NUEVAS HISTORIAS | For centuries, many artists have paid tribute to other artists by creating their own interpretations of iconic works of art. Picasso spent two years painting hundreds of versions of the famous Las Meninas by Velazquez, while Joel-Peter Witkin, Vik Muniz and Salvador Dali were among several artists who also paid tribute to Velazquez.
Cante Hondo (Sing Deep) is inspired by a painting by Romero de Torres of the same name. In the cycle of life, we’re born, we die and in between, we experience many emotions such as jealousy, fear, love and hate. It is my intention with this work to create an allegory about the many layers of a woman’s life in contemporary Mexico, but also to make a statement about the world we’re now living in. Strength and empowerment exist in concert with vulnerability and oppression.
The piece incorporates symbolism drawn from many cultures. The rooster, for example, is not only an iconic symbol worldwide denoting masculinity and protection, it is also the literal translation of my last name. In Serbian, kokotovic is the sound that the cock makes when he greets the sun. In Mayan mythology, the snake was considered to be a vehicle by which celestial bodies, such as the sun and stars, crossed the heavens. The shedding of their skin made them a symbol of rebirth and renewal and in some Arabic traditions, the serpent represents sexual desire. In Western religions, the story of Original Sin is one of the first we’re told.
In the original painting by Romero de Torres, the goddess of fatality was the central figure. I chose ‘the siren’ to represent the balance between good and evil and to act as a central pillar within this story.
As in Sor Juana del Prado, and others in Nuevas Historias, this piece incororates symbolism relative to the culture I now embrace while living in Merida Mexico.
Sor Juana del Prado is my tribute to Bellini’s Madonna del Prato. The incredible life of Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz was a catalyst for the story I wanted to create. Sor Juana was a brilliant writer and philosopher born in 1651 who, at the age of three, taught herself to read in a time when women were forbidden to look at books. By the age of eight, she had composed a poem on the Eucharist and by 13 she was teaching Latin to other children. She also learned to speak Nahuatl, an ancient Aztec language. At 15, she entered a monastery to be able to study as she wished. Sor Juana was an outspoken proponent of a woman’s right to an education, and it was her criticism of misogyny and the hypocrisy of men that eventually became her downfall. I believe her place in Mexico's history is alongside the iconic figures of Frida Kahlo and Guadalupe.
Madonna del Pueblo is my tribute to Jean Fouquet’s Virgin and Child created in 1450. A work that at the time was considered not only decadent, but almost blasphemous. I live in a barrio where there are still many women in their teens having babies. Despite the obvious disadvantages, these young women display a resiliency that has been passed down for generations.
Ixchel is my homage to the Spanish painter Julio Romero de Torres piece Grace from 1914. The Torres painting shows a woman fallen from grace, while my interpretation is an allegory about rebirth. I chose the Mayan goddess Ixchel as a powerful symbol for womanhood.
Dichotomy of Souls is an interpretation of an old tattered engraving from the era of the Mexican Revolution. I came across the image in a junk shop in the state of Jalisco, author unknown. It’s my reflection on some of the political rhetoric dominating our world.
History and memory play an important role in the work that I'm now focused on. By reinterpreting classic images from the past and embracing thematic references in current cultural contexts, I’m trying to open new doors of interpretation for the viewer.
I currently live and work in Merida Yucatan where I can't help but be influenced by the stories of this rich culture on both the macro and micro levels. In Mexico, the matriarch is still the center of the family, the roots that support the tree. All my life I have been surrounded by strong, intelligent women. Their influence informs my work. In many of the historical works that I am referencing, women have been the focal points of these images and It’s has always been important for me to offer a perspective that honours the human form in a respectful and reverential manner.
RAW | Upon invitation by Curator Leila Vöight, RAW is my response to the artist Francisco Goya’s series of 82 engravings, Disasters of War, and continues the story that Goya began—a story of war without end. Conceptualized as an installation for Festival A-part 2014 in Chateau Alpilles, France, eighty-two manipulated images are arranged in a grid over the 3-letter canvas. Laser-cut from Alupanel, RAW and it’s palindrome WAR are freestanding letters measuring 48 inches in height and 14 feet long, inviting the viewer to engage with the sculpture and the stark images of violence and war contained therein.
MODERN WOMEN | A series of large scale portraits based on my reinterpretation of iconic women from the past. We live in a time where it is culturally acceptable for celebrity and beauty to be manufactured commodities—this work is a reflection on that issue. The images are based on women who many believe have in some way made a cultural statement in our history, and who have significance in my own personal narrative.
These portraits are composed of fragments from the past and from my impressions about the future. By deconstructing old images and recomposing new ones, the work engages viewers in the process of reinvention. Similar to the way that mainstream media skews images to relay a totally different meaning from their original intent, Modern Women opens a door of perception that is unique to each individual.
As in much of my current work, these portraits continue the exploration between representation and abstraction. The intent is to provide the viewer with an image that not only provokes thought, but also leads them down their own path of interpretation.
