Mental Contagion

current issue
artist resource
literary resource
twin cities community

Cause & Effect Mental Contagion
Art. Environement. Interview.

Grimanesa Amorós NYC, NY and Lima, Peru
Interviewed by Sam Edsill | Web site
Photo (left) by Jaques Lowe Visual Art, NY

About the Artist

Grimanesa Amorós is an interdisciplinary artist with diverse interests in the fields of social history, scientific research and critical theory, which have greatly influenced her work. She often makes use of sculpture, video, lighting and sound to create works that illuminate our notions of personal identity and community. Amorós utilizes her art as an agent for empowerment to involve viewers from all different backgrounds and communities. She was born in Lima, and lives and works in New York City and Peru. Amorós studied at The Art Students League (1984–1988) and Private Ateliers in Lima, Peru (1981–1983).

Amorós is the recipient of several grants, which include the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship (Washington, DC), The Travel Grant Fund for Artists, NEA Arts International, (New York, NY), The Bronx Museum for the Arts: Aim Program (Bronx, NY) and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation “Participant Biennial Competition” (New York NY). Awards also include the X Tumi USA Award (Miami, FL) and artist residency fellowships by Art Omi (Columbia County, NY), Santa Fe Art Institute (Santa Fe, NM), The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Amherst, VA), Artspace (Raleigh, NC) and Centrum Arts (Port Townsend, WA). Additionally, her works have been selected for the Art in Embassies Program of the U.S. Department of State in Ankara, Turkey (2001) and Lima, Peru (2003).

Amorós has exhibited in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Most recent solo exhibitions and public work include: Terraforms (Miami, FL) Terrarium (New York, NY), Varna Festival of Visual Arts, 5th edition (Bulgaria), Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture (New York, NY), The Lee Building (New York, NY), Hudson River Healthcare Center (Peekskill, NY) Artspace (Raleigh, NC), BUZZER 30 (New York, NY), ARTCO Gallery, Drawings (Lima, Peru), R&F Gallery Encaustic Panels (New York, NY) and Egizio’s Project, Timeless Terracotta (New York, NY). Most recent group exhibitions include: The Museum of the Americas (Washington, DC), The Lab Gallery (New York, NY), Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (Athens, GA), SITE Santa Fe, Monothon 16 (Santa Fe, NM), Free Manifesta Biennial (Frankfurt, Germany), Liberarti Arts Festival (Liverpool, UK), and Progetto Anglioletta Firpo (Alessandria, Italy).

She has participated in many film festivals and art fairs, such as the LOOP Fair in Barcelona, Spain, and has given many artist lectures, most recently at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY) ArtSpace (Raleigh, NC) Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA), School of Arts “Corriente Alterna” (Lima, Peru), Colgate University (Hamilton, NY), and Spruill Center for the Arts (Atlanta GA). Amorós often teaches papermaking workshops to children and adults. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Santo Domingo and Cuenca, Ecuador's museums of modern art.

Grimanesa Amoros
"You Cannot Feel It... I Wish You Could" | Multimedia Installation| 2000-2003

Grimanesa Amoros
"Fotomana" | African Housing I, Detail | Installation | 1999-2000

Traveling to places like the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Iceland, you’ve created work that explores your own experience within these other cultures. In one statement, you mention that through this exploration, the search for your own identity emerges. This has been one of the long-standing traditions in the search for identity. How do you think that being immersed into a new culture reveals an understanding of self?

Grimanesa Amoros: Being immersed in new cultures helps secure my understanding of self because I am confronted with complex systems of values, attitudes, tastes, and traditions that differ from my own. Consequently, I am forced to reexamine my stance and in many cases I find that this type of immersion influences my attitudes and reinforces my values. For instance, in the pre-industrial agrarian culture of the Ivory Coast, I experienced a cultural resonance with my native Peru.

Grimanesa Amoros
"Rootless Algas " | Sculpture Video Installation | 2004

MC: The “Rootless Algas” series is based on your experience while visiting an Icelandic island called Flatey. Inspired by large piles of algae that covered the rocks in that area, you made casts of translucent abaca sheets and hung from the ceiling, accompanied by video and photographic prints showing images of this algae. As you explore the landscape of these rich textures and protuberances, what do you feel you are peering into?

Grimanesa Amoros: Initially, I saw the algas as an obstacle because my intention was to swim in the ocean and the piles of algas would have made reaching the waters edge a physically difficult effort. At this point I saw the algas as in descript masses. I soon became curious about their composition and I began to examine them more closely. I was engrossed by their odor, their irregular textures, sliminess and translucency. Closer examination revealed that these masses contained other life forms, and I felt as if I were peering into an unfamiliar world. I left Flatey with a singular and intimate connection with nature.

Grimanesa Amoros
"Fotomana" | African Housing I | Installation | 1999-2000

Do you consider yourself a "citizen of the world," and do you feel that people should be thinking more globally?

Grimanesa Amoros: I think the phrase “citizen of the world” falls short of describing the role of a contemporary artist, because artists are obliged to be in touch with their global surroundings given the degree of communication made possible by advances in technology. In other words, I have no reason to be out of touch with my surroundings. Technology and communication coalesce and because of its approachability, technology fosters a kind of interconnectivity that spans cultures and demographics. This interconnectivity, in turn, raises the bar in terms of awareness and social consciousness. So, I think people are already thinking more globally, whether as a method or a consequence.

Grimanesa Amoros
"Avalanche" | Cast Body Parts | 2000-2004

MC: The subject of relationship of the natural world and the human body is prevalent in your work. How did fascination with this theme begin?

Grimanesa Amoros: I like to think of myself as being in a state of flux, and I think natural processes and phenomena parallel my development as an individual in both literal and metaphorical terms. Therefore I think the relationship between the human body and nature as an entity is intuitive.

Grimanesa Amoros
"Terrarium" | Installation | 2006

MC: You tend to vision your work through many different kinds of media including installation, photography, video and painting. Are you thinking about the different mediums you use while you are experiencing the world around you?

Grimanesa Amoros: I’ve found that in searching for authenticity and pure experience, the particular medium I use is secondary. My choice of medium is typically informed by its relationship to what I want to express. In some cases, I need the fluidity and plasticity of a medium like video, while other ideas are best expressed with the tactile sensations produced by physical materials.

Grimanesa Amoros
"Ambulante" | Hudson River Community Health Center, Mobile Dental Clinic | 2006-2007

In Lima, Peru, where you grew up, “ambulante” was a truck that carried toys, candy and other sundry, and this created an experience for children in Lima similar to children’s experience with ice cream trucks in North America. This fueled the project, "Ambulante," which is part mobile canvass, part interactive sculpture, and part public service. Providing mobile dental care, throughout rural regions of New York state, you helped design a truck that merges dental care with childhood memories of the “ambulate.” How has this project been received by the children and the communities it enters?

Grimanesa Amoros: It was launched in May of 2007 and has been very well received. During the opening, I watched as children interacted with the van.  I was touched to see one mother teaching her children multiplication while they waited to see the dentist inside. I’m happy to see that the dedication and purpose I put into this project has manifested in such a positive way.

Mental Contagion
©2007 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers
installation, contemporary, opening, chapbook, discussion, discourse,biography, environment, resource, calendar, events, submission, guidelines, review, journal, press, quarterly,community,collective, media, gallery, museum, funding, grant