AMY J. BARRY, Special to the Day
New London is the inspiration for a new body of work by Daniela Campins, a California-based Venezuelan artist. But not in a literal sense.
An artist-in-residence at Expressiones Cultural Center, Campins translated the mood, landscape and climate of the region into abstract forms, shapes, colors and lines in her newest oil paintings. The work is featured in a one-woman exhibit titled "in-formed" at the center's gallery through July 14.
Prior to 2011, the award-winning artist had never been to Connecticut. A professor of painting and drawing, after completing a master's degree at University of California Santa Barbara and an arts fellowship awarded by Virginia Commonwealth University, she says, "I wanted to experience another residency in another part of the country."
Campins was accepted into the I-Park Foundation artists-in-residence program in East Haddam.
"It's in the middle of nowhere, in the woods - just gorgeous," she says. "It hosts all different artists. They have a relationship with Expressiones and work together to bring artists to that residency."
So she met the founders of Expressiones, who saw her work at an open studios at I-Park and invited her to their artist-in-residence program. The Expressiones program provides the selected participant with a furnished living/work space for two months. Artists are expected to contribute culturally to the New London community, enriching their personal, as well as public, artistic experience.
"I thought it was a great residency, different than ones I've done before," Campins says. "It not only included making my own artwork, being emerged in it, but reaching out to the community - teaching a children's after school program, bringing people to the galleries to talk about Latin American work; activities that are educational in nature."
Campins has classical art training, working from the figure, and has incorporated architectural elements in her paintings, but says her work has always been semi-abstract and has recently become more minimal.
"I always came up with my own colors; (my art) has been somewhat simplified even at its most representational-it's more reductive and flatter, but still very loose and organic."
Her mediums are oil, acrylic and ink on canvas and paper and may combine cumulative mark-making, painted pieces of paper and tape.
In describing her artistic process, Campins says, "The moment I place the brush against the canvas, it's memorialized, imprinted, recorded forever on the canvas," she says.
She describes the medium and technique as a protagonist.
"I'm personalizing or humanizing the different aspects of the qualities of what I do with the paint: splatters, drips, marks - almost like I give them a humanistic quality, like a metaphor. I talk about the paintings as if they're alive; I'm responding back and forth."
When Campins began the artist-in-residency program at Expressiones, she says she was curious to see how the New London environment would alter her perception and work.
She says she used both the built environment and the natural landscape as unlimited sources for her new works.
"A lot of the work that I made here has been more spontaneous and direct. Normally I work slower, several pieces at a time," she says.
"Sometimes it's very subtle. When I was making work for this exhibition, it was raining a ton. I tried to imitate the liquid, the gravity up and down - the physical phenomenon that was happening outside - the moisture. It was cloudy for so many days when I arrived; my palette was more subdued than it (normally) would have been. And it made me think a lot about gravity and rain and drips and wetness."
Campins says culture, history and personal memory are what inform her practice the most.
"Memories connect to where I'm from in Venezuela. I try to put those memories with the place I am and bring those elements into the painting," she says. "Cultural memory and personal experience (come to play) in making the work. Certain images, shapes, trigger certain memories you've forgotten. Usually my titles come from that.
"There's a little bit of longing and regret from not being there," she adds. "And sadness on my part, too. I'm waiting for the political situation to be more stable to go back to Venezuela. I haven't been in four years. It's hard to go financially."
Campins says the residency at Expressiones has been meaningful. She plans to return to California and hopefully move to Los Angeles where there's an active art scene and find a teaching position. She believes teaching art is a perfect fit for a working artist.
She says, "The exchange of ideas is extremely rich, it empowers your practice even more."