Freeing the art of embroidery from its narrow picturesque functions in the sphere of domestic craftsmanship, Carmen Mardónez instead approaches her mediums and materials with the painterly expressionist enthusiasm of abstract painting and sculpture. Her work references the challenges and freedoms of the body in emotional, abstract and quasi-anatomical objects and compositions that both honor and transform the salvaged tissues they are made of – as well as the stories and lived experiences of their ancestors. owners. In luminous lines of pure thread color, with a sculptural dimensionality and the gestural energy of painting, Mardónez not only elevates the medium of embroidery into fine art discourse, but also the voices of the predominantly female practitioners of her art. tradition, starting with his own.
LA WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CARMEN MARDONEZ: I do not really know. I have always loved creating with my hands, drawing, painting and especially doodling when I try to focus on something. What I know is when I decided to become an artist. I moved from Chile to Los Angeles in 2017. Back home, I had a job coordinating student internships in local governments, where they worked on social programs, and I embroidered mostly as a hobby. . But when I arrived in the United States with my partner and a newborn, I thought it was a good time to try something different. I have never regretted this decision.
What is your short answer to people who ask you what your job is about?
My work is an exploration of intimacy and gender expectations through the use of free embroidery. I work on discarded materials, mainly household textiles, such as pillows and bed sheets. I use them as canvases as they are: plain or patterned, faded, stained or torn, good or bad quality. I do free embroidery creating very thick blanket layers, and sometimes I turn some of this embroidery into textile sculptures. I feel that by working with these materials I can connect to the intimacy of the bedroom space, and with my freestyle embroidery I try to go against what is traditionally expected of a well-designed and useful hand embroidery at home.
Did you go to art school? Why why not?
As an undergraduate, I studied history. When I finished, I started working as a research assistant but soon realized that it wasn’t something I had wanted to do for a long time. So after a few years I went back to college, this time in arts. I really enjoyed this moment! I basically completed the first two years, which would be equivalent to an associate degree. At that time I also wasn’t sure I wanted to be an artist, I guess partly because my Catholic guilt prevented me from being ambitious and I felt that calling myself an artist was kind of a transgression, almost a Fishing. So I left without finishing, and I went in different directions. Now I feel like it’s too late for me to go to an MFA program, but I would have loved to do something like this.
Why do you live and work in LA, and not elsewhere?
We moved to Los Angeles because my partner is finishing his doctorate here. So it was an easy decision. Of course, we love the climate and the proximity to the ocean. But right now, we don’t really have any long-term plans for where our next chapter will take us.
When was your first show?
In February 2019, I participated in a group exhibition organized at the SoLA Contemporary Gallery, located on Slauson Avenue. At the end of the exhibition I was announced as the recipient of the following year’s award, which came as an absolute surprise to me, but it made me feel that maybe my work could speak to people . I really appreciate this first push I received from curator Steve Wong and Peggy Sivert, the gallery director.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
A few weeks ago, I made a mural installation at The Other Art Fair in Los Angeles. It was a huge embroidery illuminated by black lights which created a very special atmosphere, highlighting the neon threads of my piece. You can find the register on my social networks.
Currently, I am working on a residency — A room of one’s own – in Blue Roof Arts, in South Los Angeles, I create a mix of oversized hand embroidery and textile sculpture that I will show at the end of the residency. The exhibition is on view until the end of May, so don’t hesitate!
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