7th Nov 2018
Thank you for the coffee and for getting in touch. My practice, interests and experience, big question! My practice mostly consists of painting and performance art. I have described my work as a proliferation of altars. My parents are Chilean and as a child, daily I was told to pray to the Virgin Mary, my mother had a little altar in the home. Whenever I wanted anything as a child, it wasn’t good enough to work hard and do my best, I had to leave a note to the virgin at the altar, light a candle. That’s how things worked. From this I took a language of symbolism and a method of communicating messages and desires.
Books I keep coming back to: The Virago Book of Witches, Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector, Face of the Gods by Robert Farris Thompson, Anaïs Nin’s Venus of Delta and Little Birds. I love reading folktales and mythology and stories by Chekhov and Tolstoy. I often get an idea for a painting or project while reading, When I am mulling over an idea I collect images and tape them up on my studio wall. The conversation between these images often turns into a painting. I have been experimenting with divination with Tarot cards and regular playing cards as a method of processing an idea.
A votive object is an object used to communicate either a plea or thanks to a higher power. They are often accompanied with offerings, including: money, food, cigarettes, alcohol, hair, fresh blood. Each deity has their preferences. When I was about 15 I visited the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the hill of Tepeyac. I saw peasants who had crawled on their knees for miles to come take a glance at her holy image. Something in their passionate devotion struck me. I liked that it was a cult to a goddess and it clearly mattered a lot that she was brown and Mexican, and spoke Nahuatl. People make votive paintings to thank the Virgin of Guadalupe for her intercession. These are referred to as Miracle Paintings or Ex-Votos. In Mexico you can go to the market and visit a witch (Bruja) at her stall, she cleanses you of spells etc by trashing you with a bushel of branches and herbs, then she rubs you with an egg. You can ask her to cast a spell too, the spell is often a bundle of objects and powders, they generally smell quite strongly, that is a sort of votive object.
I will walk you through the symbolism in one of my paintings. My painting entitled Toil: a symbol of the Haitian voodoo goddess of fertility can be seen on the woman’s right calf. Again from Haitian voodoo, the symbol of the god of thunder can be seen in the top left in the sky. This suggests the woman has discovered that she is pregnant and feeling a storm inside. She is surrounded by tools of work, witchcraft and torture. In her fingers she is untangling a piece of string, this refers to the unending nature of a mother’s work. The painting is about a woman’s apprehension at the thought of having a child and also shines a light on her craftiness and the gifts endowed on intuitive women. Toil is a painting inspired by a photo of my aunt as a young woman but I have put myself in it as well. It is also inspired by a painting of Saint Catherine I saw at the Pinoteca Nazionale in Siena.
Ritual plays an enormous role in my work. They are sometimes seen, sometimes unseen. In my performance works Altarpiece and Action de Grâce, Coup de Grâce, I stood before an audience and performed a ritual. While on a residency in Italy last winter, I went into the forest and performed wiccan inspired rituals on my own, taking a few photos to document the process. I think ritual is unfortunately absent in contemporary society, we hardly even mark the passage of time. Rituals unite communities, they can be cathartic and it can relieve individual pressure to feel a sense that something greater and cosmic can potentially come to your aid.
I’m excited about the baby growing in my belly. I’m concerned about the UN report on Climate Change.
If funding and resources were no object I would orchestrate large scale performances at the feet of the Great Sphinx at Giza, on top of Machu Picchu and the Pyramids of Uxmal and Chichen Itza. I would invite all my friends and we could have a big barbecue up there.