Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cristina Acosta: Luminous Work, Lasting Art

Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart


La Conquistadora/The Corn Maiden/Dine Spider Woman

Exhibit: Reshaping the Divine - Contemporary Hispanic Retablos Exploring the Divine Feminine

When: Summer 2009


Where:
El Museo Cultural, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Click here to see this series of Hispanic Retablos.

This is quintessentially female, strong, sinous, visual art. It is a contemporary re-visioning of traditional retablo, hinting at the aesthetic of popular commercial artists like Laurel Burch, but containing a depth of spirit. There is a certain richness, an evanescence emanating from the figures portrayed.

Acosta has an ability to make a heart connection with the observer beyond the demands and trends of the marketplace, or the prevailing winds of "fine" art communities and critics. I find Acosta's work to be completely accessible, capitalizing and re-visioning icons from a metizo heritage, as well as feminist ideas of the female God-force.


She's also creative in the use of precious and mundane material in the creation of these retablos. In an in depth look at her site, piece after piece reveals she is truly a renaissance woman balancing comerciality with content and succeeding admirably.

Take a look at what Cristina herself has to say about her work:



Over the past twenty years, my series of Madonna retablos came to me in ebbs and flows via a series of powerful dreams. The dreams started during my pregnancy with my daughter. For the entire pregnancy I dreamt of being a woman on a journey north across dusty plains and through arroyos as I mostly walked behind an oxcart. The dreams ended in a room lit by a wooden candelabra filled with tallow candles and the birth of my daughter, Isabella Pilar in 1993.

I called these dreams my Maria Dreams because in the dreams, I/she was named Maria. Seeking the meaning of those dreams over the years brought me down a path I could never have imagined and deepened my understanding of my cultural heritage. Searching for the meaning of my Maria Dreams eventually lead me back to New Mexico, the land of my Ortiz ancestors.

My paternal grandmother, Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta, born in 1904, was the daughter of J. Nestor Ortiz and Maria Elena Salazar, descendents of the original Spanish settlers founding the cities and villages throughout New Mexico. Researching my family genealogy (my grandmother spoke vaguely about her ancestors), I discovered that my direct ancestors had participated in the initial 16th and 17th century migrations of the Spanish, traveling North from Mexico City into the region that is now the State of New Mexico. I read books about the era and became fascinated by the types of experiences my female ancestors must have had while living on the New Mexican frontier for generations. With this research nurturing my experience of my personal history, my calling to paint Madonna’s began to take shape.

Born in Los Angeles to an Anglo mother and Hispanic father, early on I was aware of cultural concepts because of the differences between the two sides of my family. Despite their differences, Catholicism was the central theme for my parents. Celebrating their devotion resulted in religious images from the Americas and Europe scattered throughout our home and those of our relatives. Images of Mary the Mother of God as the Guadalupe, Conquistadora and many other versions were always present. Along with those images were displayed American Indian items from the Ortiz ranch.

The artifacts from the Ortiz family ranch consumed my imagination from as far back as I can remember. Handmade Indian blankets and pots, and even a gold menorah (referred to as a “candelabra” by my grandmother) made by Ortiz ancestors generations past (some of the men were renowned filigree gold smiths). Those as well as the chili ristras hanging in my grandmother’s kitchen hinted at another world far from the Southern California beach scene of my childhood home. For reasons I can’t sufficiently articulate, the mix of these images and experiences coalesced into my calling to visually explore and create new images of the Madonna as an expression of the feminine divine.

Each of the retablos I paint results in a new vision of the sacred. For example, painting La Conquistadora opened the door to re-balancing the dominant patriarchal and European view of the divine with the North American native and feminine. In La Conquistadora I layer symbols of the Dine Spider woman and the Puebloan Corn Maiden, seeking to blend the indigenous ancient female images and concepts harmoniously with the Catholic image of Mary. The result is a Madonna that hints of ancient goddesses many thousands of years old at the same time she conveys the current blend of cultures in the Southwest.

I create my work in the traditions of the Spanish/Mexican retablo to reinforce my expression of reverence and convey the intimate experience of sacredness. I find antique, reclaimed timbers for the substrate. I mix gold, silver and copper metals into my oil paintings to both embellish the image and in homage to the gifts my ancestors created for me with their existence. The vintage gold glazed ceramic tiles come from a tile company that operated near my childhood home in Southern California during the 1950’s and 60’s. When I finish a retablo, I write a blessing on the backside of the retablo to convey love to all who view the images.

My Maria Dreams from over a decade ago continue to influence this series of work. May you find your own meanings and blessings within these images.

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And from none other than our own recently published Rudy G,

Win a book!
Midnight, Friday, June 26 is the deadline to enter to win a copy of the just-released Needles & Bones anthology, featuring a fantastical story by La Bloga contributor Rudy Ch. Garcia.
Click here for details.


Lisa Alvarado

2 comments:

Daniel Olivas said...

Mil gracias for letting us know about this wonderful artist! Acosta's work, as posted on La Bloga, made me smile and filled me with joy...not a bad way to begin the morning as I face a very busy day at work.

Cristina Acosta said...

Muchas Gracias La Bloga for sharing my work on your site - and for saying such nice things about it. Thanks also to Daniel.

As a visual artist I'm often working isolated from anyone's response. It's gratifying to know that my images create positive experiences for you.