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Rising Stars: Meet Carla Contreras

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carla Contreras.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am a visual artist and educator living and working in Atlanta-Georgia since 2016. Originally from Quito-Ecuador, I came to Atlanta in pursuit of my Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Over the course of three years of my graduate program, with the mentoring of my amazing professors, I got to establish the basis of my artistic career by addressing some of the biggest uncertainties of becoming an artist. Why do I want to be an artist? What should I make? What do I want to say with my art? Why would people care about what I have to say? How do I get involved in the arts community? How do I get exposure? Am I gonna be able to make a living with my art?

These and many more questions keep arising, and I realized that the answers could not be straightforward and maybe I should even be asking myself other kinds of questions. Pursuing any creative career comes with a big deal of uncertainties and freedom. A kind of freedom that makes you feel anxious and scared at the beginning, but once you learn to embrace it, it becomes your ally. However, the only certainty is that once you understand that whatever you make has to respond to an authentic necessity for exploring an idea, the rest comes in addition. Making art should be an urge, a need, an obsession. The opportunities, the recognition, the sales, the features, etc. come spontaneously when you create something to share with the world that has come from a truthful motor.

In 2019 I officially started my professional career as an artist and also decided to begin a teaching career in order to support my art-making and fulfill other aspects of my professional goals.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I guess most artists share the same dilemmas: How can I make a living out of making art only? Is that even possible? Should I start making more “commercial art” to sell more? Sometimes the beauty of an idea doesn’t necessarily make a “pretty” piece of art, and authentic artists care more about the idea being explored/investigated than the aesthetic pleasantness of what they make.

This is the biggest struggle. How to keep being truthful to your convictions as an artist and at the same time enter the art market and sell your work without turning your art into a simple commodity.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a contemporary visual artist and my work deals with the human condition and investigates how this is affected or impacted by its surroundings. My artistic practice responds to my location and it gets nurtured by the ecosystem that I inhabit. My work is a lot about observing, dissecting, abstracting, deconstructing, and perceiving what is around me. The past year I relocated to a home/studio within walking distance from the Chattahoochee river after living and producing work for four years in Midtown Atlanta. The urban ecosystem of a gentrifying metropolis inspired my work from 2017-2019, which explored the human condition within a booming city and tackled ideas of vulnerability, displacement, empathy, alienation, and the big existing contrast between progress and societal decay.

In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hits, we (me, my husband, and our Jack Russell) decided to relocate to a place where we would have access to natural sites to offset the impact of isolation and protect our emotional balance. It was the best decision ever! Connecting with nature helped me not work on my mental health but also lead me into exploring a new perspective/aspect of the human condition. Therefore, my current body of work and practice investigates Individual and collective dynamics affected by inner mechanisms and ecosystemic agents in analogy to cycles, processes, phenomena, and events in nature. My art-making seeks to examine ideas of resilience, transformation, rebirth, tension, balance, transition, uncertainty, impermanence.

The imagery and mark-making language in my mixed media drawings, paintings, and objects come from the recollection of visual information took in from holistic immersions in the natural sites that I currently explore. My goal is to keep investigating the human condition from different sites and ecosystemic contexts.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
The Covid-19 Crisis was definitely an opportunity too. An opportunity to reconsider and analyze many aspects of our family lives, working lives, social lives, etc. It has been our chance to slow down and open our eyes to new perspectives and ways of living our lives, relates to others, treats each other, spend our time, and basically truly appreciate the simple and most important things in life: A good company, a good book, a good meal, nature, your health, your family, your freedom, your TIME.

In my case as an artist, the pandemic was an opportunity for me to reconnect with nature and its energy. This was a mental and physical healing process that also informed my art-making in a beautiful and fresh way. I spent most of my time hiking in Stone Mountain and playing with my dog on the Chattahoochee river shores.

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