q)Introduce yourself, name,age, location.
a) Hi! My name is Christina Barrera, I’m twenty three years old, I’m from South Florida and I live and work in
. I earned my BFA from
the Maryland Institute Baltimore,
Maryland where I majored in
Interdisciplinary Fine Arts and minored in Art History. College
q) Can you describe your path to being an artist? When did you really get into it?
a) 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.
q) Describe your ideals and how they manifest in your work.
a) I have a very specific world view and it’s what my work revolves around even when other things make their way in. 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.
Ideas of multiple universes or time lines, cyclical time, and weak points between universes or times are all really important to me right now. I work in a really diverse way, often with many more and less important or fleshed out series at a time, exploring different moods, atmospheres, ideas or strings of thought. My work incorporates painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, sculpture, photography and textile, among other things.
q) Is music a part of your studio time? What do you listen to?
a) Music is hardly ever playing in my studio, I find that a repetitive beat or sound becomes a stressful ongoing noise instead of music because I’m not really engaging in the music if I’m truly engaging in my work. I do sometimes listen to William Basinski’s Disintegrtation Loops for music, but mostly I like to listen to WNYC’s Radio Lab or occasionally This American Life. I also don’t mind having familiar movies on in the background.
q) How would you describe your work to someone?
a) Honestly, whenever anyone asks me what kind of work I make I’m super vague and hand them my business card, because so often I just don’t feel like getting a bunch of hokey jokes back from people who are uncomfortable when light conversation turns to something a little intellectual sounding. When someone presses a little further, I know they’re actually asking me about my work instead of just looking to a short answer to “so, what do you do?” At that point I basically just talk about materials, scale and basic ideas. I tend to use more science language than spiritual or metaphysical sounding language which I think is the only change I make when presenting my work to someone kind of unknown in person.
a)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 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. WNYC’s Radio Lab is what’s usually playing in my studio (oh! and TEDtalks!) and I find that incredible fodder for art making. 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.
q) Describe your process for creating new work.
a)There isn’t a structured process that I go through really. I like to work on many, many small pieces through out the course of one or more larger pieces. I find my small work keeps me excited and working more spontaneously but my large work allows me to create a richer visual field and feels more like I got something done. I try to work in different ways often in order to avoid getting stuck, which can sometimes result in a few small bodies of work going on at the same time, which I think often confuses people, but I don’t feel like my work divides itself or anything like that. I’ve always worked this way, sometimes you just have a lot going on.
q) What advice do you have for artists looking to show their work?
a)Well, I think that everyone finds their own way, but basically the most important things are to consistently make new work, connect with like-minded people, and consistently apply to opportunities that are a good fit for you and your work. Other things like your mailing list, registries and online portfolios can help you to make connections but really, the only way you’re going to get into shows is by applying to them, setting them up with your peers, or putting them on. So you just have to keep making it happen for yourself.
q) What are you really excited about right now?
a)oh wow, I’m really excitable so, you know, a lot of things! In the studio, I’m starting a new body of work that I’m really pumped for, I’m taking out a zine soon titled Letters to Ghosts, and I’ve been taking a lot of photographs and I’m looking forward to working with them further.
Out side of the studio right now I am SO SO SO excited by the Olympics! I’m a huge sucker for feeling inspired by the global community and inspiring sounding visa commercials, I seriously look forward to the Olympics for the year leading up to it and I follow every minute detail.
I have some things coming up soon that I’m excited about this summer; some friends and I are going camping, I’ll be learning to project
35 mm film, and I’m looking
into a new studio space. As for other stuff, I just found out that there’s
going to be a reboot of Sailor Moon based on the manga coming out next summer
and I am so amped! I just saw Beasts
of the Southern Wild and I’m completely obsessed. I really love movies
and they’re often a big visual reference for me so I’m pretty excited to see Django Unchained, The Hobbit and The Great Gatsby.
a)What do you love most about where you live?
is a strange
city in the best of ways. I think the thing I really love about it is how
geographically and culturally distinct it is. Baltimore Maryland
treads this weird line between the North and the South and treads this very weird line between
grungy, illegitimate, abandoned, city-town and cultured, community driven,
innovative, diverse, historic, great American city. I like that so many of
Baltimore’s businesses are privately owned, I like that that there’s a
history of kitsch, I like that people want to contribute to Baltimore’s growth
and betterment, and I love that people are proud to be from Baltimore and they
assert their pride and ownership of the city in such unique ways. It’s a plus
that the art scene here is pretty young and ad-hoc, and that because the city
is so vacant and kind of abandoned by industry, that it’s very cheap and easy
to live in. Baltimore
q) Best way to spend a day off?
a)If it’s just a day off from work, ideally I’d be in the studio or working on professional development stuff. On a day off from everything, a lot of the time I end up staying in my house and doing absolutely nothing, I’m watching The West Wing right now, it’s amazing. Other times I go out in the wilderness, explore the city, find a new place to eat, learn a new skill, re-arrange the furniture, or have movie marathons and ice cream, it just depends on what I need, these are just my usual go to things.
q) Upcoming shows/ projects?
a)For the immediate future, in the studio I’m planning on 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 that 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
My longer term goals include grad school within two or three years, I’m looking at
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 work in a couple museums and I like how museums can
impact a community if they’re run well and have an invigorated staff and fresh
approach to education programs. New York
q) Where can people see more of your work on the internet?
a)You can find me at:
prints of my work are for sale on http://www.artflakes.com/en/s?search=christina+barrera, I also have profiles on Gawker Artists, The
Arts Council registry, and Saatchi
Online. Maryland State
here are some excellent peers that I’m inspired by!: