“I consider myself an artist that uses abstraction in painting as a means to create meaning and logic”
above image by Yekaterina Gyadu
installation images are courtesy of Kates-Ferri Projects and Francisco Donoso.
Tell me a little bit about the body of work you are developing at Kates-Ferri Projects Artist Residency?
During my time at the residency I’ve been working on new paintings on canvas that explore the chain link fence as an architecture and structure occupying an imagined landscape. This is a departure from my previous investigation of the chain link fence motif as a flattened and stenciled image against an abstract color field. The fence, while abstracted and majorly deconstructed, is situated in a pictorial space that oscillates between a flattened picture plane, and an illusory space of ambiguous light sources and perceived depth. The fences are in a constant state of deconstruction and flux, never fully realized or weighed down by gravity, but rather in a state of constant transformation. I’m thinking about these fences as architectures of possibility and transition, and not the violence they currently represent when we think about the southern border, or the immigration crisis in the US.
Where are you from and what artwork or artist has been the most influential in your practice?
I was born in Quito, Ecuador and migrated to the US at the age of 5 with my family. We settled in Miami, FL and made it our home. It wasn’t until I was already living in NYC after college that I received DACA. I think growing up in Miami I was influenced by color and pattern. Not from a particular source, but rather from lived experience. It’s impossible to grow up in a place like Miami and not be affected by its culture of color, it’s in your psyche. Later on I discovered Rauschenberg, he’s my first artist crush. I learned a lot about contemporary existence through his work. One of my greatest influences is Denyse Thomasos. I was her studio assistant for a little while, and she mentored me when I first arrived in NYC. Her paintings still leave me speechless, and I keep her picture on my desk to this day. Sometimes I feel like she’s in the studio with me.
How does your immigration status play into your art?
Being an undocumented person with DACA in the US affects every area of my life, both private and public. It is the ever-present backdrop to my life, but with my permission. My practice explores the liminality of a transnational existence. Between nationalities, borders and what is possible when you interrogate existing structures of domination. I work in abstraction because it invites nuance, and at the same time rejects an oversimplification of what is seen and felt. In some ways I see my role as an artist as a disruptor against dominant narratives around migration, and immigrant artists. I’m interested in mining the richness of the unarticulated, the internal spaces of the immigrant psyche where everything is possible.
Do you consider yourself an abstract or conceptual artist and why?
I consider myself an artist that uses abstraction in painting as a means to create meaning and logic. Abstraction is about the mind, and I’m interested in mining the experiences and journeys that take place within the interior of the self. Migration is not only felt in the body and the physical world- it’s also experienced in the less visible and obvious psychological, emotional and spiritual spaces. Abstraction allows me to access those dense and nuanced spaces. Abstraction is also a way of subverting the concrete, physical world we occupy. It’s a portal, a window, an escape, a respite. Abstraction is about possibility and hope.
Your current body of work is very colorful, no black and white or monochromatic. Can you tell us a little bit about why and your color theory?
Color is seductive, and instantly provokes the senses. It triggers the subconscious in fascinating ways and allows me to begin the conversation with my viewer right away. Color in the work is attributed to the lived experience: at times it’s plastic, digital, earthy, dreamy, wet, dry, celestial, familiar, a memory, suggestive of a landscape, etc. It comes from living today, of manufactured digital realities and traces of the natural world. Hot pinks and oranges blend with earthy yellows and plums, complemented by sky blues and neon zig zags that resemble blurry images of late night escapades.
Working with color is also about having control. I have total agency over the rules of the paintings, unlike in other parts of my life. In some ways using color is liberating and healing for me because I get to build the worlds of the paintings myself and assign color its role.
Do you listen to music at the residency? If yes what’s on your current play list?
Always! I like to create a lively environment to work in, so music and coffee are key. I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish language music from all over the world, like Nathy Peluso and Esteman, but also really into the disco revival I’m noticing from artists like Jessie Ware and Kylie Minogue. A dance break is always welcomed in my studio.
How would you describe your work to someone that cannot see?
I would say my works are colorful abstractions that combine both organic and geometric forms to create a push and pull between flat and modulated spaces. The shapes are inspired by the chain link fence, and blown up in scale. At times they appear disjointed, and fragile, but also heavy. I turn the chain link fence into doorways, tunnels, archways and roads. In one of the works it even looks like they’re dancing structures, imbued with movement and spirit.