Cristina Camacho

Lives and Works: Morningside Heights, NY

Medium: Painting and collage 

ISW: How did you get inspired to cut and fold your canvas?

CC: I saw the canvas as an undiscovered material that needed to be explored. Through the deconstruction and construction of the piece, I was looking to push its logic and create miraculous things by creating structural and spatial changes. Everything is made up of layers, from a painting to a human. I guess this was the most obvious way to represent that idea.

ISW: Tell me about your use of color.

CC: I am obsessed with color, but it is definitely not an easy matter. Sometimes the color I use is reminiscent of places or memories of my life in Colombia. Other times is just a “random” pick of colors that I find in the sink when I clean my paintbrushes. Talking about color is problematic because it is always culturally associated, therefore, each person has his or her own spiritual connection with it. Color is light, meaning that it is constantly changing. Light is never uniform, at not least in my studio where I use natural light rather than artificial. All of this makes color a fluctuating illusion and perception. Over a year ago, I made a blue painting. I mixed the color and I was completely sure this was the color of it. I kept this blue panting in my studio for almost a year and a couple of weeks ago, when I moved into my new studio with bigger windows facing north, this painting immediately turned into a deep dark green color.

ISW: Do your materials limit your process in any way?

CC: Materials and form always limit works of art. Donald Judd said that there are only a limited number of options for rectangle shaped paintings. What is interesting about this is that it might be limited, but the possibilities are almost infinite. In this point of my practice, I am mostly interested in working with stretched canvas and acrylic. I do think that treating the cotton as a material rather than a surface opens multiple roads for exploration. I have been working with this technique for many years and still, with every cut, I am surprised by how the material reacts.

ISW: You mentioned that you never sketch before starting. How do you know what comes next when you are in the process of creating a piece?

CC: I never plan the paintings before I start them. My practice is process based and it is like I have a romantic relationship with them. When I start a painting I never know how it is going to end. In the process, before it is finished, I experience both love and hate. I try to have a conversation with the painting. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I literally let the painting guide me. Each color, each grid, and each cut take on a different necessity in every painting.

ISW: Tell me about your auction catalog collages.  Is this a recent body of work?

CC: One day I went to Strand bookstore and found a bunch of 1-dollar auction books from Christie’s and Sotheby’s. I was amazed by the prices of the Contemporary Artists auction and I decided to make something out of it. How can you define a good contemporary work of art? How much are you willing to pay for it? How much does the artist name influence value? Keeping in mind these questions, I started to remove all the important information of the piece, leaving only the price and the name of the artist. It began as a critique, but in time it evolved into an obsession of creating compositions out of reproductions of other artists’ works.

ISW: You were born in and lived most of your life in Colombia. Did this environment inform your work?

CC: Definitely. Colombia is a country where you can find all kinds of climates and landscapes during the year. I grew up in Bogota, which is extremely chaotic, and it was always gratifying to have a systematic process in my work. Also I grew up looking at the works artisans and of artists like Omar Rayo, Negret and Olga de Amaral who definitely influenced my ideas of painting, sculpture and exploration of materials.

ISW: Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

CC: I just moved to my new studio! So every new painting I start is exciting.

ISW: How do you know a piece is completed?

CC: It is like a romantic relationship; you know when it is over. It is the point when there is nothing more you can do about it. The hard part is accepting it is done and not working on it. If I am not convinced, sometimes I just stop. I let it be for a couple of weeks and many times I just start liking it again.

ISW: Who's your favorite artist?

CC: I hate this question! I have many many favorite artists from different movements. I am obsessed with artists like Lucian Freud, Nick Cave, Sheila Hicks, Robert Mangold, Dana Schutz, Amy Sillman, Toma Abts, Peter Halley, Dan Walsh, Frank Stella, Keltie Ferris, Matisse, Donald Judd, David Hockney, Alice Neel, Tauba Auerbach, Pierre Bonnard, Egon Schiele, Agnes Martin, Kenneth Noland, Aberto Baraya, Frida Kahlo, Sarah Sze, Wayne Thiebaud, the flower watercolors of Mondrian, my aunt Nora Delgado and many more.

ISW: What's your guilty pleasure?

CC: Food!

ISW: What is your favorite song right now?

CC: I am fascinated by Renaissance sacred music. I have been listening to Josquin des Prez while painting. Also, I never get tired of Eric Satie’s Gymnopedies and the music by the composer Jan A.P. Kaczamarek.

ISW: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

CC: Being accepted into the Columbia MFA program.