New Mexico Artist to Know Now Andrea Pichaida gives us an update on her new work, her studio practice, and making art in the time of global unrest.
This past March (the one that feels approximately 200 years ago) Southwest Contemporary held its second-annual exhibition 12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now. Selected from over 400 submissions, these are the artists we consider to be shaping the landscape of contemporary art in New Mexico.
Just one week after the opening, however, the gallery closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, these New Mexico artists have continued to create, in terms of art as well as impact in their communities. We’re checking in with each of them to see how they are, and what they’re making now.
lives in Santa Fe, NM
born in Santiago, Chile
andreapichaida.com | @andreapichaida
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your process? Has it changed where, how or when you work? Has it changed the subject matter?
Great question. I think about this often and my answer has changed over time.
At the beginning the adrenaline was flowing with the expectation to spend most of my time in my beautiful studio here at home, how lucky am I. I worked non-stop on all those projects that before that time, my normal routine didn’t allow me to develop. I didn’t have to clean after every workday, I could leave my new pieces in progress on my work tables, I could work on more than one piece at the time. It was wonderful as well as exhausting. Every morning my day started with a coffee and phone calls to my loved ones in Chile, followed by at least half an hour of exercise. Around 10 am I was already in my studio. All was great.
“Yes, we love to spend all our time in the studio…but let’s think that art is going to travel to places never reached before because of the internet and social media.”
After a few weeks the weight of the uncertain times, the fear, and the confinement started kicking in. When would I be able to see my little grandbaby? My mom? My daughters? Friends? Is my husband, who is a physician, going to be ok? This brought back memories from my childhood living during the dictatorship (in Chile) where uncertainty and fear were the main burdens, as well as having to hide and repress my voice. This brought me back to why I create mainly abstract art that I refer to as my wombs, nests, homes, inspired by nature and me being a woman. I’m always searching for that safe place that’s within ourselves. This was comforting as well as meaningful. I feel that I work from my inner soul. So, it helped me to focus on my work.
When the social unrest, the inequality, and the BLM movement erupted I could not look away, who could? Politics and government, what a disappointment. So, as I said before, I lived during a dictatorship and that fear is in me always. I can’t go to protests but I can say something with my art and that’s what I’m doing now. Did this change the subject matter? In a way, yes it has, we are a reflection of our times, we create from that life we are living. What hasn’t changed is the way I work, and my clay shapes. As Maggie Grimason wrote about my work, “Sculptures that are spare and suggestive, their lines and colors being inspired by nature and their content speaking to experience both personal and universal.”
I try to think every day that this “on hold” life is not only a burden but also a time to reflect on humanity and our planet. This drives me to get up, get into the studio, take care of others, and our environment.
Life is never linear and being able to adapt is constant. What’s important is to never give up.
What are your top concerns for the arts and your fellow artists?
My main concern is that the art scene is changing at a very fast pace; the way of making a living is requiring us to adapt fast to those changes we will have to face. Online exhibits, openings, selling, promoting, etc., is taking us to a world not all of us understand or even know exists. We have to adapt fast, learn, and accept that this is it. And yes, we love to spend all our time in the studio…but let’s think that art is going to travel to places never reached before because of the internet and social media.
I’m worried about how many talented artists will struggle to be able to sustain themselves, as well as the galleries. We are all part of this world and deserve a place. The world needs good art.
How has your relationship with art-making changed during this time?
There are some days when I get discouraged and ask myself why do I keep working, but after ten years living and working in New Mexico I feel that I have finally arrived. I signed with Tierra Mar Gallery on Canyon Road; I’m part of New Mexico Potters and Clay Artists annual Celebration of Clay: Perspectives show at Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos, where I was awarded Best of Show; I’ve been accepted into ArtThrive exhibition at the Albuquerque Museum; I’m one of the presenters at Ghost Ranch for NMPCA; I just did a three-hour Zoom lecture with the University of Playa Ancha in Chile, and I’m teaching again. How could I even think that way? I’m blessed, grateful, and thankful to have a job that inspires me, that I’m passionate about, that I can practice every day and share with the world. I’m hopeful for better times.
Tell us about your current projects or pieces:
Here is a sample of three pieces that exemplify my process during this time:
As the pandemic started, my first thought was to create an uplifting piece. Esperanza (Hope) was depicted as a strong, sensuous, delicate flower, also a metaphor for a nest, a safe place. This wall piece has lots of movement and took a long time to carve and to later paint every little indent, layer, and line. I was putting my patience on trial, my working hand in pain as well, just to show that hope could not be lost. I wanted an image that showed that all will be ok. Who would have known this virus would stick around for who knows how long!
We are all in this together. Here I needed a wakeup call. This virus is fighting our humanity, our society, the entire planet and if we don’t stick together as one against it, we will not be able to get over it. We have to stay together and fight it as a whole. It’s the coronavirus = the crown virus. It’s showing a crown placed sideways in the composition because we are defeating it. We the people, we the world, are the circles and ring on top of it, kicking it out for good. Yes, we can do this we all stay and make it happen together, and we will.
This wall piece was awarded Best of Show at the NMPCA Celebration of Clay: Perspectives exhibition at Fuller Lodge Art Center in Los Alamos. You can visit in-person till September 19th, from Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 4:00 or online at celebrationofclay.com
When the social unrest and inequality erupted, a little installation piece was born. Our differences bring us together is a piece that shows that even if we look different from the outside, we still look the same on the inside. We are all unique, we are all different, we are all the same, and that’s the beauty of humanity, people, and our society, our world.
I worked with 5 different clays, all with their unique color and qualities, which I kept naked on the outside, just the color of each clay (one black, one white, one red, one brown, one yellow). The top, or inside of each piece has basically the same design and the same colors, showing that we are all the same on the inside. There is a red line that connects all of them. As a little installation, these vessel type shapes can be placed in various ways.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Last but not least, grateful and thankful for choosing me as one of the 12 New Mexico Artists to Know Now. It has been an honor to be part of this amazing group of artists. The exhibition, even if it had to end abruptly, was wonderful, thoughtful and so well set up. The exposure through The Magazine, the Southwest Contemporary online exposure, as well as the exhibition itself has reached very far. You do an amazing job and cover an art community that doesn’t have that much voice here in NM.