Bianca + Brenda Hofman

Writing is like eating. I need to do it to feel good.   ̴- Bianca Hofman

Bianca and Brenda are sisters from The Netherlands. Brenda is a photographer and Bianca, an ultrashort story writer. They are expats living in Barcelona who have combined their artistic skills to create works that are visually engaging while delving into the human condition. In May of last year, the Hofman Project premiered 36 ultrashort flash fiction stories. Over cookies and cupcakes at a local cafe, I learned how the collaboration began

Three years ago, Brenda moved to Barcelona. Like many people who relocate, she immediately began exploring her new city. A key part of this exploration involved photographing her surroundings. Yet, when one views the images, the sites and scenes a visitor associates with Barcelona are not clearly evident.

While walking the streets and alleyways of her new home, she was drawn to shapes, patterns, and light. She has a discerning eye. If something catches her attention, no matter how minuscule, the shutter is activated.

After amassing quite a collection of photographs during the first year, she was anxious to do something with them. Already 'in love' with Bianca's stories, Brenda thought her photographs could serve as additional inspiration for her sister's writing. They each shared works, talked, planned, and the ultrashort flash fiction stories were born.

"Everything inspires me; life inspires me", Brenda says and her sister concurs. Yet there are specific aspects of life that they gravitate toward in their art mediums. While the works are distinctly Barcelona, Bianca says, "we can show the other side of a city... We show our fears in our work." A testament to their symbiotic relationship and "similar vision" is that at times, Bianca shares one of her stories and Brenda says, "I have a picture for that."

Their work is raw, poignant, honest, and dignified. It is without pretense. As Brenda comments, there are things that are "not so pretty about you and the people around you....life is a struggle."

Photographing and writing stories about missing pieces, broken things, loneliness, and depression is a commentary on life. Yet the ways in which these topics are handled is worthy of note and calls to mind the I Give Everything Away series by French American artist Louise Bourgeois. In their work, the viewer is positioned as a close friend and confidant, privy to the artists' innermost thoughts and feelings. An intersubjectivity exists and through this, the realization that you are not alone.

Antonio Carreño


                        

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. - Thomas Merton

The first time I saw one of Antonio Carreño’s paintings, I was instantly drawn to it. The colours were the first to attract me, but then I became lost in the other worldliness of the painting. A duality existed upon the canvas. It was a painting, yet had sculptural elements. There were constructed dimensions, reliefs, and crevices. These grabbed my attention and then transported me into another sphere. The painting was mystical and, at the same time, completely familiar.

Since my first introduction, Carreño’s style has changed, but the essence of his work remains. It is always dynamic and engaging. Inspired by the universe, many of his early works are texturally complex. He frequently used natural and man-made materials such as sand, sawdust, and ground paper as a foundation for the paintings’ tactility.  

In a universal way, we sometimes talk about the air as separate from the universe, but for me I look at the earth as part of the universe and most of the things in the universe are related to the earth. If we want to know the answers to the universe, we can look to the earth - its right in front of us.

Holy Night  (2012), oil on canvas

Carreño has mastered the technique of creating atmosphere. He works in layers and manipulates geometric patterns and colours to construct planes of existence. One quickly becomes captivated by the paintings’ visual dialogue. His paintings take the viewer on an expedition where one discovers more the longer one views the painting. The vivacity of the paintings results in the viewer’s inter-action with the art. Unable to focus one’s eyes on a particular area, the energy, movement, progression, and harmony within the work hold the viewer’s attention. He paints without constraints or limits. As such, painting becomes a spontaneous and experimental journey yet, seemingly contradictory, it is also controlled and deeply profound.  

I mix my colours and I start to work. I have a general understanding as to how I want to structure the different density of the colours. Most of the time I try to use more heavy colours on the bottom as it grounds the painting and then as I move up I use lighter colours. It’s just a psychological way of how we are ourselves. Your thoughts are coming through your head and you are grounded by the floor. The quality of things is much lighter on the top and heavier on the ground. In most of my latest work, I might have a different spectrum, where the finalities are harmonious around the paintings themselves. I always use a touch of primary colours, red and yellow. Yellow is light to me, it’s an important colour and I use it as light. If I’m using secondary colours there would always be the appearance of the primary colours, to reflect the energy of the painting itself.

Carreño's use of colour is influenced by his cultural background.

Light ... comes very naturally. I think growing up in the Caribbean, the main thing that hits you every day is the sun. No one in the Caribbean is separated from interaction with the sun. In painting, there’s energy between the art and artists in general. The energy of a painting has the energy of the artists.
 
Carreño’s interest in humanity and the “driving forces” of our lives contribute to his body of work, Gravitation. This series continues his attention to the universe and humanity’s place within it.

Blue Ensemble (2008), oil on canvas

Scientists acknowledge that the universe is expanding, yet, they are unaware of exactly how this is occurring. The driving forces of the universe, in many respects, remain unknown as do the driving forces among individuals. It is this mystery Antonio seeks to explore.  

