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Artist and Art Instructor Carmen Jimenez
Artist and Art Instructor Carmen Jimenez
an interview

by Dr Nancy Mazur

Nancy Mazur- Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you became interested in art?
Carmen Jimenez- I was born in Leon, MX and lived there until 20 years old. At age five, I was put in a ballet class and that was my first experience of expressing myself. I was an introverted child and it was a new feeling for me to learn I could express my inner self through movement.

I still dance, and I loved that form of art, but also I started painting class at age 12. Later, I sold copies I made in pastel of famous master artists, such as Lautrec, Manet, Van Gogh. I also began to receive my first commissions to do portraits of family friends.

I did not really have a teacher, I mostly taught myself by studying and reproducing famous paintings in many styles. At 18 years old I started with oil painting. As you can see from the photos of my first paintings, I was exploring surrealism and reaching into my inner feelings. I can say that my parents were quite surprised by what they saw on the canvas.

NM- When did you come to live in SMA and how did your art evolve?
CJ- In 2002 I came to study painting at the Instituto Allende. It was not long after that that I took my first sculpture class and I really loved it. I stopped painting and I began to feel as though I was in a dance with the clay. I even copied myself in the mirror and I came to know hidden aspects of myself this way.

My father always had encouraged me to read and study philosophy and psychology. After I read Gurdjieff I understood that what I had felt about dance was confirmed, that the movements of the body reflect the inner emotional state and that this was also true with my sculpture. The body's position, shape and movements are a reflection of states of mind. I like to express emotional truths through the body. I also realized that clay is a living material; the water in it can absorb emotions from me through my hands. This is how the subconscious comes through from the artist to the medium. Maybe it is also the clay itself that has a way to express its own emotions. Who can say?

NM- What is your current project and can you explain further what you have said about the medium of sculpture?
CJ- This winter I had completed an installation for a glorieta in Leon and I was thinking, “What will I do next?” It was during the Christmas holiday and and all around me was so much food, so many gifts, and a feeling people have during that season of “More! More!” I started to think of gluttony and of greed and avarice. So, I have started to create a series of sculptures of the 7 deadly sins.

I began to make very fat bodies. I love the plasticity of a fat body, so much fun to work with. I saw that I was creating these sculpted figures of grotesque bodies, but with very innocent and very sweet faces. This brought out my compassion for huge people, for people stuck in their avarice, their lust and greed.

As always, things change as you go on. I took the original concept of expressing an idea I had through clay. As I worked, I left it open to see what comes. Then, I found that I was beginning to connect emotionally with the figure. Through the clay, we are having a conversation.

This idea is connected with my dancing. For example, Sufi dancing is very introspective. The movements relate to the subconscious mind of the dancer. A hand, in dance or in sculpture, expresses the entire personality, maybe in one gesture. A curved back shows the person is feeling inward, hiding, protected. Very long arms, like mine, can indicate reaching out, searching and stretching oneself. (Here Carmen demonstrates a lovely, sinuous bellydance movement with her arms.)

NM- What has been the most difficult challenge you have faced on your path as an artist?
CJ- The hardest has been to believe that I am an artist. Since I learned art by copying the Masters, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Carravaggio and Javier Marin, I felt, well, THOSE are artists. Then I decided to just work, work, work with discipline and a real commitment; that's really what finally created an artist. Because of the work itself, the artist within me was created.

A person might have a lot of talent, but if it isn't developed, if it's not challenged, it won't become art. You will never go deep, and you will never be the artist that you are. So, I decided to BE an artist and I have now dedicated two years of my life to doing only sculpture. For me now, there is only my son, my teaching and my art. When I am clear, as I am about this, then all is in order and there are no more choices.

NM- Can you say something about teaching art to others?
CJ- Yes, well, rather I call it “sharing.” I learn all of the time. I share my knowledge and technique and then my students take me somewhere I could never be myself. We are all so different, and when I see you in your art, that also affects me to see things in a new way. I share my gift, my knowledge, and then I grow also in the process. I like to teach in a personal way. I like to know each student. I see their creations, their own personal expressions. I can feel and connect with them, read them through their choice of colors and lines. I ask where they want to go with their work, to go there through what they feel. For example, if their painting is looking like a Van Gogh style, then maybe their feelings are of loneliness, torture, whatever is coming through the painting.

I ask them what they want; I don't say, “This is how you paint.” If I see someone is painting a very classical portrait, I see they are maybe conservative, that they might be someone who wants and likes to follow rules. I won't push that person to paint wild. Well, not at first anyhow. Maybe later. (laughing) But yes, to explore another aspect of themselves, maybe I will.

I also like to teach kids. I like to understand where each student is in their life and help them to move forward, to discover themselves.

NM- What is most important in helping a student to connect with themselves? To move forward?
CJ- There must not be barriers. An art student has to feel safe, feel happy. We joke a lot in class. I play nice music. It is very free and relaxed. Most of all I want the person to feel in a relaxed state, not worried what something will look like. This is the only way they can come to express what they really feel, who they really are. If we can open to the unconscious, then we can explore and create from our true selves.

About Carmen's Art Classes:
Different Styles and techniques.
Each student finds and develops their own unique way to communicate and express their emotions and ideas in painting and sculpture. Through sketches, copies of classical paintings and studies in compositions, each student develops a project that increases their ability to see and read lines in order to perfect their drawing. Learning through the analysis of colors and shapes...

Many concepts in art may be learned with the experience of one creation be it a painting or a sculpture.

Carmen will have an exhibition of her sculpture later this year.

Visit Carmen's website.


Carmen in front of an installation she made for the City of Leon

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Dr Nancy Mazur is a Naturopathic Doctor and a Homeopath. She has lived in San Miguel de Allende for 7 years. Recently, she has discovered a new budding talent, painting, thanks to Carmen Jimenez.

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