FRACTURES | In this body of work I explore the balance between representation and abstraction by creating and synthesizing fractured elements from my photography, drawings and video. I also reference and appropriate sources from other types of media that resonate with my initial concepts. These often begin as a series of visual cues related to a larger theme.
The collages and constructs reflect my ideas about storytelling and the process of interpretation. Part of my practice involves several methods of fractured deconstruction. One of these methods is the conversion of a visual file to a text file where I selectively delete information. I then reprocess that file to create an element of distorted information.
The human form has always played an important role in my work. The fracturing and removal of personal identity in these pieces is a reflection on digital perforation and homogenization of technologies we use in our everyday lives.
The large-scale format invites the viewer to be immersed in the detail of the individual elements and yet still be informed by the whole. Much like the decomposition of billboards along the highways near my home in Mexico, layers and layers of individual story, at a point in time, become one.
RECLAMATIONS | This new series of images came from my explorations on or near decommissioned industrial sites in Canada and the United States. While searching for the macro, I started to investigate the micro. The abstract patterns created by the natural decay in these man made environments, was entrancing. The more something starts to decay, the more abstract it becomes and with that abstraction, an undeniable beauty. I was witnessing nature trying to take back, or reclaim some of these elements originally created for the “betterment of man”.
All over the landscape there are visual cues linking to the past. This body of work started out as a photographic record or document of the waste created at or near abandoned industrial sites. The more time I spent investigating these areas, the more I started to think about markings made by man versus the markings made by time and how the two co-exist.
I started making photographs primarily as reference but quickly realized there was an allegorical content that existed in these environments. Through the use of collage, I could construct images that would both simulate the beauty and the decay that I was witnessing. I could create a new time line for those documented elements. For me, these constructs are symbolic references to the dissonance that exists in those environments. Though the companies that originally created these sites are absent, their presence is always felt.
WATER LILIES | The “Water Lilies” series of images comes from a desire to explore the balance between representation and abstraction. Because these images are made from double exposures in a Polaroid camera, there is not one decisive moment but two. I feel the real decisive moment is at the point where I make the second exposure, for it is this action that brings the first image to life. By juxtaposing scenes in nature or industry with the human form, I’ve tried to create a sense of altered reality or indirectly, a dreamlike fantasy.
MEMENTO MORI | Growing up as an aspiring musician and artist in a small northern city in Canada forced me at a young age to look beyond the rigid borders that threatened to define my life. The subculture, mayhem and magic that was Mardi Gras in the early 1980s started as a fascination for me and grew to become an obsession. Between 1983 and 1987, I drove to New Orleans to document a time that in less than a decade would change forever.
In the early 80s the gay Mardi Gras krewes were at their heyday—neither AIDS nor Katrina had laid waste to the city. At this pivotal point, Mardi Gras had both a dark edge and simple purity, and I was compelled to capture a tableau of Americana few would ever witness.
My objective with this body of work was to create a series of portraits juxtaposing the fantasy of masked characters against the grit of the French Quarter streets. My focus was on the gay culture because they were the most open, most creative and most interactive. In the beginning I was a voyeur, until I became complicit with a community that embraced me and the ideas around my documentation. Each year that I returned to Mardi Gras, the images became more intimate as my relationships with the central characters deepened, while the caliginous beauty of Mardi Gras opened doors to a richer understanding of my own identity and beliefs.
What began as a desire to document and experience the bacchanalian side of Carnival, over time became a reflection on the fragility of human life. For that reason, this body of work is my memento mori. On the eve of Fat Tuesday in 1987, I stopped shooting after receiving news that the man who introduced me to that exciting city had died.
PAST LIVES | Past Lives are excursions into the world of what has been. These quietly graceful images are the resurrection of things past, now brought back in a new light.
In these meticulous, magnified portraits of desiccated plants and flora, I explore elemental ideas of life and afterlife, permanence and transience. On fields of jet black, these delicate remains take on a heroic scale, subtly transformed into poignant contemporary memento mori.
EARTH WATER SKY | The photographs in this project came out of my explorations in the areas that the industrial recycling company Newalta operates in. From the shores of the west coast, across Canada to the east coast and south to Texas, my goal was to create a series of abstract images that were linked metaphorically or symbolically to our environment, yet had no direct representation to a specific industry or place in which they were created. The use of black and white on this project helped me to find that simple abstraction that exists in our everyday lives.
FRACTURED LANDSCAPES | I was commissioned by Cenovus to create 26 pieces of art, to be positioned prominently on each floor of their new head office in the spectacular Bow building in Calgary, Alberta. My vision was to create a body of work that reflected the interface between the diverse workings of exploration, facility, the land and the people who shepherd the processes. The images are interpretations of the multiple layers and dimensions that make up the Cenovus story.
Each image is like a chapter in a book, composing a narrative from a variety of elements that illustrate the Company’s foundations. An abstraction of images and ideas, the final interpretations reveal aspects of the story chapter by chapter, while coming together as a powerful whole.
REFLEKTOR | In 2016, I was commissioned to create a site-specific installation for The Guardian, Alberta’s tallest residential tower. My concept was a 3D assemblage which resonates the architecture as well as captures the energy of the unique urban landscape it occupies.