He states, “gravitation creates everything”. Gravitation is an unseen fundamental aspect of our daily existence in both a physical and social way. Just as our bodies are attracted to the earth through gravitation, there is also the magnetism which exists between individuals. This applies to strangers whom we physically gravitate towards for some unknown reason as well as mental gravitation, thinking of a person at a certain time and having an unexplained, yet urgent need to make contact.

Sequence of Thoughts #2 (2011), oil on canvas

Carreño’s art, like the universe, expands with no end in sight. He continuously pushes himself and his art to express the holistic nature of the universe and the universal elements that connect us all.

A lot of the information in the color is presented within the soul of a thing. Sometimes a painting as a whole will reflect feelings and emotions that can’t be captured. Colors can capture the emotion. It can be the end of the afternoon (or) the space of the ocean.

Phase Ascending (2012), oil on canvas


Nicole Collie


Bossier, Louisiana

           

Tell us about yourself. What does being an artist mean to you?

I was born and raised in the Bahamas. I cannot say exactly when I began my love affair with art. I only know that it is an affair of the heart. Being an artist is what I am. I do not know anything else but to be an artist. I remember at the age of three a green florescent school table that I kept all my coloring books and pencil crayons, crayons and water colors. I never played with dolls or other toys, it was all about coloring. I am blessed because I have such a supportive husband that allows me to focus on my art full time, so it is either my graphics or painting and I love it.

Nicole Collie

Nicole Collie

What is your workspace or studio like?

What an interesting question. My workspace is wherever I have room to paint. From my bedroom to my living room to the game room to outside, everywhere is my workspace.

Nicole's Studio

Please explain the method behind your creative process.

I have been painting all my life and it has always been… when I am inspired I paint. But that has totally changed in the last two months. I have always heard as an artist you should put paint to canvas everyday. Which had always seemed very excessive and impractical to me. However, I have changed that, I now force myself to create 3 paintings a week and it is taking me to places I have never been before. I am experimenting with different products in my paintings; I am learning more about the body and how it works, I am being “free” with how I paint. This has been a wonderful experience, which just started out with me wanting to push and challenge myself.

What inspires you to create? What role, if any, does identity play in your art? Please explain.

Identity is what my art is about. I grew up with body issues, just like many girls these days, but to top it off I had a family member tell me he was embarrassed to be seen with me and I was just too fat. From there I started painting nudes. And my end conclusion was, if I can stand in front of a mirror naked and like the person that I am I have won the battle of self worth.

Nicole's Tools

How does travelling or migrating (domestically or internationally) influence your creative process?

Moving to Bossier, Louisiana has stunted my creative process; over the last 4 years that we have been here I have been very uninspired. Since I paint nudes, it is frowned upon and looked at as pornography. This is a hard pill for me to swallow so I just stopped painting. Which is what takes us to question 3 on why I started making myself paint.

Is it important for your art to communicate a message? Please explain.

Yes it is important to communicate a message, however this usually needs to come from me talking and sharing because usually people only see a naked body. My message is learn yourself and love yourself. We as women are very hard on each other and we should spend our time lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down.

In your opinion, what is the best city in the world to see art?

Oh My!!! I love Europe because the art is so old and tells such rich stories. I loved Santa Fe. The colors and the diversity in the art. New York because how overwhelming it is and it makes me feel so small, but above all else the colors that come out for the Caribbean. I guess it is the Caribbean and that is probably because I am an Island girl myself and I just love the colors.

With which artist and in what location, would you like to have lunch? What would you order?

Frida Kahlo. She had such a tragic life after her accident but through it all she painted and she painted what she felt which was not always pretty. Lunch, no because it might distract me from what she was saying. I would want all my attention to be on her.

It has been said that “art and wine go hand in hand…” Please talk about your wine of choice and the three artists with whom you would like to share it.

Edgar Degas, Salvador Dali, and Georgia O’Keeffe. I enjoy a smooth Chardonnay and I like these artists for different reasons. Degas, I loved that he painted the female form and how delicate his work was, but even more than that, he was able to tell a story with his painting. He engaged his audience and always had them wanting to see more. Dali, because I am a huge Surrealist fan, it takes a very creative man to come up with these kind of  paintings. O’Keeffe, you found the feminine form in the flowers she painted.

Are you familiar with Basquiat (1996), Pollock (2000) and Frida (2002)? In the essence of these biopic films, whom would you want cast for your role? Please explain.

I would like Tracee Ellis Ross, she is quirky and silly and appears to be enjoying life. I am a huge believer that life is supposed to be happy and not to take it too serious. And she sooooo seems to be similar to the character she plays on Black-ish.


Carolina Mayorga

 

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

- Aristotle

Carolina Mayorga’s art is striking, captivating, poignant, thought provoking, and often humorous. As an artist, who provides visual commentary and critique on human issues that transcend geographic boundaries, her art is also essential.

