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Artist Carolina Jiménez

Jiménez received a BArch from Syracuse University and an MFA from The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Alison Bradley Projects, New York City; JO-HS, Mexico City; Blunk Space, Point Reyes, CA; Heath Ceramics, Los Angeles, and the RISD Museum, Providence, RI among others. She recently completed an Artist Fellowship at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York City and has been an artist in residence at Casa Lu in Mexico City, and has a forthcoming residency at the Albers Foundation this year.

"Carolina Jiménez (b.California, 1991) is a textile artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Drawing on her heritage as a first generation Mexican-American, She creates monuments, woven paintings and wall sculptures that act as memory signifiers of mundane moments. The constructions become vessels into which the past is poured, molded, or reshaped (woven, unraveled, or stretched). Her work seeks to magnify the banal moments of daily life, making valuable the sometimes unseen acts of maintenance, softness, and care. Her practice acts as a tether to the past and present histories of diasporic migration. While the works are abstract, they can be understood as love letters to Rosa Mexicano, sweet mangoes and kind women on the street, to the dappled light under a jacaranda tree, and a mother’s embrace. They are meditations on the creation of family apart from the traditions that bind us to them. Jiménez’ connection to textiles stems from the discipline’s embodiment of labor and material knowledge. Through this medium, she emphasizes the material history of fiber and dyes, and explores how their stories of colonization, trade, and community reverberate into the present day. Working on a floor loom, she weaves textiles that seem suspended in a state of becoming. Yarns are dyed with flowers, bark and bugs, echoing the traditional techniques found in her family’s home state of Chiapas."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I grew up in San Diego, CA and have lived on the East Coast since college. My path to working as an artist has been circuitous; I feel like I have circled around it for a long time, and every few years took a step closer and closer to what I am doing now.

When I was in sixth grade, my class took a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and I decided that day that I wanted to be an architect. I loved how much care had been taken to design the space. I loved the details: how the tiles aligned to the buildings, the cladding of each building in beautiful materials, the fossilized imprint of a leaf in the limestone. It was poetic and I had never thought of architecture that way before. So, I ended up at Syracuse University for architecture. Thinking about scale and space still impacts the type of work I make, although I don’t think of myself as an architect any more.

My last year at undergrad school, I was able to take a studio course out of the department and I chose to take a weaving class. When I first sat down at my loom, I felt that I had found my way home. This experience eventually guided me towards an MFA in Textile Design at RISD. Upon graduating, I worked at a small textile company and during my four years there I learned so much about running a business. I learned how to manage production, designed collections, made newsletters; so much of the day to day translates to working as an artist. My boss had studied painting at RISD and her creative practice was integral to our business. Seeing her fearlessly make and sell work inspired me to return to my own practice with a sense of exploration.

I feel so fortunate to be able to have my own studio space now and to be able to create work I am proud of. But I think that there are so many ways to be an artist, and I still felt like an artist when I was making work in my living room, I still felt like an artist when I was making work and not selling anything. I believe I will still feel the drive to create even if the circumstances of my practice have to change in the future. That’s what makes us artists. It is important to me to say this whenever I get the chance because I did not grow up with any examples of artists, and I think seeing different types of practices is so important for people figuring out if they are real artists. You are!

What kind of work are you currently making?

I am making “woven paintings” and currently, I have been thinking about the huipil, a pre-columbian garment from Mexico that remains important to the conceptualization of Mexican identity (Frida Khalo even wore it to signal her conceptual alignment with indigeneity). This garment typology is a site where identity, tourism and craft traditions meet. In Mayan culture, the warp and weft of cloth were thought of as the cardinal directions. For the traditional huipil garment, the neck opening was thought of as the sun and motifs of corn, spiders, and flowers (each with their own significance) established this textile as a reflection of the natural world. In villages throughout my parents’ home state of Chiapas, Mexico, weaving is a tradition passed on from generation to generation, so for me working with this abstracted motif is also quite personal and allows me to think of each artwork like a portrait of people and places that I love.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

A day in the studio can take many different forms based on the part of the process of a work I find myself in. I am not a morning person, so I usually arrive at the studio around 10:30 and work before lunch to direct myself for the day. If I have computer work, this is the time I try to work on it so I can ease into the more physical aspects of the work.

With weaving, I attempt to keep as much unplanned as possible, because it does require so much labor and if I can respond to the work as it unfolds (rather than just making something I have planned out) I am able to create work I am more invested in. I want to be a bit surprised by the work, to set up problems that I have to solve.

That said, when I am in a preparatory phase of the work and I find myself dyeing yarns, measuring warp yarns for weaving, setting up my loom, listening to podcasts and even having a tv show playing keeps me engaged. In moments where I am figuring the shape or direction of my next series of work, I usually read, flip through books I have in my library, write, meditate, and give myself the opportunity to just make things and see what comes. Though distinct, these two phases have their unique joys.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

As part of my practice, I try to be aware of small moments in my daily life that seem to resonate with me. That may mean the quality of light when I happen to be walking home, or the sound of a full subway car on the way to the studio. These moments are fundamental to my work.

I have been looking at and reading about: reliquary objects, Rauschenberg’s Jammer series, Chimú feathered textiles, Franz Erhard Walther, Milton and March Avery landscapes. The distinct objects and artworks I am drawn towards about don’t always have an apparent line of inquiry between them at first, but the more time I spend thinking about them, the clearer the story becomes to me. Eventually I know these stories will make their way into my own work.

Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)

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