects are you working on? Oof! I work in a lot of disciplines. Right now, my priority is a collection of short stories centered on the lives of trans young adults and gender-diverse children. A full draft of the manuscript should be ready by next summer (that’s my focus right now). I am also translating a Bolivian novel from the 1960’s from Spanish to English. I am a little more than half-way through it. It’s a labor of love; most Bolivian literature doesn’t get read outside of Bolivia. I am also working on a collection of essays (excerpt included) although it’s still early in the process so I don’t entirely know where I am going with them yet. I also serve as artistic co-director of Acción Poética Portland a collective project at the intersection of poetry, visual art, and social practice—but the pandemic has put a damper on the public facing component of that venture. For the time being, we are on hold, hoping to regroup when it is safe to participate in large gatherings again. I’m always looking for new projects and collaborations, too.
Describe your work in five words
excerpt from Dis·mem·ber (originally published in The Sonora Review)
Injections manifested again in your adolescence as cold hands in latex gloves pinching your deltoid; stretching your skin flat between thumb and forefinger; needle at a ninety-degree angle.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis.
Needles followed you onto your professional life in the form of tithers and tuberculosis tests. One quarter-inch needle under the skin.
You learned English and practiced how to pronounce the word: Phlebotomist. But needles were only an occasional necessity until you discovered tattoos and piercing needles.
The lobes (first).
Upper ear cartilage (later).
An industrial piercing has two entry points.
Piercing needles are hollow with a sharp point to create a clean hole. As the needle passes through your body it removes a small amount of your skin and tissue in the immediate area of the piercing wound. This allows for your wound to drain and heal. Tattoo needles are different. They range in a variety of size and groupings:
Round liners and round shaders are pretty straightforward. They line and they shade. Flats, Magnums, and Turbo Needles are more complex. Flat needles (shaders) are arranged in a straight line and can be used to shade in geometric areas. Stacked Magnums are made of two layers of needles that are mostly used to shade, color-pack, and fill-in larger areas. Curved Magnums achieve the same effect, but they are softer on the skin because they are rounded at the edges. Tattoo artists are trained to keep the needle at a consistent depth of about one sixteenth of an inch. Turbo needles are hollow point needles. This does not mean that the pins themselves are hollow, but rather that the pins are arranged in a circle, with a hollow spot in the middle. The pins at the center are pulled back, so they don't penetrate the skin at all. Turbo needles reduce trauma and hold significantly more ink than other needle groupings.
These are the words associated with getting a tattoo. The sensation varies on the person and the body part although the techniques remain largely the same. Did it hurt? Sure, but you wouldn’t assign this pain a number or even a word. When it got bad, you bit your lip.