Carissa Samaniego’s work obscures the boundaries between disparate places and memories, braiding together experiences to create narratives that seem to be lifted from dreams.
Virgin Mary’s placid face on the skin of a Mulberry tree. The flash and heat that is the sense of southern New Mexico. The convergence of places and identities. A borderline, an airplane ride. There’s a poetry of place that rides the surface of Carissa Samaniego’s work, which though at the surface, remains (as in any good poem) challenging to define.
Growing up, Samaniego split her time between the two sides of her family: a conservative bunch in the upper Midwest and a close-knit Latinx family in New Mexico. This two-sided experience of place, of youth, of attitude, and orientation to the world has informed her work tremendously. Now residing in Colorado, her work obscures the boundaries between disparate places and memories, braiding together experiences to create narratives that seem to be lifted from dreams.
Using varied media and working in sculpture, installation, and performance, Samaniego remains attuned to her environment. Found texts and organic objects live alongside those created in the studio, again exploring a blurred line between what’s handmade and what arises in the landscape or arrives from parts unknown, such as a boulder that becomes a waypoint as in Between a Rock, or the collected arrows of Spirit in the Flame. There’s so much in-betweenness here, so much gray area and shifting glances, which perhaps creates greater range and impact.
Maybe it’s the simple fact that all these places, things, and ideas reside in the hands and mind of the artist that creates cohesion. A certain momentum that remains non-linear is evident across Samaniego’s diverse projects and manages to speak to audiences well outside of the places where she grew up and currently works. She has shown her work everywhere, from the U.K. and the Czech Republic to closer-to-home terrains like Texas and Minnesota.
What strikes me in looking for a way to summarize her work is this: maybe the divergent material of Samaniego’s work all resting side-by-side in her portfolio is an exploration of identity in all its wild, meandering, ever-changing complexity.
Denver, CO| carissasamaniego.com | ig: @carissasamaniego