Cecilia Elguero is an Argentinian-born, Brooklyn-by-way-of-San-Francisco multimedia artist. Her work spans from sculpture to installation to jewelry design; yet her comforting, thoughtful, and warm aesthetic is always present. She wants her work to feel like a big hug, and we, for one, are happy to reciprocate.
WC: I have a couple questions that relate directly to your history, so I’m not sure if I should ask them the way that I had set it up or if you just want to tell me a bit about it. I looked at your bio and it said that you went to school in California as well as Parsons here in NYC.
CE: I actually went to school late in life. I’m from Argentina and I moved here to the States when I was 17. I lived in Miami and Massachusetts, but I found a home in San Francisco. When I moved to the States, I had a lot of stuff in my head, and things I wanted to figure out before I went to school. … I went to Mills College because they have an excellent electronic music program there. It was an all women’s college, and I thought that was kind of crucial for how it would shape my education, especially my relationship to technology. A lot of my work involves technology, so it was a nurturing space to ask all the silly questions I had at the time. It was the first medium that made me realize that I find comfort in doing something over and over again. I guess it ties to what I am interested in with my work. I grew up as an only child and always saw objects as animated in some way, and I think when you don’t have other kids around at that age, things become your friends. So, I think my work revolves around the idea that objects are, in a way, alive. Technology, for me, especially as I have gotten more into Arduino, which is a programming tool that allows you to do interactivity with electronics, has been the magic tool that brings life to inanimate objects, whether it be a space or a collection of objects. I think that’s the main role that this medium has in my work, and then this idea of creating spaces similar to where you were growing up, like castles or tree houses, intimate spaces where you can be playful.
WC: Can you tell me one artist, one designer and one non-artist, or non-designer, that influences or inspires you?
CE. Of course, this always changes, because it depends on who I fall in love with that day. But today, I think the non-designer would be Buckminster Fuller. I really like his idea of ‘Don’t seek to create beauty, but create things that address problems,’ and then beauty comes after, as a result of that. I think his work is just beautiful, and he never intended it to be, but his whole philosophy and how he built things and how they are related to nature, I find very admirable. I feel as though it’s not only cohesive, it’s both perfectly functional as well as beautiful — and I think that’s really inspiring. He is the one that created the geodesic dome in the 1960s.
As for a non-artist, there are so many, it’s difficult to choose. I listened to the audio book of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz recently and it did something to me. This idea of the confusion that comes from being afraid of what you are or who you are, it may sound cliché, but in a sense, you forget, especially when you do art all the time. I feel as though because I make art and because I make a lot of stuff for myself, when I put it out there, I’m afraid its never going to touch that place that I would like it to and especially because my work is for other people — it’s to connect with people. Sometimes I acknowledge an inability to do that, so I think listening to those agreements really put it in perspective to just forget it and do your best and hopefully that connection will be made. Focusing on the action, and not worrying so much about the reaction. I thought that was really helpful.
I think that picking an artist is one of the hardest things because I love so many of them. I have one though, but I don’t even know his name. I was listening to NPR and it was this ceramicist who had worked in ceramics for like fifty years or something. He got Multiple Sclerosis, or something similar in his bones, so his hands became impaired. He didn’t have as much control as he used to. What was really beautiful was that, of course, he had lost all of the skills he had acquired through so many years of practice, but instead of just getting frustrated, he started creating a different kind of work. What is interesting about art is that there is this part that is you, but it isn’t you, and it grows with you.
WC: There seems to be a really stark difference in scale in a lot of your work, from the colossally large, like the installation you did at Live With Animals, to pretty small, like some of the toys you have made. Does this relate to your understanding of space?
CE: Yeah, I think it relates more to emotional space. I am a great admirer of Japanese sculpture. What I love about it is the delicate and small details. They draw the attention to the microcosms that live like tiny scales, leading you to focus on the little things. I love creating work that you find by accident, in a corner or something. I think the cuteness in my work comes from a certain relation to childhood and a certain kind of innocence. In the midst of all the chaos in the world it’s always nice to stumble on something sweet. So the small objects are meant to have an intimate connection with you.
I create my large scale pieces with a sense of being in a cocoon or space where you feel safe and surrounded by a big hug. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to build something or it takes longer than I thought and the feeling gets lost — it becomes more about the space. It’s funny because I always want to make work that sometimes doesn’t make sense in an exhibition space. I think my home is a better representation of my work because there’s no separation — maybe the home is a better accomplishment because I have so much time to create in a space that I can really feel. When I was younger, I don’t know why, I’ve always been really sensitive to space and lighting and how much light changes your surroundings. I’m a voyeur in a way, because I really want to see how people live, and what kind of lighting they have and how they decorate. For me, personal space says so much, like how they position things or don’t care about how they position things. I think space and what you do with it, is a way of conveying it.
WC: Why don’t we talk about your jewelry, This is a new project for you? Is this a full-time transition?
CE: Yeah! I work with a lot of porcelain on a larger scale, its not a full-time thing, I’m just getting a sense of textures and sizes and what I can do. I love porcelain because its ubiquitous, its everywhere and so durable. People think of porcelain and they think its really fragile — its not! Metals are beautiful, but I don’t know, we are running out of metal as a recourse. Porcelain is also a sustainable way to create something beautiful. They are going to have metallic laces also, I’m thinking gold or bronze. Necklaces and two fingered rings, its a nice integration of the paper and the porcelain by folding the paper and putting it on plaster.
WC: It reminds me of geometry, you had mentioned the geodesic dome earlier, I can see that influence in your jewelry.
CE: Some of them are going to be on chains, and some are going to be on leather. The textures are so nice.
WC: Your jewelry is beautiful, it really speaks to your design background. It’s clean and powerful, but it’s not frilly.
CE: In my art, I have this tendency to make things that have a story, whimsical, but realistically, would I wear these whimsical creatures? Probably not. The jewelry is my way to create something that I can actually wear.
To see more of her work click here.