Written By: Asheea Smith
It was a chilly night in Soho when I was scheduled to chat art with Cecilia Collantes. I was excited to learn more about this multidisciplinary Peruvian artist. Raised in the 80’s in Lima, she’s been on quite a journey with her art shown in New York, Lima, Bangkok, Berlin and Jakarta. She has been awarded residencies including the Eileen Kaminsky Residency Program at Mana Contemporary, Thaillywood Artist Residency and Darmasiswa Scholarship in Indonesia.
“Are you almost here?” Cecilia asked over the phone. “Yes!” I respond, “Just got off the C train.” She was delighted. “Ok, I am making us some tea, you should be here soon then.” I couldn’t wait to see more of her art directly from the source! Also, I was low-key hype about the tea (it was cold outside).
I stepped out the elevator into Cecilia’s art studio where she was prepping pieces to show, and of course–there was the tea she had promised. Her space alone was creative fuel. I was ready to sip on some tea and dive right in! No detail was left behind.
“Two years ago I had an art studio in Jersey City.” She begins. “It was my first day in the space, and I wasn’t sure what [medium] I was going to work with. I came across a Hindu shop selling traditional ceremonial items, and picked up some orange and red powder. This was a personal ceremony I was going to have in my studio. I took the powder, some paper and decided I was going to light the fire in my studio. I took my hand,” she gestures with fingers spread, “Maybe much like the first artist did–and used my fingers to create the flames. To me, it was so simple, but it was such a nice and honest way to start connecting to this [charcoal] material–what it meant and where it could take me.”
Besides the series of works that are all cosmic, she also does tracings. “These are done quite quickly. I take the brush and start with a simple movement–and it records that movement. This gesture is very personal and physical for me as well because it relates to my past as a dancer, which isn’t really a past. It stays with me.”
Being heavily inspired by the art of early days, she also reflects on her connection with symbolic art. “I have books by National Geographic about the first artist. This nurtured me with information about the first stones found with tracings. These findings were the evidence of man trying to say something. It was truly the birth of symbolic expression.”
Hence her appreciation for powders.
I started to wonder if she considered herself a contemporary artist. “I am a prehistoric artist.” She laughs. “No, but–I am working now. I am a contemporary artist who is inspired by going back. I’m always looking for a deep source of space and clarity. It’s really a meditative type of work.”
We are looking forward to experiencing all that Cecilia has to offer! To find out more about New York City artist Cecilia Collantes, visit her site here!