I’ve stumbled across Cecilia’s work in quite a few places lately and thought I’d contact her directly to find out the story behind her intriguing work, which she refers to as “photo performances”, camouflaging herself against various patterned backgrounds using body paint or pieces of fabric. Originally from Peru, Cecilia calls Philadelphia, PA home and has lived there for many years. She tells us below how location and re-location play an important roll in her work, explains the process she goes through with her team to create a photo performance and gives us a run down of a typical day in the life of Cecilia Paredes.
LO: Tell us a bit about your background: Where are you from originally, where do you live now and what brought you there? What you enjoy when you’re not creating art?
CP: I am from Lima, Peru but I have lived more years outside Peru than in it. I live in Philadelphia, PA in the US but I come often to Lima. I am never not creating art I’m afraid. It does not have a timetable.
LO: Your “photo-performances” have gotten quite a bit of attention through social media. Explain the process you go through to create a new piece.
CP: Normally one week before, we meet, my crew and I, and solve technical problems, lighting, location, etc and then we proceed to shoot. I paint my assistant, then take photos and then she paints me following my example.
LO: What was your initial inspiration for the photo performances project? How does your background as a serial expat tie in, if at all?
CP: My initial inspiration was the recurrent theme of displacement and relocation.
LO: Using yourself as a model – often nude, though covered in fabric or body paint – what does this series aim to communicate about the female body?
CP: Performance involves nudity one way or the other. The human body is a vehicle to express your thoughts. The series is not about the body though. It’s about location so in this case, the body is part of the landscape.
LO: Talk a bit about the impact of living outside of your home country for so many years. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What does “home” mean to you?
CP: I think the biggest impact in relation to your homeland or the place you call ‘home’ is when you come back and maybe you have missed some things, but you cannot be in two places at the same time. Home is Philly for now.
LO: Does the way you approach your art change when you’re in Pennsylvania, USA versus Lima, Peru or even in Costa Rica? How strongly does location influence your creativity?
CP: I would think yes, location does influence the work, especially in the practical sense. You can do certain things in one location and not in another. If we talk of ideas also, Costa Rica, for example, gives you exuberant nature, whereas Peru gives you the highlands as a predominant image so you have to attend to those influences. Pennsylvania gives me wonderful forests, for example. It’s one of the most serene and beautiful places I have been to and I’m very attached to it.
LO: Apart from the photo performances images, you also work in sculpture and create installations. What sort of materials do you use? Do you have a favorite piece? What do you hope your audience will take away from your work?
CP: Yes, I also do objects and sculpture and installations. I use any sort of material that I would think it will convey the message. I use recycled materials a lot – used copper, metal, embroidery, discarded elements of nature, all sorts of material. My favorite piece is always the one I have in mind as the next project. I hope the audience will have with my work a spiritual moment, like a break and a hope. It is a very ambitious aim, but I do believe that art can give solace.
LO: As an artist, you’re obviously a very visual person, but tell us which other sense most inspires you and why:
CP: Sound. I am married to an opera composer!
LO: How does a typical day in the life of Cecilia Paredes begin?
CP: A 5am internet connection with Europe. We are starting the day and they are already at 11am, full of work. At 6.30am, I have a coffee, continue work until 8 or 8:30am and then go on the treadmill and eat breakfast: yougurt, chia seeds, fruit. Off to the studio next. I’m back at 2.30 pm for lunch – a one hour break – and off back to deal with the other part of work which is searching, welding review, papers, etc.
LO: What are you working on now or what is next for you?
CP: My next exhibition is a solo show at the Vladimir Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Vladimir Palace used to be Peter the Great’s home, so you can imagine, its quite an honor.
For more about Cecilia and her work, visit http://ceciliaparedes.net/.