Tell us about yourself and your work.
Hi! My name is Christina Barrera, I’m twenty three years old, I’m from South Florida and I live and work in Baltimore, Maryland. I earned my BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art where I majored in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts and minored in Art History. My work deals with, examines, and visualizes the idea of a universal consciousness or energy that connects all beings and entities in the universe, and the idea that everything is essentially made up of the same “stuff” weaving in and out of and melding into one another. I like to make spaces that sometimes have figures or surrogates for figures that dissolve into or are interrupted by the spaces that they are integrally a part of. We are discrete objects, alienated by our solid form and yet fluid bodies constantly in a state of flux, giving and receiving information in the form of energy. The work seeks to dissolve the boundaries that we perceive between ourselves and our universe and literally interconnect energy, environment, figures and all things; giving the work a sense of existing in a timeless space and communicating that within the reality of the created space all things are the same in their material and immaterial existences despite our seeming separateness. My work incorporates painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, sculpture, photography and textile, among other things.
My mother is an elementary school art teacher so I was always encouraged to make art work, but predictably enough having an art teacher as a mother made me reject art making for a while when I was young. I had a lot of dream careers before I considered being an artist, one of those for a long time in primary school was to be a lawyer because I was good at arguing and I enjoyed winning those arguments, which should tell you something (probably terrible) about me in the third grade! Then I attended The Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida and I consciously chose to become an artist in the eighth grade almost certainly because of the emphasis that was placed on the importance of art-making, exploration, and experimentation there. I also attended the Alexander W. Dreyfoos jr. High School of the Arts* (always a mouthful!) and the environment there is both very rigorous and very diverse and open in regards to making work, so it just cemented my practice as a part of my life that wove everything else together. That level of making and consideration made me view my practice as a way for me to create a space and a system that allowed me to think or work through instead of simply do things, and that ultimately is what I think made me an artist and is how and why I stay in it.
What/who inspires you? In what way?
There are a trillion things maybe. Tons of things that don’t directly correlate to my practice inspire me, like anime, bike riding, all sorts of television, fashion, textiles, cooking, the internet, music, stickers that I can never figure out where to put, museum education practice, outer space, painting my nails, zines, Harry Potter, theory and ideology surrounding museums, institutions, and monuments, I mean, I’m just pulling stuff from everywhere and nowhere and I could go on for a long time and come up with a really stupid list!
The list of things that I can directly pinpoint as influential to me in the realm of my current practice is actually quite short, I think. Just to get some obvious pre-requisites out of the way, I’m obviously influenced and inspired by my past professors and mentors, my very talented friends (links at the bottom!), the vast image bank that is art history, any contemporary work that I experience first hand, and really all the images that I see everyday, meaning I owe a lot of my influencing images and probably a lot of my image bank to the internet.
As far as imagery is concerned I can’t really say what is really going to influence me in the studio versus simply catch my eye. I can say that there are certainly recurring images, for example the lush tropical plant life that I know from my Florida home, since the recent death of my first cat she has cropped up in a lot of my images, I seem to be drawn to images of fire, night imagery, and probably a lot of other things I’m forgetting right now. My imagery used to be heavily influenced by magical realism and the kind of atmosphere and vivid off-kilter imagery in magical realist Hispanic literature. I’ve read a lot of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and although they don’t fit into the magical realist movement, I’ve read a lot of Federico Garcia Lorca and Jorge Luis Borjes. This influence has waned over the past few years but I feel that I owe a lot to their literary imagery.
Conceptually I’m incredibly influenced by Joseph Campbell (and therefore by Carl Jung, although I’ve never read any of his work) and by the ideologies of the collective consciousness (collective unconscious) and simultaneous time/time lines that surround many meditative practices. This idea is in turn very present (in a number of different iterations) in quantum physics, and of particular interest to me at the moment, multiverse theory. I try to get into the more complex science but it sometimes just complicates my understanding of the base concepts. My favorites at the moment are Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan. I’ve watched a lot of Cosmos, and I’ve just started reading A Brief History of Time after getting through The Grand Design, I also think about The Field by Lynne McTaggart, Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino a lot in the studio. When I do listen to music in the studio it’s likely to be William Basinki’s Disintegration Loops, or recently something like Bob Dylan or the Tallest Man on Earth, but WNYC’s Radio Lab is what’s usually playing in my studio (oh! and TEDtalks!). The amount of visual artists that I look at and are inspired by is endless and I couldn’t begin to formulate a comprehensive list here.
