Interview: Cynthia Grow
Luca Curci talks with Cynthia Grow, winner of the Honorable Mention during the ITSLIQUID International Contest – 7th edition.
Cynthia Grow is a visual artist whose work explores the interstices between art and language. Influenced by her studies in literature, she works alternately between abstract paintings and text-based conceptual works on paper. She harnesses the same sources of inspiration for both – language and memory – and achieves an overall aesthetic signature marked by strong senses of mood, poetry, and atmosphere. Cynthia studied painting at Accademia d’Arte in Florence, Italy and has completed projects at residencies throughout Italy and Spain, as well as seminars at New York Studio School, National Academy School of Fine Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to studio training, she completed a program in Modern Art, Connoisseurship & Art Markets at Christie’s Education New York and holds a Master’s degree with a concentration in Modern Arts & Literature from University of South Florida. Cynthia has exhibited works in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami as well as galleries and cultural centers in Europe including Florence, Venice, Rome, Madrid, and Barcelona. Her work has been featured in prizes, publications, and exhibitions across both continents. She lives and works between the United States and extended periods in Barcelona.
Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Cynthia Grow – It’s always a bit of loaded question for me this “What’s your background? Where are you From?”. I’ve always felt disconnected here in the States. Always, since a young age. A stranger in my own country, especially these days. Like many Americans – we seem to move without a thought – often uprooted and untethered, whether by choice or circumstance. But this is another conversation entirely. I have lived in many places in the U.S., first growing up in a sleepy town on the Florida Gulf Coast. Later living and working in many places – New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina, now back to Florida – I need the warmth and the sea and the sun! It wasn’t until formally studying painting in Italy and later, spending long stretches of time in Barcelona at various art residencies that it all came together for me. In both countries – Italy and Spain – I feel like the ‘real me’. The culture, the history, the rhythm, the climate, the food, the
sense of community, the intimate friendships I have made. Everywhere has problems of course. There’s always Light and Dark. And don’t we as artists feel the obligation to explore not just the Light and Dark, but the Grey in between? Now I typically spend half the year in Barcelona with hopes to move there permanently in the not too distant future, as soon as it’s feasible. Literature, poetry, philosophy, and New Wave and Neorealismo film – as well as my own experiences influence and inform my work. When one grows up in a place that’s devoid of culture beyond the regional history, and feels like an outsider in her own home, she finds comfort and understanding and knowledge and an entire world in books. Prior to formal art studies, I completed a Master’s degree in Literature. That by far has been one of the biggest influences in my work. And continues to be.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in the society? And contemporary art?
CG – The artist and contemporary art can play many roles. There are many artists who create beautiful works. There will always be an audience and buyer for that. Sometimes a landscape is just that. What you see. A landscape. No deeper meaning beyond something pretty to look at. And there’s nothing wrong with bringing a little beauty to this sometimes ugly world. However, the art that resonates with me most, and the art that I humbly attempt to create, is art that plays a more critical role. Art that sheds light on what remains obscure to most people. Not in a glaringly
obvious way, but subtly, often employing the use of humor and irony. It brings to mind the Picasso quote – “Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth. At least the truth that is given us to understand”. I think that really sums it all.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
CG – When I spend time in Europe, I am always trying to learn the language – Catalan mostly, but also Italian, French, and Spanish. I pick up books, often poetry books which have small, digestible pieces of text. It’s how I learn best – visually. I need to see the text. Ultimately, I find myself reading and comprehending. And then, by some Magic – I have stumbled upon something entirely new! And it fuels my art. This happened in Barcelona with Catalan literature and poetry. It has become my passion. Almost an obsession. A way for me to deeper understand the language, history, and culture. And discover a wealth of literature that isn’t widely known or translated into English – at least in the United States. So that has found its way into my work, certainly. Beyond that? I mentioned the Grey. The in-between. Perhaps it comes from long stretches alone being a silent observer in a foreign place. I explore the interstices between art and language,
