We had the good fortune of connecting with Carla Contreras and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carla, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” -Mahatma Gandhi Being a Latin American artist living and working in the United States makes me resonate with this quote and reflect on my identity and role as an immigrant member of this community. Through the ideas, concerns, and perspectives that inspire my artistic production, I want to make a statement addressed to the national and international members of our civilization. It does not matter where you come from. What matters is to make a difference where you are! Me, as many millions of people in the United States were not born here, but we love this country, we love the cities we live in, and we want to contribute actively and positively to the growth of this society. I hope that one day this country and all the countries in the world become aware of the importance, and beauty of being developed enough to be able to reach unity in diversity.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I can say that my art-making has been social based for the past four years, the subject matter in my paintings comes as an abstract experiential recollection of information, that I gather from my walks in the booming urban ecosystem. There is a particular event that triggered this approach since I moved to Atlanta. The removal of a bus stop bench from a MARTA bus stop with a shed, where a homeless woman used to live. This bus stop is located on Peachtree street close to the High Museum of Art of Atlanta. I used to see this lady every day during my walks from the train station to SCAD. And one day I noticed that the bench was removed, and the woman was not there any longer. This made an impact on me, my core values, and identity as an artist. Her situation made me wonder about this big contrast that exists between the embellishment of the city and the decay of the human condition, the human connection and the human interaction. Since then my art talks about our human fragility, about life conditions and circumstances, about privilege, about mental health, about the system. Since then I started being more aware and inquisitive about my surroundings, I started to become a type of ‘flâneur’, an observer/wonderer of the city. I am proud of being an Ecuadorian artist that left her comfort zone, home, family, and everything else that was familiar to follow my dream of chasing my voice as an international visual artist. Moving and experiencing new realities and contexts has been crucial for my artistic and personal growth. This has been the hardest and most challenging decision I’ve had to make in my life until now, but at the same time the most rewarding and exciting of the experiences. I feel so grateful with the Atlanta community. I have always felt welcomed and appreciated within the local arts scene. I could not have made it to where I am now professionally without the love, encourage, support, and trust of many people I have met all along the way of this very meaningful journey of almost four years in Atlanta. During this time, I have learned that an opportunity is what can change your life forever. That you should not be afraid of chasing challenges that you feel you are not yet ready for. Since I started my M.F.A program at SCAD I have accepted every single opportunity that has come my way even when I felt I was not prepared enough to do it. Sometimes you just have to accept the challenge and figure it out and learn along the way. I also have learned that you need to work on a wide range of skills to be able to support your own practice. I have had to reimagine my career and roles and use other skills that let me expand the amount of professional opportunities I could dive into. Becoming an educator is one of them. One year ago, SCAD recommended me for a teaching position at Pace Academy private school. This new stage of my professional life helped me discover another important purpose and goal I want to fulfill in my life. I believe that knowledge, experience and acquired skills are only relevant and transcendent when you share them with someone else. Education is necessary so we can learn from each other and pass on valuable information, practices and understandings of the world. As an art teacher, I strive to sow in the minds and hearts of my students the importance of art, its role as a powerful practice to communicate ideas and its beauty in the process of learning different ways to experience, understand and cope with the world around us. The importance of this, the importance and impact of the arts in us as individuals, and us as society is what motivated me to teach.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take her to the High Museum of Art, for a walk in the BeltLine to see the great public art. We would eat and drink something at Ponce City Market. I would take her to the Botanical Gardens and Stone Mountain. Go for a drink at Little Five points and attend some art events at Mint Gallery, at the MET Atlanta, Free Market Gallery in Downtown, or MOCA GA. In my view the most fun and interesting people and vibe are in the areas of the city where diversity thrives and creates an exciting inclusive amalgam of different ethnic backgrounds, ideologies, and interests. East Atlanta area is an example of that.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my parents, who encouraged and supported me to come to Atlanta and pursue my career as a visual artist. To SCAD Atlanta, SCAD Art Sales, and my professors Tom Francis and Michael Brown, for guiding me through the process of looking for my artistic voice and considering me for opportunities that helped me grow as a professional artist. To Jessica Helfrecht, MINT Gallery Interim Executive Director for giving me so many opportunities to engage with the local art scene, and always support my work and the work of so many emerging artists in the Atlanta community. And to my husband Abraham Dos Santos, designer and maker, for being with me all along the way, and sharing together a life full of dreams and projects since I moved to Atlanta in 2016.
Other: https://www.wescover.com/creator/carlacontrerasart https://info.loupeart.com/carla-contreras-artist https://www.scadartsales.com/art/artists/carla-contreras https://www.thehuntressllc.com/carlacontrerasart