What is art for you? Examples of "real art"?
I think that art is mostly just things labeled “art”. I’m absolutely okay with this and have no qualms with what is or isn’t called art, however it essentially means that the label of art lies in the intention to make art. I do think that this means that something has do be done to make art. By this definition an untouched thing you found on the street and left there isn’t art, but a thing you found on the street and picked up and did something with (even if then you left it in the street again) can be if you intend it to be. This goes both ways, in that a functional but beautifully decorated object that is not considered art in its indigenous culture shouldn’t be considered art in our culture either, but rather and artifact with respect to their labeling of their own creations. That really gets me hot and bothered sometimes. Ultimately I think that art is whatever the maker wants it to be, and different kinds and levels of art have different venues and purposes which is why people mistakenly take them to be different, when they’re not. They’re all art.
“real art”? “real art” is art that exists in some plane of reality? things that are real are real, right?
The most powerful/your favourite medium: picture, words, sounds? Anything else?
Let me start by saying that I don’t think that any medium can be inherently more powerful than any other medium. One piece of art work can be more subjectively powerful than another, and that may be due in part to the medium and how appropriate it is to the work or how well it’s handled but it wont be solely because of the medium.
My favorite mediums, if we’re talking materials, are charcoal and pastel, photocopies, paper (cut and woven), photography, etching, and oils probably, at least these are my most commonly used. I’m recently getting really into porcelain molding, flip books, and getting back into sculpture but I haven’t acted on any of this very much yet, I’m a slow mover sometimes. I’m starting to think about gifs in a way I’ve never thought of them as well, let’s say I’m considering them. In the past I’ve been drawn to textiles, hand sewing, transparencies, light boxes, and sometimes hand built ceramics.
As for the second part of the question, I use text on the rare occasion but I’m almost strictly and proudly an image maker, whether it be in two or three dimensions.
Plans for future (of your work)?
For the immediate future, in the studio I’m planning on getting into porcelain molds and getting back into sculpture, I have two on-going collaborative projects going with my studio mate Ricardo Contreras, one of which we’re getting ready to get into in earnest, and I’m starting a new body of large works that I’m really excited about (you can check my website and tumblr for updates through-out the summer!) I’m also working on a curatorial proposal and I’ll be putting out a zine and related submission-based blog called Letters to Ghosts later this summer.
I just de-installed two shows, and am opening another group show in a week but after that I’ll be working on more calls for entry, and residency applications for next year. I really want to go to this year long residency just outside of Paris!
My longer term goals include grad school within two or three years, hopefully in New York but not necessarily, and eventually teaching on the university level along side my studio practice. I could definitely work in the gallery or museum circuit somewhere in between! I’ve worked in a couple museums and I like how museums can impact a community if they’re run the right way and have an invigorated staff and fresh approach to education programs.
Anything you'd like to add? Maybe a song, a picture, hello to friends and family?
Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to talk about my work!
you can find me elsewhere on the internet:
prints of my work are for sale on artflakes.com
and here are some excellent peers that I’m inspired by:
I just want to shout out to magnet programs here; Both my former middle and high school are public magnet arts programs, and they are absolutely amazing. To everyone who says that magnet programs create elitist privileged students or are a brain drain on the schools in the area, I say this: the United States public school system is there supposedly to provide quality elite education to all its citizens which means that high caliber programs in the arts, academics, and vocational schools are something to strive for rather than reject. It is impossible to claim that other schools do not do well because there is a better program in the area, the state of those other schools rests in the hands of government funding for good teachers, and since teachers are paid in unicorn tears and fairy wishes, very few highly educated top tier students decide to specialize in education or become teachers meaning that the system is only working for some students and not others. This is not the fault of the program that is working, those programs are progressive, innovative and invigorated so they attract progressive, innovative, and invigorated teachers.
These schools are the reason I am where I am. They are the reason I had the courage and the tools to pursue my work, they are the reason I went to a private art university for free, and they are responsible for shaping and honing hundreds if not thousands of amazingly talented individuals who are more well rounded and have a fuller sense of themselves and their abilities thanks to their arts education. There are many programs like this around the country, although not enough, and they are under constant attack and threat of being shut down when they should be emulated.
all images Christina Barrera, all rights reserved 2012