When I was researching artists in New York City to curate for my inaugural exhibition at The Yard City Hall Park, Claudia Santiso was recommended several times and now I fully know why. Santiso is excited about the arts in every capacity. Her joy and curiosity is contagious, and people want to be around her. Not only that but she’s creative, colloquial, and comes up with profoundly unique ideas.
Claudia Santiso is a self-taught, NYC-based artist using various mediums to navigate her exploration of imagination and fictional, psychological landscapes perceived through color and choices of material, often using materials that push painting into alchemy. Her work explores human nature to reimagine the ordinary in accordance to one’s desire to connect and transcend the present state. An obsession to get out of, or into oneself; to travel through unknown landscapes of distant lands, real or imagined. In part she hopes to render visuals that can be viewed as realistic spaces as well as emotional nebulas activated by the act of viewing.
Santiso’s recent exhibitions include SHIM Art on Artsy, Aqua Art’s Meeting House at Art Basel Miami, and Gold Mine at Lucas Lucas Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. Santiso is a co-founder of Meeting House Residency in Troy, NY.
Claudia Santiso’s work is part of “Embellishing the Truth,” a group exhibition with Mandy Chesney, Becca Van K, Jennifer Caviola at The Yard City Hall Park through July 23, 2021. Join A Women’s Thing’s IG Live on Thursday, June 9, at 4 p.m. for a studio visit with Claudia Santiso and AWT contributor and curator Morgan Everhart.
Glitter, iridescence, and kitsch materials come with many associations and often blurs the line of what is excessive in sexuality, popular culture, and “high brow” art. What are your views on these materials? How do you approach them in your art?
Claudia Santiso: These materials are wonderfully decadent and evoke a sense of nostalgia. The first time I saw glitter I was a kid and was stunned by its potential for beauty. I tend to use these materials under resin to keep them out of circulation. We all know once you get glitter on one thing it spreads everywhere, and I don’t love that. For environmental purposes I try to be as sustainable as possible when sourcing the more novel pigments and glitters.
My paintings are spaces for people to wander and refocus on what’s really going on in their minds. I make my art for people who seek clarity, play, and escapism from the natural order of things.
How do you make your practice sustainable? Could you give us examples of where you source your pigments?
Claudia Santiso: I source most of my materials from a local New York City vendor, Guerra Pigments. They have a collection of water-based pigments that give oils a run for their money. It’s also glitter heaven. Everything I need can be found here minus resin. For resin I’m a big fan of Art Resin which has the lowest VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and virtually no fumes.
Who do you make your art for and why?
Claudia Santiso: My paintings are spaces for people to wander and refocus on what’s really going on in their minds. I make my art for people who seek clarity, play, and escapism from the natural order of things. When I’m making paintings, I reference landscapes and spotlight surface tension, but the interpretation of the final image I have created is for the viewer to decide.
Some people believe their paintings are extensions of themselves. However, it sounds like you see the paintings as something outside of yourself. Are you escaping while you’re painting? When does the painting become something beyond you?
Claudia Santiso: Painting feels like a cartography of my internal landscape and I hope whatever maps I create are relatable to viewers in an intuitive way, without need for my personal contextualization. When I’ve achieved these objectives, the painting is no longer mine. What all of us see is what it is.
What are your artworks recontextualizing or exposing?
Claudia Santiso: My artworks recontextualize scenes from nature and expose psychological landscapes of what we can imagine other worlds to be. What does nature mean in a universal galactic kind of way?
Are you referencing specific landscapes or parts of nature? If so, which ones? Could you tell us about the imagined world you see in “Reflective Love” or another work in our exhibition?
Claudia Santiso: I think in some ways I’m always pulling imagery from spaces we don’t see often. For example, “Reflective Love” is my imagined planetary surface. Perhaps it’s inside of a rock, the surface of an asteroid, or the bottom of the ocean. I incorporate an amalgamation of space images I’ve seen before but there’s not a particular reference to one thing. I’m into textures that reference something familiar but not totally identifiable.
Your artworks in this exhibition appear non-representational. What is the significance of that absence of human presence?
Claudia Santiso: I prefer to deal with abstraction as a way of presenting feelings that are very human without a hard figure to hold accountable.
Are you working on projects or doing research in your studio currently that you’d like to share?
Claudia Santiso: At the moment I’m working on creating some 3D objects and sculptural jewelry using bright pigments and resin. I’ve always wanted to create pieces of jewelry that feel like extensions of my work but wearable. I’m making vessels for magic pigments in the form of a bracelet. This has been a new development for me and one which I’m having a great time exploring.
Releasing any fear of going too far or messing something up is usually where I find a space of love and opportunity. It is more important that I learn something new or release something in me I haven’t previously seen or felt.
Do you have any advice or reflections that you would like to share with other artists?
Always push forward. I think, especially when you’re starting, you can’t be precious. Get comfortable with painting something you like and destroying that to find something you love. There are literally no mistakes!
Could you describe what your love is or feels like with your painting?
Claudia Santiso: For me, painting isn’t always a relaxing joyful place to be. Sometimes it makes me comfortable and sometimes, nothing makes me more uncomfortable. Searching for new ways to push color boundaries and materials is always the goal. Finding parts of painting that I haven’t seen before is important to me and has helped me really trust the process. Releasing any fear of going too far or messing something up is usually where I find a space of love and opportunity. It is more important that I learn something new or release something in me I haven’t previously seen or felt. A “pretty” image isn’t enough for me.