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The total immersion
Aurora Armijo isn't above acting a little childish — making play forts out of blankets and couch cushions, or sitting down for a tea party with a fuzzy little kitty named Mary-Kate. She's not above shoving off everything she owns, either, leaving her comfort zone for the lives of other people for a three-month tour of self-discovery.
And she's totally not above admitting she's unsure what she found.
Her work, a collection of paintings, drawing and mixed-media presentations, seeks to explore the connections we have to our history. Interested parties should get to Cafe Corazon for tonight's ArtHop, to see for themselves. If you miss it (we're not suggesting you should) her show, “Lock It,” will be up at the cafe on the Fulton Mall through September.
In your press release for the show you talk about “total environment immersion.” What does that mean and how does that inform your work?
“Total environment immersion” is the best way for me to learn. I am the first person to admit that I am selfish — I don't want to miss out on anything, because I am typically really excited about the world around me. I want to suck information out of every situation and opportunity. When you take the blinders off, you make yourself vulnerable, and that vulnerability is what gives work heart. That's the stuff I care about. So that's what I try to infuse my pieces with.
In many ways, it seems like your blog is an extension of your art. It seems you're always blogging about some project or another (I'm thinking of the 24-hour video blog, or the Mad Tea Party). How does that all tie into your public art?
I've been blogging for so long, that there isn't really a big difference between the work presented on my site and at my physical shows. I don't think blogging in particular is a separate aspect of my life. It's really important to me to present a cohesive aesthetic, so the projects on my blog are hard-boiled presentations of my life — Web site or not, I'm pretty sure I'd be documenting. I had a tea party because lots of female artists I admired were presenting a chance to have a unifying, creative experience. I did the 24-hour video blog last year because it had a forced, timed voyeuristic quality that I knew would push me physically, but would focus in on the seemingly mundane.
That said, at the physical shows, it's easier to enter a world. Online, I have more control over the information the viewer has access to. That's the really beautiful thing about the blogging community — you can push yourself as hard as you need to be pushed, and everyone seems accessible, even Art Heroes.
You spent three months living the lives of other people. Is that literally or figuratively? What did you learn? And how did you return to being “yourself” after that?
It was as literal an experience as I could make it. I got rid of everything I could in preparation for the project. No home base to pay rent at, no bed. I gave things away or put it up on Craigslist. I got rid of everything that wouldn't fit in the cab of my trusty truck and armed myself with two shirts and a jumper, my laptop and a few art supplies. I shaved my head again so I wouldn't have to get a haircut for the three-month duration of the project. I did not want to have to worry about anything but soaking up the lives of the people I was living with.
I am only really scared of one thing, and that's being held back by fear. I still cater to that all the time, but I do recognize how I'm shorting myself. At the time, I was inspired by the different ways my friends were living — everyone had their separate story, but I was lucky enough to be involved with them. I tried to line up the most diverse environments I could — a different place for each week, for 13 weeks. I lived in a sorority house, a retirement home. I lived with co-workers, friends of friends and relatives. I went to every function I could with each person I was living with. Sometimes it was really awkward when people would fight or get upset with each other and I had to remind myself that this isn't about my comfort level.
I don't know if “getting back to myself” ever really happened. I don't know if this is just some sort of escape for me, or if this “immersion” is just part of what makes up my current version of myself. I can't separate much anymore.
Where is your inspiration in Fresno?
My friend came out from Chicago two years ago to visit me in Fresno. He had never been to California and we drove up and down the state for nine days. It was one of the best things I ever did, being his tour guide, because seeing his eyes open wide made my eyes open wide. Things like how many opportunities there are for U-turns. How big and fresh the sushi rolls are. How there are pockets of thrift stores in abundance and that means history in abundance.
People generally care about nurturing and helping push one another along, and that shows in the city as well. There's a building downtown across from the Met that I've watched develop, taking a photo at every stage of construction. First it looked like patchwork, with different colored paints blocked in. Then yellow panels went up. Then scaffolding. Then grey slabs. Fresno is kinda like that building, you know? You put some effort in and you can watch it grow. People want that.
Explain the “Lock It” show.
“Lock It” is a connection between closing and opening. When you try to get rid of things, you are still left with your history. There are some shitty, shitty things that can happen to you, but you still have great choices to make, like the chance to be selective about who you lock out or lock in. Autonomy is so appealing. I had decided while I was putting together pieces for the show that Café Corazon was the only place to have it, and luckily, the owners agreed to it when I asked. It was really important to me to show this in a place that was comfortable enough for genuine intimacy, a location where people could move from one mood to another.
What's with these cupcakes you're serving for ArtHop tonight?
I became obsessed with different cupcakes a few years ago — frosting ideas, cake concoctions, decorations. It's become almost a joke among me and my friends. They know to expect cupcakes for any birthday or graduation or promotion or citation or break up.
I'm gonna get deep. What is “art?”
Art is anything that makes you feel (literally or physically) or gets the motor in your brain turning.
Your earliest artistic memory?
Tasting some sand on the beach in Humboldt County and shivering. I was probably about five.
You do a wide range of work (installation pieces, drawings, paintings, poster design, etc.). Do you have a favorite medium/mode?
Installation is my first love, but I'm hesitant to give it much distinction because I don't see much division. I'll do whatever I need to in order to achieve the idea that's in my head. Installation allows for endless opportunity. The poster design was the quickest path connecting two things I love — music and art (not that there's too much difference between the two). I also love that it's plainly utilitarian and instantly can create dialogue.
What's your day job?
I've been working at Pollstar Magazine for three years now, handling tour dates and working with some of my best friends. It funnels directly into ideas for my art.
So, what's with you and Stephen Malkmus?
Oh, gosh. Stephen! When I turned 15, my English teacher gave me a copy of Pavement's “Wowee Zowee.” '90s purists usually argue that this is a lesser album in their lexicon, but it holds such a precious place in my life and introduced me to a world outside a top 40 playlist.
“'Cause everyone lies, there's no where to die. There's no place to shove my sharpened heels.”
Are you kidding me?! Mr. Malkmus is wordy, and in case you can't tell, so am I. Some girls have Nick Lachey. I have Stephen Malkmus. If I had a locker, he'd be the Tiger Beat pin-up in it. Also, here's a little known Fresno fact: his mother went to high school here.
Is there anything I missed? What do you want people to know about the show/your work/you as a person, that isn't answered above?
“Lock It”— works by Aurora Armijo
5 to 8 p.m., tonight
Shows through September
Cafe Corazon, 1145 Fulton Mall