I am the work of art! And my process of becoming an artist is a process of living beautifully, making of myself and my life something of an art. Is that true only for artists? I don’t think so. Everybody can do that, at heart, each person is an artist in disguise. Frida’s work is perhaps the first time that this process is done in a straight forward and honest manner. She is not shy when exploring her own body, her face, her own tragedy. She transforms the tragedy into art! and that’s why she is so remarkable. Being an artist is not only to be able create certain type of works, or using some medium to express one self: it is a whole process of pouring soul, body, memories and legacy into that work. “Who I am” is continually expressed in my paintings: the way in which colour is so central for me, or the topics that I want to explore and share with the world, is all about being in the world and talk to the world.
As a Latin American artist, I recognise the power and influence of Mexican culture in my upbringing, imagery and cultural referents. For example, at the time of the development of the film industry in Hollywood, Mexico took on a huge project of filming: Cantinflas, Bandoleros, Lucha Libre, and the beloved and addictive melodramas of soap operas are absolutely Mexicans. Being filmed in Spanish they became our first encounter with movies and TV. Indeed the topics were very latinamerican and local: for instance, Cantinflas, a sort of Latin Charles Chaplin, a working class character always witty and subverting the social structures. The mo see a different type of latin american: not the old maid or bandolero, but empowered women, like Maria Felix, one of the most beautiful ladies in the silver screen, who was indeed one of the closest friends of Frida Kahlo!
In a similar way, in this exhibition I am trying to combine the elements of Frida’s work with my own believes and identity. The first attempts at Frida’s images in my work came from my interest in colour and pop images. the result is these two images. they symbolise in a way my own moments: the first one is exhuberant in warm colours dated in 2009, when I was going through a good period of experimentation. The second is a blue, coinciding with a period of reflexion and re-composition of myself.
Fridas Pop. Frida Smoking (2009), Frida in Blue with Parrots (2013)
It is important to understand that Latin American art, and Frida’s art is rooted in the western tradition of painting. The Spanish conquest carried a heavy cultural footprint that was imposed in the form of language and religion, imagery and artistic expressions. However, the indigenous identity was not completely destroyed: it was assimilated, mixed, married with the European values and images, to create a whole new identity. In a paper with my friend Ana Maria Carreira, we offered this definition of hybridity:
“The term hybrid originally used in biology studies refers to processes of crossing amongst species, as well as other dynamics of combination and mixture. The concept of hybridization often includes divergent notions such as mestizaje, which applies mainly to studies regarding race or ethnias; synchretism, alluding to religious combinations or symbolic transactions; and creolization, referring to certain zones of contact and exchange. In particular, the term mestizo does not translate into the English language and the word in Spanish is used when referring to miscegenation, half-breed, mixed blood and hybridity (García-Canclini, 1995; 2004). The concept of ‘hybridization’ has been applied in the analysis of a wide variety of phenomena, including globalising processes, travel and border crossing and artistic, literary and mass communicational fusions (Martin Barbero, 1987). As argued by Raab and Butler “the concept of hybridity itself is a hybrid construct, which is based on a number of -at times highly divergent – theoretical and ideological perspectives and assumptions, and which has been a site for continuous academic and political contestation (2008: 2).” In Acevedo, B. and Carreira, A.M. 2009.
In this regard, the appeal of Frida’s art lies on the basic premise that she used elements of both traditional indigenous or local expressions (linked to values, political, cultural and social circumstances) with the tradition of painting in Europe and Western art. She was hailed as part of the surrealist movement, thus, being sort of accredited as part of the European artistry and belonging to certain tradition or movement. However she had her very own life and her very own vision of the world, rooted also on the particular aspects of the rich Mexican culture. She mixed the traditional art of self-portraiture with the very personal and cultural aspects of her life.
In the process of becoming an artist I am also constantly revising and being aware of my own identity. The different paintings for this exhibition are my own interpretation of who I am and how I feel. Today when I am revising this post and re-editing I feel that I have come a long way from the first pop paintings.Taught by my friend Lesley Longworth I have learned some of the elements of portraiture, but most important, I am more confident in the way I see. This also makes me more secure of my own identity as an artist. The lack of academic training can become a matter of self-doubt, but, it is also in my case, a rich potential.
Being an outsider, as a foreigner, as a self-developed artist, or as a critical academic, is part of my very personality that I try to reflect in my paintings. In the exhibition and throughout this blog I’ve tried to weave all these threads: the blog is the intersection between my academic being and my artistic self; the paintings of this series, aim at bridging my Latin heritage with a classical language of portraiture; the show itself will bring both education, entertainment and self-knowledge.
I am not very sure of where I am going, I somehow know where I am coming from, and what I call home is not necessarily Colombia, but a place in the universe where I can paint and create. At the moment, that place is here, in my garden studio in the heart of the English countryside. I bring my colours and my music and I learned from the English way of seeing the world, I enjoy so much my dialogue with my friends, that makes me who I am and this is perhaps one of the major treasures of this process.