Archive » SPREAD 6.0 » SPREAD 6.0 Finalists » Cristina Gonzalez

Cristina Gonzalez

Posted on: February 28, 2017

Cristina Gonzalez’s figurative works are rooted in the practice of drawing and painting. Pulling source material from familial and cultural histories, she builds narratives and recovers memories.
“I sit between warmth and cold never knowing which is my territory…”
Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands

Chicanx scholar-poet Anzaldúa writes about existing in a reality that is both inside and outside, mobile and immobile, earthbound and heaven seeking, beautiful and horrifying. She embraces the contradictions of living a mixed-race, mixed-heritage, mixed-language life. I, too, embrace these contradictions. My work as an artist was birthed from this embrace.

Rooted in the practice of drawing and painting, my work is figurative and personal. I use lush colors and generous forms, observed or abstracted from nature, to build narrative and recover memory. My personal, familial, and cultural histories—be they mythic or real—are source material through which I explore the intersection of craft, materiality, process, intuition and intention.

My bicultural and bilingual identity informs content and color. I am critically aware that my choices in conventions of form and space are loaded with cultural context and meaning. Therefore, I choose deliberately. Be it with paint, vinyl or steel, I aim to transform material into shared experience.

Hybridity, multiplicity and contradiction inspire me. I see this nepantla, or tierra en medio, as a space of resistance, consciousness and hope.
I will use SPREAD funding to support the cost of research, materials, supplies and professional services associated with the presentation of new work.

Over the last decade, I have been working with cut paper, vinyl and steel: a contemporary papel picado. This work has met my need to slyly upend and gracefully honor that Mexican folk craft. While satisfying, the work has felt limited at times. I don’t want to make papel picados forever. Rather, I seek a body of work and line of inquiry that is deeply personal and culturally relevant, but also participates in a larger, contemporary dialogue around identity, cross-cultural processes, and the legacies of people who exist in the margins, the spaces in between.

At the moment, I am finding my path forward via drawing, painting, and mixed-media works on paper. During a recent summer residency, I made a drawing on amate. It was both simple and powerful; the drawing fused modernist, abstract, bulbous shapes with decorative, floral shape-patterns. A riff on the now-commodified Mexican folk paintings from Guerrero that peppered my childhood home, my drawing felt both original and referential. Since then, I continue to ask questions about the imagery and potential embodied in that, and other recent work.

In and of itself, amate has a rich history. Indigenous to the Americas and dating to pre-contact times, it is the bark paper of Pre-Columbian codices that carry the histories, calendars and belief systems of Mesoamerican tribes. Amate literally holds the history of my ancestors. Moreover, in some tribal communities, amate is considered to have magical properties. Made and used by shamans, amate remains a source of healing and communion with the spirits. My interest is in using this material to tell my own stories: to reclaim and unearth the complex contradictions of my Chicanx community.

Besides my material questions, I am compelled by questions of imagery. Why do certain abstract shapes motivate me? How do these shapes intersect with my stories? And how is it that the stories of Mexico and my bilingual, bicultural upbringing continue to hold such power over me? What relevance do these stories and shapes have to New Mexico? To the Chicanx community here? How can we honor our indigenous roots without collapsing into stereotypes and visual tropes? I choose to meet these questions in my studio, tools in hand, with single-minded, tender ferocity.

I seek SPREAD funding to support this question-based inquiry. Drawing and painting, cutting and pasting are the activities by which I will continue to ask questions about what I struggle to define and know of myself and my community. It’s not so much that I seek answers, but rather, I seek to further refine my questions. Through this SPREAD application, I humbly and gratefully ask for community support in my endeavor.

To learn more about Cristina Gonzalez click here.

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