Joia Magazine December 2007
The Rhapsody of Eternal Dreams
by Camilo Rojas Rojo
Terry Rodgers: I was always obsessed with drawing. Everything. That just naturally morphed into painting.
JOIA: Tell us...Approximately how long is the process of creating one of your paintings?
TR: The process of developing my paintings is a combination of things. First, I am always noticing the world around me and how it is represented. And the fantasies are passed off as real in our world.
But the development of the paintings hinges upon my noticing, and my response to, individuals and the details of their bodies and faces. How their mouths go, their eyes, their eyebrows, their ribs and stomach. And how they can express some internal presence and awareness. So I stop people everywhere, on the street, in restaurants, in elevators, to ask them if they will model for me. Whenever someone strikes me as an expressive possibility.
I then get them into a studio to photograph them. I dress or undress them. Fix the makeup and hair and then work several hours with them developing gestures that feel natural and somehow revealing of an internal life. I’m always thinking of how they might be in a room full of people.
Then comes the process of thinking of the many people I have photographed and who inspires me as a group, or solo. This is an interesting process of comparing and juxtaposing photos to see what fits together for me. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle of arms, legs, couches, energies, vectors, and emotions.
Then when that feels organized, I draw it out on a canvas and begin painting. And the painting can take 2 to 5 weeks depending on the size and the complexity.
TR: The paint itself is most luscious. It is the magical way that it can be both a viscous, oleaginous mess and the lovely curves of an elegant stomach that always amazes me. And in my paintings, because of their size, the active surface of the paint is very visible.
JOIA: What is the relation between your artwork and you? Has it some relation with your life? (thinking about the aesthetic perfection, the levels of beauty, the characters independence).
TR: These paintings are metaphors, realizations of unspoken and barely realized fantasies that inhabit the corners of our minds. And I’m not speaking of everywhere, but it is true for much of North America and Europe. The images and notions and icons and values that we take in, often unconsciously, grow and color our thoughts and judgments of each other and ourselves. And part of the metaphor is that it may not be unclad images of unsatisfied beautiful people against which someone compares their world. It may be any fiction that leaves one unsatisfied with who one is.
So, no, I do not attend parties like this. They are real and not real. They live in the mind. The interesting issues are what aesthetic perfection has to do with living with other human beings. Especially when we insist that people themselves be compared to some aesthetic perfection – as if there were such a thing for humans. Do “wide” people have a different standard? Or long-nosed? Or short-legged? It’s crazy! But we always evolve some standards for levels of beauty. It’s one of the things that cultures seem to do. And then some people are “in” and some are “out” and it has nothing to do with how we relate to each other, but everything to do with how we feel about ourselves. The paintings are a way of experiencing the conundrum of how splendid these aspects of the world are, and how overwhelming they are and how there is simply too much to understand or find one’s way through.
TR: Excess, luxury and eroticism seem to be put forth as defining aspects of success in North American, Western European and some Asian cultures (among others.) We are cultures of symbols. Interaction is not prized or promoted. Even Pleasure is not really prized or promoted. But the symbols that are equated to these are put forth, and now inhabit our consciousness. I’m sure that other systems of hierarchies come into play in more agrarian or self-supplying cultures, but in advanced capitalistic societies, I suspect this is a fairly logical situation. You can’t market happiness, but you can market “things.” There is nothing the matter with the things, with the luxury, or the eroticism, but, when they replace experience, relationship and happiness, we’re living in a state of confusion.
So my interest was in portraying the difficulties we have in navigating these cultures.
TR: We are all taken in by something in this mystifying realm. But what is glamorous to one is repugnant to another. And this ethereal thing of “beauty” is a very odd way of segregating people and turning them into objects. But in the world of nature, the world of natural selection, we are but objects for the propagation of the species. So there is this constant push-pull. Things can never be pinned down. They remain slippery. They have multiple realities. So there is, of course, a bit of irony, obvious attraction, constantrepulsion and the ever-present sense of a reality that can not be ignored. This is how we are.
JOIA: Do you participate in these parties?
TR: No. These are parties of the mind. These are renderings of the background experiences inhabiting our imaginations.
TR: This is not North American Society. This is the background noise in our communal consciousness and communal imaginations. They represent the desires and the confusions we all face. The details are specific to North America, Western Europe, parts of Russia, some of Japan, among others. But the systems of desire and the icons against we judge ourselves and others, is probably common to many cultures.
JOIA: The glamour that you portray, in our South American society is totally other people’s, it doesn't exist. How do you think your work is received in a place like Chile?
TR: I ask myself this kind of question all the time. It’s the same as “How does a man react to this image?” “How does a woman react to this image?” “How are they different reactions?” I think the question is “Is there a metaphor in this painting that works for a broad range of experience?” Does the confusion resulting from idolizing “beauty” resemble other forms of confusion? Other ways in which our minds are filled with ideas that are not directly from our experience.
JOIA: Is there some artist who approaches the themes that you treat?
TR: These themes have been broadly approached historically from time to time. Most interestingly, artists like George Grosz, Max Beckmann, and even Goya approached these themes quite differently in their own times.