Artist Statement 2010
In my drawings and paintings, I have borrowed from botanical illustrations, actual lace samples and depictions of lace from Spanish Colonial painting in order to examine the invisible paths of cultural memory born from exile from my homeland in Colombia. I have also taken this imagery as metaphor of the parallels of gender and political power respectively.
By unraveling and drawing lace structures I am doing a research into drawing, and creating a poetic path that marks time and expresses humanity.
In the past, I have translated novels and short stories, and I have drawn the texts by hand within structures and systems of lace and crochet. I have worked with words as if they were a tangible material. As a result, the texts loose their particularity and readability and become indiscernible as in a knit. These writings transform into visuals and although they retain some of their original meaning, end dissipating into the web of memory.
Moreover, by reenacting the process of making lace through drawing as in a performance, I have arrived to the viscera of "knitting" by making art pieces that are monumental and intricate, yet full of intimate strokes. The need for repetitive and nearly unconscious automatic mark making is no accident. It is equivalent to the actual act of lacework and crochet translated into drawing.
My work has the influence of Minimalism and The Pattern and Decoration Movement with artists such as Agnes Martin and Myriam Shapiro. But, my aesthetic sensibility is deeply rooted first, in the Spanish Moorish tiles that permeate many buildings in Colombia; and in the lace depicted in the colonial portraits of viceroys and nuns, and also in the crochets that women like my grandmother were trained to make at the beginning of the XX century.
In my work I point to the passage between Modernism, patriarchy and what is personal and feminine. I sketch the threshold in flux that signifies living with history, and in between cultures and languages.
During the last four years, I have expanded my endeavors by introducing iconic images from Colombia. This research deals with the Colonial Botanical Expedition of 1783. The begonias, orchids, and pasifloras are not just beautiful flowers as illustrated during the colony. They are part of the iconographic history of Colombia and of my own iconographic cultural archive. This is the same flora that knew intimately in my youth as it grows freely in the Sabana de Bogotá and was cultivated in my own family’s backyard.
The temperas done during the Spanish Colony represented both the scientific findings and inventory of the Nueva Granada, but ultimately corresponded to the expansionist claims of Spain in the new world. These works have been reproduced many times, but the originals reside to this day in Spain. The Botanical Expedition embodies a larger cultural lexicon of colonization. Despite almost 200 years of independence, it's still emblematic of present processes of neo-colonization and relationships of power between north and south. The flora, ever present in gardens and paintings, continues to dangle in history in the course of the treaties of free commerce. This means, that the "pasiflora" recorded by Jose Celestino Mutis could reincarnate as one patented and commercialized by multinationals.
The theme of flowers, either inspired in colonial art, in Mutis' expedition, or in the "rosas de exportación" that come from Colombia and which I can see daily on the outside of New York delis; allow me to reflect on what it means to paint flowers in an art historical context and in the contemporary environment of art galleries and museums. They are a link to definitions on femininity and to their significance and hierarchy at the interior of different power systems.
Formally and conceptually I allude to a kind of baroque minimalism, but the images are maximalist. Set against black backgrounds, depictions of flowers and lace evoke the chiaroscuro and theatricality of Zurbaran, but call to mind Robert Ryman and Ad Reinhardt. Foregrounds of elaborate and small woven marks are superimposed over large industrial aluminum grounds. By making big format works full of minuscule detail, I correct the historical record, allowing lace and crochet to enter the domains reserved for what is masculine, that which is visible. I do so by making connections between what is modern, masculine, heroic, and monumental; through gestures that are tiny and which insubordinate themselves to their size, like one who tries to empty a lake with a teaspoon. These inscriptions are inward and emotional, and they have to do with what is invisible and difficult to name, but also to what is associated with notions of femininity, sentimentality and decoration, therefore: "not interesting" in "serious circles".
Historically, lace and knitting have been tools in the resistance to patriarchal order, but paradoxically they represent conformity and submission to traditional standards. By playing with these polarities, I explore both visually and conceptually the efforts of many women in previous generations and invite the viewer to experience the simultaneity of what could be deceptively perceived as decorative and old, but which is in fact a contemporary aesthetic tool of political critique.
The intensive labor in making each work is about slowness, feeling and thinking; it is about doing a work that honors manual labor and where I manage an economy of materials. Each mark is indelible. Not erasing -I use enamel on a pristine industrial surface- is an important and deliberate act as an echo of the trajectory, the steps that one takes one by one in time and space. Poetically, for me, the impossibility of erasing is a metaphor of the liminal threshold that connotes existing in exile: A voyaging into a transformation of ones cultural DNA, a chain reaction that is assumed through time in existential and spiritual terms.
I see my art as multi-layered: It is political as it is personal. It is intricately interrelated with my domestic and work responsibilities; and with the supporting and administration of family and career. My options of life are integrated ethically in my art, as I reflect and challenge the roles that historically have been assigned to women, in terms not only in the division of labor, but also in the division of artistic and intellectual spaces.