Mayorga was born in Colombia and grew up during “a time of exacerbated violence”. No place was safe. No one was safe. Violence was constant and far-reaching. Her recollections of this time are not just facts and events but are sensorial memories which include feelings, perceptions, and behaviours.  Mayorga’s earlier work often explored themes of war and displacement. Site-specific installations and video pieces called attention to the lives of victims, often children, impacted by crises. Through installations such as The Displaced , Orphans, and Snow Clock and video pieces such as La Visita, Mayorga invited the visitor to experience the despair, loss, and hopelessness of these silenced victims. She captures the rapidity in which family life went from normal, happy, and loving to unforeseeable heart-breaking devastation.  

Mayorga relocated to the United States 15 years ago to attend graduate school. At this time, the artist underwent a change in identity. No longer living in the country of her birth, she was now an immigrant in a foreign land. As an artist interested in social and political themes, Mayorga began examining issues of identity and otherness. To that end, she frequently uses her own image “as an interpretation of cultural, ethnic and gendered stereotypical identities”.   

Untitled- from the series Divine Revelations (2012), photo

Untitled- from the series Divine Revelations(2012), photo

One of her most recent photographic series is Divine Revelations. This series of self-portraits is inspired by the depictions of the Madonna in Italian Renaissance art. In preparation for this work, Mayorga traveled to Spain and Italy in 2009 and 2010 where she visited museums, palaces, and churches to examine the Madonna. She states that the Madonna del Granduca and Madonna and Child by Raphael inspired some of her compositions.   

In a recent performance piece, Maid in the USA, the artist provides a commentary on stereotypes and the roles that are “often attributed to immigrants of Hispanic origin.” In Maid in the USA, Mayorga, wearing a traditional Colombian Cumbia dress and holding a broom, cleans the performance site. She worked a seven hour shift as part of the performance. Her work sheds light on the very real and endemic stereotypes in U.S. mainstream media of women whose ancestral roots are in Latin America. While there has been much criticism of Hollywood’s continued portrayal of stereotypical roles, they persist. One famous, recently deceased, U.S. actress of Mexican descent estimated she had been cast as a maid over 150 times.   

Detail of performance at the Corcoran Gallery of Art ( 2012), photo

Detail of performance at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (2012), photo

Whether a site-specific installation, performance, photographic, or video exhibition, visitors are expected to interact with the work. Mayorga’s art is intersubjective. The visitor becomes part of the work.

Maid in the USA  (2012), mixed media

Maid in the USA (2012), mixed media

Mayorga is a keen observer of her surroundings. She draws inspiration from everyday life, her bicultural experience, and her upbringing. It is fitting that her artistic influences include Barbara Kruger, Marina Abramović, Edward Kienholz, William Kentridge, and Louise Bourgeois. While Mayorga does not consider her work as a form of activism, she states “I definitely have a message I want to convey. ... I’m only presenting the issues. I pose questions and leave them open to interpretation.“   


Alesol


I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy."     

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Like contemporaries Michel Keck and Devon E. Sioui, Alesol is a self-taught artist. She was born in Brazil but has lived in Germany for the past 19 years.

The Prince  (2012), oil on canvas

The Prince (2012), oil on canvas


One of Alesol’s earliest artistic memories is drawing on a wall inside her grandmother’s home. This act of artistic expression may have brought about chidings in some households; however, Alesol’s grandmother praised the drawing and the drawer. She proudly showed the penned vase and flower sketch to visitors. Her granddaughter was an artist. Having the approval of her grandmother gave Alesol the needed encouragement to continue her artistic exploration.

Upon moving to Germany, Alesol’s art expanded. The experiences of living among diverse populations in two different countries fuelled her desire to communicate. Her means of communication is painting. Alesol’s reason for painting is simple. She wishes to “express good energy and speak from her heart”. Fortunately for the viewer, this goal is achieved.

Rainbow   (2013), oil on canvas

Rainbow  (2013), oil on canvas

Alesol receives inspiration from traveling and is a keen observer of her surroundings. As an abstract artist, she seeks the essence of natural forces and phenomena. In Rainbow, the interplay of the colour spectrum is strikingly translated upon the canvas. 

Enchanter( 2011), oil on canvas

Enchanter(2011), oil on canvas

Alesol speaks of painting in a spiritual way. At times, she feels as if an outside force guides her hands. When viewing one of her works, it is as if a personal inner wall has been breached. The symmetry and vibrancy of colours transcend the canvas and interacts with the viewer. 

Waterfall  (2012), oil on canvas

Waterfall (2012), oil on canvas

For Alesol, each breath taken is not solely a function of biology, but a unifying act linking humanity. Nature in its grandeur and diversity inspires her. Her paintings have an ethereal quality. She skillfully taps into the essence of magnificence whether a surging waterfall or the radiance of a rainbow after a thunderous storm. The viewer is gingerly engulfed in a familiar and calming space.