By Kary Vannice
Art can come from anywhere, but it is the art that springs from the soul of an artist thatis the most impactful. Being born on the Isthmus of Mexico imprints an artist’s soul in an extraordinarily distinctive way. Artist Cristian Pineda Flores (who resides in Huatulco) was born in Juchitán and has made his career sharing his unique perspective of the human condition with audiences in the United States, Mexico and Europe for nearly two decades.
Recently, I interviewed Cristian about his life as an artist and his connection to the Oaxacan coast. It’s hard to tell whether Cristian is more artist or political activist. He certainly uses his art as a medium to bring important socio-political topics to the public eye. However, I got the impression that Cristian wouldn’t really consider himself an activist. It’s clear from his creations that he has the soul of an artist that just so happens to have a strong social consciousness.
Whether his art appears on paper, canvas, or urban streets, it’s making a global impact and calling people to take notice, not just of his work, but also of the world around them and their fellow human beings.
KV – Looking back on your childhood, growing up on the Isthmus of southern Mexico, what was it about your surroundings that inspired you to become an artist?
CPF* – For me, growing up in Juchitán, it was a city of great contrasts. On one hand, there was a strong influence from the Zapotec culture, their unique expressions, traditional foods, their love for the environment and work to protect it. On the other hand, I grew up in a family with different perspectives about life and had other influences from outside of Juchitán. So, I grew up as a child of two worlds. As a result, I developed a distinct perspective of the world outside, and my own internal world.
In the end, what had the biggest impact on my life was to leave and travel. I discovered different forms with which to communicate with the outside world. And without realizing it, I fell into the life of an artist at the age of 17.
KV – As an artist, what types of media do you like to work with most?
CPF – The truth is, I consider myself to be a multidisciplinary visual artist. I will always consider myself a sketch artist, as well as a painter. However, I have worked with both photography and video, for visual installations. More recently, I have been working with sculpture. I am also interested in graphic arts. I have done stencils and acciones públicas.
My work reflects my desire to express themes that are important to me. Long before I begin creating, I dedicate myself to investigation and research, and travel so that I can document the reality of an issue. Through that process, I discover the best medium in which to present that theme to the public.
KV – Is there a message to your art?
CPF – I guess I could say that, in general, I try to convey my personal experiences. I’ve been called to a lot of sociopolitical issues, such as the plight of immigrants. For me, this is personal, for I too, lived many years of my life as an immigrant. But, above all, because it is part of the human condition and represents our vulnerability.
My work is not only one of criticism or protest, it invites the viewer to reflect on the fragility of what it means to be human, our behavior toward one another, the adversity of the human struggle …
Recently, through my art, I explored ideas related to the dark night of the soul and spiritual exploration and healing. Also themes of multiculturalism, the reality of those living in refugee camps in Europe and other parts of the world. My work is an invitation to confront these issues from an artistic perspective and artist’s experience.
In the last 12 years, I’ve tried to make my art more participatory, not just something that the artist creates and the public views, but to actively collaborate and incorporate the public in my work.
I work with immigrant populations, those in transit or refugees, or victims of violence. My artistic process serves to encapsulate or liberate certain emotions and make them more tangible, more visible. I believe this work allows people to communicate with a higher power, which is very important to me.
I consider myself to be a seeker of those things that capture the imagination and influence our individual identity. For some it is music, for others dance. In my own life, I spent 15 years in Mexico City and was a fan of lucha libre (professional wrestling), I’ve also been influenced by themes from my childhood in Juchitán, like the indigenous stories, lifestyle and sports. Art has allowed me to plunge into these themes and translate them into an artistic communication to share with others.
KV – What are your thoughts on the artistic community in general in Mexico?
CPF – The artistic community in Mexico is a guild driven by creativity. We are people who create, oftentimes without consideration of personal economy or personal needs. In general, in the difficult times, the artistic community closes rank and comes together to highlight significant social and political themes, exposing them to the public for contemplation.
KV – Are there specific artists who inspire you, or that you feel a resonance with?
CPF – Yes, I am inspired by many artists, but it depends on the medium I am currently working. For example, at the moment I am working with the theme of refugees in Europe. I’m looking at many different artists around the world and how they are using their art to protest the treatment of this group.
KV – How would you describe your evolution as an artist?
CPF – As an artist, I have seen leaps in my evolution that have been very interesting. In some cases, I wish I had taken more time to persevere and immerse myself in specific themes, for example, the indigenous worldview and their concepts. I’d like to have taken more time to cultivate an image and understanding of their importance of nature; like the wind, light, luminescence, the moon, the seasons of one’s life. These types of things, I’ve been interested in at different times, and I’ve worked with, but also, I am a person who likes to be involved in a lot of things and enjoys a bit of frenetic energy. So, I’ve never allowed myself to immerse in any specific theme for too long.
However, I feel extremely content and happy that I can dedicate myself to living the life of an artist, to know many realities. And live in anticipation of the next situation that will captivate me, which I can throw myself into entirely. To begin again the process of creation that each new project brings.
Like right now, after the earthquake in my town, we have mounted a series of works, more aid work, at present. But in the future, we will work more from an artistic perspective, participating with the locals to build hope and unity to heal and grow the community. Art is the perfect medium for this kind of work. Art is human expression. It allows us to feel and express the realities of what is going on in a society.
KV – What’s on your horizon? What’s next for you?
CPF – Nothing specific. I’m working on many things at the moment. One is a retrospective of all of my past work with immigrant communities in Mexico, the USA, and Europe. I’ve done about 10 projects over the last 12 years. I’m putting them together as a project of healing, bringing them together in a book to document the struggles this transition represents in the lives of those who live it.
I’m also thinking of doing something emblematic of the recent earthquake that took place on the Isthmus. So, at the moment, I am touring the region, recording what I see, documenting it, in preparation to do one, two … I don’t know how many pieces.
But, at the same time, I have many projects that I am involved with. I am currently part of a large project in Mexico related to “los muertos” in Mexico. This project is more of a street art project to be displayed in the streets of Mexico. It speaks to the relationship of Mexicans with “los muertos”, but not just death, also the kidnapped/missing in Mexico as well.
**Interview translated from Spanish
To contact Cristian Pineda Flores
Cel: 554 140 26 86
Facebook: Cristian Pineda Flores