Last week I had the pleasure of spending an hour in the studio with Connie Zamorano, a young artist originally from Texas, who is currently completing her Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of North Carolina. While wandering around Connie’s studio, I immediately noticed her love of nature and insects, specifically the cicada. Her thesis is entitled UPROOT and the exhibition is going on right now (March 31- April 5) in The John and June Allcott Gallery at the Hanes Art Center, see the details at the bottom of this post. I didn’t want to take up too much of Connie’s time since she was only a couple days away from the big show, but I did get to ask her about her creative past, current inspiration, and the process of creating works for UPROOT.
Connie has a fine arts degree from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and has always been interested in art in some form or another. Connie says, “I’ve wanted to do everything.” In high school she played with graphic design and photography and moved onto sculpting, painting and printmaking at Texas A&M. While at UNC she toyed with paper, fabric and draping and eventually focused her attention on drawing. Connie commented, “I have some things on my shelf covered up right now because sometimes I’ll just go grab it and start making stuff.” Connie said, “I realized I really like these traditional, I guess you can say minimal, mediums like lithography and drawing, which are basic and pure and focuses on the form, which is what I’m most interested in.”
When I asked Connie what the common theme or thread was throughout her work, she started to explain her work in such a compassionate way that I was whisked off into a sort of art daydream. I felt like I was transported onto the sidewalk of Connie’s thoughts and the more she explained, the more I understood where she was coming from. This is the short of it, “I’ve gone a lot of different routes, but I guess they [works of art] all have the same thread of gazing or watching. I realized everything I’ve made throughout my life has something to do with this space that exists as a watcher, and watching things from afar and not completely participating, and I think kind of goes back to my personality in that I’m a complete introvert. I normally won’t really approach people, I’ll just sit back and if something’s happening around me I’ll participate and I think it speaks a lot to that.”
“This body of work [UPROOT] has to do with me watching as a child. I’d be running around in the backyard with my sister just drenched in sweat and we were just a mess and digging through the dirt. In the summers I remember hearing the deafening buzz of the cicadas and going around and picking up the little shells and treating them like gems and they were just so amazing. I think these works kind of represent that for me, these little things that I cant get back. I have all these visceral memories but here I’m trying to grasp them again and of course falling short. These kind of become more stale because of my attempt at trying to get that back. Another reason why I think I’m so interested in cicadas is because I don’t know exactly how they change. They’re nymphs and then they go in the ground and I don’t know what happens in there. I remember being little and looking at these holes and wanting to dig them up, but knowing I didn’t want to hurt these little things. I would just wonder and it’s mysterious, like what’s happening (!?) and it would drive me nuts, but at the same time you just have to wait and let it be. I want to understand, but at the same time I like the feeling of not knowing. Then the cicadas emerge and somehow have wings and shed and they’re a bright beautiful green color and then they’re just buzzing around…”
You can see how I was floating in a daydream right? Picturing two little cuties chasing bugs and running around in the Texas sunshine. Whatever happened between all those years of running around as a sweaty little kid and spending hours in the studio drawing, it all went right. You can immediately feel Connie’s sweet and gentle spirit as you carry on a conversation or dig through her desk finding one natural memento after another.
Connie noted that the drawings in her studio are unfinished (news to me!), which compelled me to ask just what goes into one of her works for uproot. She said, “I take a lot of photos, so I basically have this sketch book of photographs then I bring them into the computer to manipulate how I want them. Then I draw them, which is also another form of manipulation because I get to highlight and downplay different features as I see fit.”
Now that I knew what Connie currently works on, I wanted to know what she wishes she had the time and funds to create and what she plans on doing after graduation.
“I wanted to make a whole bunch of molds of the cicada shells and cast them in resin and fill a space with hundreds of those. I love all their little intricate parts. They’re just so weird looking and when the sun hits them they have a golden shine to them.”
“I want to graduate. I’m not in a hurry to get a forever job and maybe that’s just me being flighty.” I assured her it wasn’t just her, it’s me too, the one that still finds a way to dodge a full-time position nearly three years after graduation.
She also said, “I was doing a lot of work with ants. I put them in containers and let them tunnel and then make molds of their tunnels. I also made a really cool ant farm for my boyfriend. I think I’m going to start making ant farms and selling them. I have all these ideas. I think for now after I graduate I’d like to stay around this area and explore a little bit more and be more active in the art community. I’d like to maybe work in art centers around here in order to get more teaching experience.” Isn’t she the sweetest? Thinking about giving back and passing on her knowledge before she even graduates and how great is that ant farm!? I will be the first in line if she starts making them to sell.
I also had a few minutes to ask Connie a couple completely unrelated questions, like, what are three things you’d take with you on deserted island? She immediately said, “A puppy!” “…my car and everything I have in my car. I practically live out of my car.” What do you like to do besides all this creative stuff? “I like to cook, and I’d like to get back into running when I have more time and looking on craigs list all day.” Which is actually how Connie and I found each other! Finally, I was curious how Connie makes money when she’s busy being so crafty. This is something I’m always wondering about other artsy people and when I asked her she kind of had a blank stare. Maybe she’s super thrifty like me? Or maybe she doesn’t think too much about it and her odd jobs are easily forgotten, personally I found them fascinating! In the past Connie has worked as a shrimp harvester (!), where her role was basically a glorified scarecrow. She’s also had garage sales, sold artwork at university shows, and made money off commissions. She’s also done face painting at children’s events, funnily enough, I’ve been tempted to apply to similar positions, but my complete lack of skills has always dissuaded me, which I’m sure is a really, really good thing. Connie has also done drawing and block prints of people’s pets! My sister has the cutest little drawing of her dog Dutch that she commissioned from an artist, but no, the world isn’t that small, it’s by a different artist.
Lastly I asked Connie the question that all Live Seasoned contributors and interviewees can expect: How do you spend your seasons? In the Spring, Connie can be found in her studio working away. During the Summer she visits her family in Texas and in the Fall she loves being outdoors. She’s usually walking around or reading and drawing on her patio. She also consumes pumpkin everything and that carries on until winter when it all goes on clearance and she can stock up until Spring. In the winter she feels more inclined to drink hot drinks, if I’m to guess, I’m betting they’re pumpkin flavored.
Connie’s mfa thesis exhibit, UPROOT, will be running from March 31-April 5 with the opening reception being held on Thursday, April 3rd at The John and June Allcott Gallery in the Hanes Art Center at the University of North Carolina. 115 South Columbia Street Chapel Hill, NC 27599. The gallery is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. I plan on stopping by during the opening reception; I hope I’ll see you there too!