Cristina Córdova makes emotionally charged and socially important sculptures. She seeks to discuss human emotion and experience to inanimate objects, in much the same way that we seek to find meaning in our lives. Read her interview!
You work both with your hands and with tools, working with clay, and paint. What kind of connection do you feel to the work with these different means?
For most of my practice 2-d had been a preparation for sculpture rather than an end in itself. Recently though, I have been more and more captivated by the creation of layered, mixed-media drawings and have started exhibiting them alongside my sculptures. These drawings tend to be big, beyond what I could sculpt in terms of scale and use clay mixed with binders as a key material which is also the primary material in the sculpture.
Do you feel different about a piece when you are touching it, and forming it with your hands, then when you are refining it with tools?
All pieces are developed by hand for about 85% of the process and then gradually refined with tools to get that final clarity. I feel the tools are an extension of my body…
In Arco, there are two faces with a melange of mixed media linking the two. What do the two faces represent to you? What connects them? Physically? Metaphorically? Do you have a theory or belief that you can describe for how you understand human connect and interaction?
Arco is part of a series where I attempt to take something traditionally ornamental, like a flower bud or fruit and use it in a way that is psychological more than decorative. The overabundance of elements and the quality of their application combines with the faces to generate a specific energy in the conversation, something that could speak metaphorically to the quality of human interactions.
How important is your intent, the meaning you believe a piece of art has, to you? Do you want your viewers to know why you made a piece of art? It’s purpose and where it came from within you? Should the reason and meaning you feel for a piece of art have any bearing or place in the world of the viewer? Do you want that information to be accessible?
Things are always changing for me on this front. For the most part I am wary of being too overt with my compositions. I am more interested in generating a space of discovery and query, a space where the images wash over you and sway you in different directions emotionally. I think of my work like I would think about a musical composition (instrumental) rather than a story. It’s tricky to use figurative/representational elements to generate non-narrative metaphors, I think there is often the expectation of a clear account when really I deal mostly in sculptural poetics. In some recent pieces though I want to be more specific and use the title to offer a clue like in “Colonia”.
There is a sense of pride, a sense of beauty to your work, and much of it depicts black subjects, how does your ethnicity inform your work? Autoretrato como hombre de noche is a self portrait of a black man, yet you are a Puerta Rican woman, where inside you, emotionally and personally, did this piece come from?
The use of black, which started while I was still in graduate school, was in its origin unrelated to race. I was looking at roman bronzes and loved the richness of that surface in the context of the human body. After using this surface over and over it gradually became a symbol of an identity, a culture. So now I use black because it works aesthetically and imparts a quality that makes the surface seem more like metal than clay and I continue to use it because it imparts a distinct “otherness” that opens a space to speak from the perspective of a minority or a non-western standpoint (not excluding but) not specific to race.
Abrazo is soaked in emotion. It is raw and visceral, and I don’t know what to make of it but it makes me not want to look away. Tell us about it. What is going on? How did the sculpture begin? Abrazo means embrace, yet the subject isn’t embracing anything physically, nor are the hands exactly reaching out. Where does the name come from? The arms look like they are covered, and the lower abdomen as well, why have you chosen to bare the chest? What is the subject thinking? Who’s face did you use, or what expression, to model the face?
I am often drawn to the thin line between attraction and repulsion. I often felt the coexistence of certain feelings that felt disparate, combative. El Abrazo speaks to this push and pull. The figure has a grotesque quality to it but it has a very soft surface that invokes touch. It is either offering an embrace or compelling an un-welcomed connection. Throughout it there are points and counterpoints that aim to question notion of beauty,gender and power.
What are you working on currently?
Currently I am working on several exhibition to be shown in Puerto Rico and the US.
Do you have a favorite piece?
Some I am partial to are El abrazo, El rey, Colonia, and dibujo en Barro.