engaging themes of memory, desire, and complex interpersonal relationships. I prefer to play on the idea of ambiguity. The liminal, the spaces in between. Of the absent or hidden, the imperceptible, the unspoken – the things felt but unseen. Perhaps a complicit glance, a brief and silent accord. Moments that transcend time, space, language, and culture. Memory. And what remains. Presence of Absence. Mystery. Silence. In both art and in life, I find what is hidden or obscured more compelling than the overt and believe that hiding part of the world is inherent to the act of showing the world. For this reason, I prefer to leave ambiguity in my work, regardless the medium. Similar to the poet’s sense of reduced language to communicate, creating mood and meaning where there may be no obvious story. Posing a question minus the answer, I offer the viewer to
become an important determiner of meaning; allowing space to experience his own feeling, to arrive at his own conclusion. In the end, ambiguity is always the theme I seem to return to. Searching for something imperceptible. For something haunting in the work, perhaps in a place,
maybe in the ‘other’, but mostly, I imagine, in myself.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
CG – I can speculate briefly about the Art Market, what I read, see my colleagues doing, what we discuss. The Traditional gallery model versus Independent Artist, how things have radically changed in the age of Instagram, independent fairs, virtual exhibitions now with Covid-19. The
World has certainly grown smaller in the past decade. And I think that’s a great Equalizer which democratizes the art world – to a degree. There are so many fantastic artists out there who don’t live in traditional metropolitan art areas, who would have been toiling away forever in obscurity or simply given up had it not been for the internet. I’ve met some of them. I’ve seen their work. And it’s incredibly refreshing, given that I studied at Christie’s, worked at a Blue Chip Gallery in New York and have been part of that ‘world’. There’s room for all of us. For Me? It’s been the same as always. Born an artist. Live as an artist. Hopefully, but not too soon,
Die an artist. I’m not furiously creating every moment. I go through fits and stages. There are the practicalities of Life. Yes, most times I prefer to be alone in the studio or wherever with my thoughts. I desperately need that introspection. Other times, it’s best to come up for air and join
the land of The Living. To tune out. Watch a film. Share a night of laughs and a bottle of wine with friends. In my work, I try to remain true to what moves me. What resonates. What speaks to my soul, the things that haunt me. That get in my brain and don’t let go. No matter how obscure the
idea. I try to forget about the “Market” what people might like. Forget about chasing something or creating work that’s “in” or “trending.” Sure, there are many people who are successful in doing this. Some make a killing financially. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Good for you! But – for
me, I find that the times I have tried to create something that “people might like” – that might sell well, it goes horribly wrong and the work is somehow ‘dead’ to me. I always destroy those pieces. Which is quite cathartic. So I am learning to just stick to what I want to do – creating these strange
little paper pieces, and tune out any ‘noise’. My work will find its way to someone. And if it doesn’t? Does it really matter in the end? I can’t say. I have no illusions. I’m just going to continue to do my thing.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
CG – Absolutely. Change is the only Constant, no? While at times I like to work large-scale, I started doing text pieces – collage, book works at art residencies in Europe. For the reasons I mentioned earlier, falling in love with the regional literature, my love of books. Stumbling upon old books in
antique and second-hand stores that were gems, little works of art in themselves. I use a lot of old book pages in my work. It breaks my heart a bit every time I ‘destroy’ a book, rip out a page, and paint on it. My style changed mostly for practical reasons – lack of studio space, traveling, the logistics and cost of shipping artwork from Europe back to U.S. I can’t tell you how many times I have pulled a suitcase around the streets of Barcelona, full of just one change of clothes and nothing but my artwork for my journey back to U.S. I just dump it all and save the art! But beyond the practicality, I discovered that’s where my strength and passion lies – it was a serendipitous blessing – in the books. In the text. In the words. These little pieces I would do ironically started out as ‘studies’ for larger pieces I planned to work on once back home in my permanent studio. But they ended up being works that stand alone. And seem to resonate most with viewers.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
CG – Yes. Thank you for giving artists the platform to show their work both in Italy and internationally. And giving me the opportunity to share a little more of who I am and what motivates my work, beyond the typical artist ‘statement’. For your readers and viewers to understand a little more in
depth about the artist and motivation behind the art! I look forward to future opportunities with ITSLIQUID GROUP as well as possible collaboration with art world professionals and aficionados familiar with your site.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
CG – Yes. Thank you for the opportunity. I am very pleased to have my work chosen for an Honorable Mention in the 7th International Contest. I look forward to future collaborations with ITSLIQUID GROUP!