Absolutely stunning mixed media paintings by Maria Rendón today -- oh my gosh, right? The color in these is just incredible, and the texture is something else. Here we chat about various material processes, themes of duality and contrast, and the business side of being an artist. More info at the links following our stellar Q&A!
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First, can you tell me about yourself? Where are you from, and where are you based now?
I was born and raised in Mexico City. I came to California to study art at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena and got my MFA at UC Santa Barbara, where I now live and work.
What first interested you in making art?
It boils down to my years in high school and the time I spent working on my projects. I loved my painting and drawing classes, as well as making objects. I also liked subjects like physics and math, I think I could have easily become a scientist or a surgeon; but ultimately, I chose art.
Much of your recent work has consisted of small-scale abstract paintings, which address ideas of time, reality, and their relationship to one another. Can you tell me about your practice?
I consider myself primarily a painter but I also make objects. In a few of my previous exhibitions I have included some sculptural work and I have also done several installations.
I welcome chance in my work and use materials or media in non-traditional ways—I like giving my materials some agency. When I started experimenting with media, I found that letting paint find its own place on the surface, rather than me controlling every area of the painting was rewarding and liberating. Experimentation is a very important part of my practice.
When I have a specific idea, I use materials that add to the meaning of the piece: needles, syringes, cotton candy, rain water, post-it notes, seeds, etc.
Aside from materials, I'm interested in exploring ideas around: Incompleteness. Duality (birth -death). Contrast (too much - too little / microscopic - macroscopic). Absence. Ritual. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how art affects the viewer, and want to refrain from irony and embrace beauty.
What is your process like? Do you work on numerous pieces simultaneously when doing a series?
Yes, I work on multiple pieces simultaneously, I move back and forth between large and small, I enjoy the physicality of working large and the intimacy of working small.
I usually have a few projects going on at the same time (somewhat unrelated to my more traditional painting).
My paintings can start in a few different ways, one of my ongoing series derives from stains that I find on the asphalt on my daily walks. I photograph the forms, which in turn become the inspiration for the figures of my paintings. I don't trace them verbatim, rather, their impression is an incentive to make my first marks and expand upon. What intrigues me about these forms is their fleeting existence; since my route is the same every day I notice some disappearing in days, while others linger taking months to dissipate. Some series are idea based and preplanned, while others are intuitive and spontaneous—I like both approaches.
What is your studio space or workspace like?
It's a 400 square foot space. I have thought about how my studio has influenced the size of my pieces. When I started grad school, I moved into an empty space, where I made it a priority to keep it as open (physically and mentally) as possible, I then began making larger works.
Now I have different sections within the studio, a desk where I work on small works and the open floor where I work on my large pieces.
You work a lot with acrylic paint, often on paper. What is your favorite thing about your medium?
I like the immediacy and versatility of acrylic—how fast it dries and the fact that it's not water soluble after it dries. I work with very diluted acrylic, which makes it extremely fluid; pigments separate, paint runs outside of my initial marks—I like that. The transparency also lets me apply many layers.
I've also been playing with Flashe, which is a vinyl paint. It dries flat like gouache but it's not water soluble after it dries (just like acrylic). The colors are quite vibrant, it's always fun to discover a new medium.
Regarding paper, I like the way the surface transforms (warps, changes in size) with the wet medium. I've been told that my paper pieces look like leather or fabric but no, it's just paper. Practically, I can transport (and store) paper more easily. I can manipulate paper in more ways than I can panel.
What do you do when you find yourself at a creative standstill?
I usually go back to drawing or painting in my sketchbooks—there's a sense of freedom, it isn't as precious as working on a large panel. Also, I try using new materials, I just started working on a polyester film that can be a substrate for wet media. I'm really liking the results I'm achieving.
What is the best advice you've ever received? Have you received any advice you're glad you decided to ignore?
Spend rigorous time in the studio, you never know where the work will lead you. For me, experimentation triggers ideas, as much as ideas trigger experimentation. I see my practice as always becoming the next thing.
I try to not pay too much attention to statements like, "This work is not relevant right now", or "Painting is dead."
What do you consider to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art seriously?
The business side of it can be intimidating at times, because there's not just one way of going about it; choosing the right exhibition, the right gallery, how to use social media wisely; in short, deciding the best way to expose your work.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working on?
I am working on a project of abstracted animals, each piece is a combination of two paintings done on polyester film. They are layered, one right on top of each other, like couples; and due to the translucent substrate, elements of both images are visible. They represent my way of gathering and depicting all species, to safeguard and perpetuate their existence.
I will be in a group show that opens at the end of May in Santa Barbara, at The Arts Fund.
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