Welcome to my Bookjoy Creativity Salon, Anna. You and I are both from El Paso, and you teach art at UTEP where I taught part-time and was an administrator. I feel so fortunate to have met you on recent visits and am amazed by the art you produce. Miniatures in metal, no less. I can’t fully express how honored I am that some of your pieces are based in my poems. The whole notion leaves me a bit breathless.
Please begin by briefly introducing yourself.
AJ: I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas shortly after my parents migrated from Mexico. I am a life long resident of El Paso where I graduated from UTEP with a BFA then MA in Metals, then went on to receive an MFA from NMSU in 1993. I am now an artist and a lecturer at UTEP, active in several art organizations.
Have you always thought of yourself as creative?
AJ: The word “creative” is problematic for me because it can be intimidating for what it represents. I remember feeling envious of my siblings’ artistic creativity when my mother would challenge us to draw and color a picture to see who could create the most beautiful piece. I would sit and stare at the blank white page, afraid of ruining the perfect white paper with my “uncreative” marks, a frustration that follows me to this day.
How do you nurture your creativity?
AJ: Nature often incites the flame of creativity, but music, poetry, and exploring other visual artists’ work helps focus my inspiration and nurture my creativity.
What are your challenges in your creativity practices? Is fear an element?
AJ: I always fear that things will not progress smoothly, since failure with a technique can destroy the creative process or omission of the minutest details can adversely affect its creative impact.
Do you have a space that helps you be more creative?
AJ: I do have a few spaces throughout my house that are important in recharging my spirit, yet aside from feeding the spirit, an artist must have a workable space to accomplish what he/her sets out to do, and despite the tiny 12’x 16’ space, my backyard studio is quiet, well lit, and comfortable.
We’re including your pieces based on my poems. Can you tell us which poems, your titles for the pieces, and how you decided to create these them? What was the process?
AJ: “There Was a Woman”(from Agua Santa: Holy Water) left me with a desire to make a visual interpretation of the overwhelming essence of lemon and woman as envy incarnate. The idea for Limonacidaevolved from countless readings of the poem to help identify the kind of imagery necessary to convey my view of the poem. I knew I wanted to incorporate the luscious yellow fruit cradled in hands throughout the tree; however, the concept for the squeezed half lemons was an after thought, to exaggerate the lemons to a point where the viewer could practically smell and taste them. The dark overtones of the knives refers to the woman’s piercing and cutting attitude, while the mountain of sucked lemons alludes to her rotting teeth – victims of acidic excess.
In contrast, Colibri Argentina: Argollada is a much softer approach. I relate to “Pajarita” (from Borders) because of how I see my own mother and how she seems to defy all the odds in her daily battle against Diabetes. Despite her tired, frail body, she continues to live as the woman described in the poem, quietly and subtly enjoying life’s small pleasures.
I love the puissance of the cage analogy, and how in my mother’s case, her home is a place of confining security. Even after my father’s passing, my mother seems to demonstrate her newfound liberty yet continues to be confined in the same cage.
|Colibri Argentina: Argollada|
What is your advice to people who doubt their artistic ability?
AJ: Stephen Vollmer once told me, “I don’t believe there is any bad art, it is simply a stepping stone for the next piece.” Express your creativity, since you never know where your stepping-stones will lead.