Connie Arismendi

 

We are the sum of our life experiences, and those experiences are what I seek to define. A prolonged illness, the death of a loved one, the joy in witnessing the birth of a child, these are significant milestones in a personŐs life. I have become increasingly concerned with relating the emotional and physical tension brought on by these events. My primary concerns are with the fragility of the body and the resilience of life. I have a strong desire to believe in something eternal. Sometimes, I am lost in contradictory feelings of hope and despair, but creating art helps me clarify what I believe.

While other Chicano artists find inspiration in the heroic work of the Mexican Muralists, I am attracted to things more interior and personal. Mexican shrines and altars as well as other objects of personal devotion have been my inspiration. The process of creating an altar installation allows me to utilize a wide variety of materials. The proximity and position of these diverse elements unite to create a larger thematic message. I work intuitively allowing my initial attraction to a particular material or image to inform the work.

Recently, I have been concerned with representations of birth, growth and regeneration. The latest work makes use of plants as a means to indicate the processes of life. At the opening of the exhibition, the plants are fresh and alive, but with time, the plants reach their peak and begin to wither.

The two works Vigil and The Leaf & The Flame reflects my concerns with the fragility of the body, its ultimate destruction and transformation.

Vigil is a pivotal work in my career. Through this work I discovered that a strong emotional response could be evoked in the viewer without utilizing an image or creating a narrative. Emotion is conveyed solely through the choice of material and the manner of application. The absolute weight of lead conveys burden, struggle and regret. The lead is pieced together using hundreds of nails creating a heavily worked surface. This suggests the difficult physical and emotional process of keeping vigil by the bedside of a loved one. The lamp is a symbol of hope, longing and spiritual enlightenment that comes during these difficult times. The inspiration for Vigil comes from the Prayer of St. Augustine: Watch O lord with those that wait and watch while others sleepÉ

 


The Leaf & The Flame is about transformation and my attempt to reconcile the inevitability of death. In this work, a sculpted book floats over a background of crushed red velvet. The color red is sacramental; it is the color of passion, sacrifice, and spiritual rebirth. The book references the Bible and the mythic Book of Life. On the left page is the image of a leaf and on the right is the image of a fla
me. The images are related, each is approximately the same size and shape; in reality each lives, consumes energy, grows and dies. The leaf represents the spirit becoming physical and the flame symbolizes the transformation of the physical into the spiritual.