I love the energy that seems to roil just beneath the surface of Cynthia Cruz's work, which spans video, painting, sculpture, and music. There is something both beautiful and unnerving about the intensity of her pieces, a result of bold and dark material and color combinations. Combining both digital technology with an "analog" painting and construction process, her work is refreshingly diverse. Happy to share our wonderful interview here too!
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Hello Cynthia! First, I'd love to know more about you! Where are you based right now, and where are you from originally?
I was born in Miami Florida and I received my BA from New World School of the Arts in Miami. I then moved to London for my Masters at Goldsmiths University, and I graduated in 2014.
What has your art education been like?
New World and Goldsmiths were entirely different experiences. New World was more focused on teaching artists how to develop skills and technique, whereas Goldsmiths was conceptually and academically driven. I’m grateful I had both experiences; it has developed me as an artist.
What first interested you in pursuing art making?
It was just something that came naturally to me. As a kid I would build weird shit and I would draw all over my school books. When I was in 1st grade my teacher made the students stand up one by one and say what we wanted to be when we grow up. I said I wanted to be a witch. The class laughed, and my teacher told me that this was not a career. I was completely crushed. I came home crying and told my big brother what happened, he just looked at me and said you’re going to be an artist. This was the day I knew what an artist was.
Do you have any particularly significant influences or mentors?
David Bowie, Prince, MTV in the 80’s, Krautrock , Andy Kaufman, Kenneth Anger, science fiction films, Goths, the performances of Diamanda Galas, the Chicago imagists, outsider art. I tend to look to the past for inspiration; I love feeling nostalgic, it invigorates me.
You work in various media including video, sculpture, and painting. Can you tell me a bit more about your practice?
I come up with an idea and then decide which medium best suits it. The idea is always the most important part. I work on several things at once, and this allows for the work to be fresh and new each time I approach it. If I work on a painting for too long, I get bored and lose enthusiasm, but if I take a break and work on something else, then revisit the painting, I make better decisions.
My ideas or concepts differ; I don’t usually stick with one concept for too long, it’s important to change and experiment. That is how your work grows. I try to not feel too comfortable in what I’m doing.
There is always an element of humor with despair in my work. Humor is a good way to make a connection with your audience.
Is there a central or favorite medium that you use, or do you experiment pretty openly?
I have found that I mostly work with painting and video, as they are both quite similar to me in how I approach the process, but I do want to explore sculpture more. I try to keep my practice as open as possible. Right now I have been experimenting a lot with apps as a means to create video and digital collages.
When you begin a new work, do you plan much ahead, or do you work more intuitively?
I always start off with a solid plan. I am constantly writing ideas down, and I use Photoshop to compose paintings. This gives me some sort of structure. Once I have the structure, I then allow my intuition to take over. My work never looks like the original plan; it’s exciting to see what happens once my intuition takes over.
What is your studio space like?
I am currently with Acme studios in London. My studio is an absolute mess -- the floors, walls are covered in paint, and my materials are laid out everywhere. I am not a neat worker; I feel uncomfortable in a tidy studio.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging or difficult about pursuing art seriously, whether creatively or professionally?
Making the work is the easy part, everything else is challenging, especially if you are an introvert. Gallery openings give me anxiety along with networking, giving lectures, artist talks, etc. Making art is only half of the work; the other half is making people aware that you exist.
Also at the moment I cannot make a living off my work, so I need to keep my 9-5 job. It’s hard juggling a job and making art.
What do you do if you find yourself at a creative standstill?
I go to the studio, and I force myself to do anything: I play with materials, I play with apps. I do anything, and then eventually some idea will come from this exercise. I have to force myself to create through the mental block.
Is there any advice you've received that you find yourself revisiting often?
I was feeling down, tired, worn out and defeated, it was a moment when nothing was happening and I started doubting myself. My husband then showed me this quote by Bukowski and it reminded me of why I’m doing this
“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”
I read this quote every time I feel down.
What is your favorite or most rewarding aspect of doing what you do?
The high I get after creating something I’m proud of, there is no drug that can compare. To be able to reflect my time on earth, the tools that I use, the technology and the found imagery is all a reflection of this moment in time.
Are you currently preparing for any upcoming exhibitions or other projects?
I am in a collaborative called GROK with musician Simon Howlett. We make music and videos with iPhone app,s and various toys and instruments. The music is instrumental and influenced by science fiction movie scores. We are working on a second album, which will be out in 2017.
I will also have a piece at Imago Mundi, which is an exhibition by Luciano Benetton, curated by Pernilla Holmes.
Also I co-curated an exhibition with artist Stephanie Moran. It was a really great experience; we really work well together. I would like to curate another show with her in the next year.
There are a few other prospects, but I can’t say anything until they’re confirmed, luckily 2017 is looking promising!
Anything else you would like to add?
I want to thank you for your interest in my work.
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