MUNTHE ART MONDAY: Carolina Echeverri
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
I am a Colombian artist working with photography and sculpture. With my photography I work mostly analogue, and I love to experiment a lot with the medium to create my own universe with defined unnatural colors. I do this with dyes, like the old days of black and white photography, or with instant film where I intervene the actual film to get vibrant and unexpected color compositions. Because of my background, nature plays a prominent part in my language, so you will see a lot of landscapes, natural formations, flora and fauna in my work. Though of course the human body is also a very giving subject, so I touch upon it once in a while when dealing with particular thematic, in connection to religion, behavior and culture for example.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
Being a woman has had different impacts on my careers. I say it plural as I have had two lives, one in different management positions in the music industry, and one as an artist myself.
My experiences have been two-fold to be honest. On one hand as a woman, I have had to work harder and largely longer hours than my male colleagues to secure my fair place amongst my equals. I’ve also had to study harder, and once having the knowledge I’ve also had to invest a great deal of time to become more proficient in using vocabulary, in order to properly deliver this newly acquired knowledge in a way that I and my capabilities would be taken seriously. So, it’s been a lot of discipline, stubbornness and work.
And I mention this because for many years the scrutiny level has been so much stronger towards women than men when they speak in professional circles, giving the impression that, it is expected that a man knows what he is talking about when he speaks, while a woman has to prove herself in exactly the same situation, which comes hand in hand with the implication that women can’t nerd-out nor be as meticulous and invested in subjects as men. That’s one side of it.
The other side is quite the opposite. Being a woman has been a rather important driving force behind my art. I had my first child almost eight years ago now, and that single event has brought such a high level of complexity to my life, which has made it impossible for me to live without continuously making art. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, but for me, having children has made me question everything. It makes me question myself philosophically on a daily basis, it makes me evaluate and confront my past and my own upbringing continuously.
It has also saturated and ultra-finetuned my senses in such a violent way that I can only compare it to that extra sensory experience people describe when doing drugs. You are high, all the time. When I became a mother, I continuously became high on emotions, high on fear, high on love, you notice everything, and all that “everything” plays a role in your life on a daily basis. It’s overwhelming, for both good and bad, and art is my way to deal and come to peace and understanding with this new saturated reality.
This is also why I keep flirting with this rather cohesive red-threaded photographic story line: It’s all about the nature I grew up with, which I can’t share with my children, it’s about the choking grasps religion has on cultures, sexuality and gender, it’s about languages and how they shape the way we see the world. It’s also about love, but it is just as much about evil. But all those fears and emotions would not be part of my life if I wasn’t a mother, a woman. And it’s those fears and emotions in photographic form that I find people connect with in my works. Even in the most minimal shot like a mountain, a cloud or a tree can touch someone, and that’s because they recognize that it’s actually not just a mountain, nor just a cloud, nor just a tree that's behind the image. That’s my womanhood, and my motherhood on display.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspire you and explain why
they do so?
There’s so many, there’s just not enough space here! But if I have to narrow it down: I particularly love Anna Bjerger’s strokes and poetry, it’s my favourite piece at home and she is one of my favourite contemporary painters alongside Mamma Andersson, who I continuously study as her palette and textures are just genius, both in her nature paintings but also in her interiors, she is a master of intimacy.
I love Trine Søndergaard’s pristine darkness in all her works, she is just incredibly direct and decisive like no other contemporary artist I know. Sarah Moon and Anne Brigman’s romantic and beautifully choreographed works will always bring me to tears, Brigman was also so ahead of her time and even today when you look at them, no-one comes even close to articulate with photographic poetry womanhood as well she does. Gerda Taro is my all-time favourite documentary photographer, not only are her works incredible as photographic images, but her courageousness is something I am thankful for. It costed her life in the end, yet its fearless photographers like her that help keep the darker sides of history alive and in our conscience so we don’t dare repeat them.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
I would like to say there are two things that I think are most challenging: One is time, the fact that as a mother time is just never on my side to put on photographic paper all the ideas I have. Plus, that I feel I’m 10 years behind compared to my male colleagues as the pre and post giving birth x2 just slowed down my process, that being due to not being able to be in the darkroom pregnant or just the maternity period (though worth mentioning my amazing husband split our maternity 50/50, he has been my biggest supporter from day one), but it feels like I’m always catching up!
On the other side, and the one that I feel is rather problematic is what I expressed before, which is that I feel that as artists, women can often not be taken seriously in the professional art circles. You can definitely see a wave that’s coming, and it’s amazing that so much awareness is coming to the surface, but it’s a long-standing behavioral problem that will take many years to correct, because its innate in the minds of the professionals that hold the gates to the institutions and commercial bodies, which ultimately help define how the professional development of women artists can flourish or not. It’s systematic, so it’s harder to combat in one lifetime. But the winds are rapidly changing, we need to keep fighting (just like you are, using your channels to profile women artists), and we can turn the tide to a more even, fair and needed playground.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
I would love for people to notice a whole lot of romance, the old-fashioned way. The thematic in my work are very serious, profound, and in many ways scarring and heavy, but I thrive in doing my best to express all these circumstances with the most delicious, luscious or playful scenes. Scenes that can carry a lot of weight and importance once you can see beyond the image, but that immediate formal aspect of the image needs to innocently call upon you, draw you in and invite you to dig deeper and see further into its story. I know those are the kind of works I love to live with in my home and with my family, my children can love a painting so much that piece of canvas can actually open the door for me to bring deeper conversation into play with them, and that’s amazing, and the same ambition I have for my photographs, that people love to live with these works and their stories.
Carolina Echeverri is current with the exhibition Like Purity, Like Gravity, which opens on June 4 at the NW Gallery as part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival.
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