Carla Negron is a contemporary artist from Puerto Rico who, despite being quite young, has produced a truly stunning and impressive body of work. From an early age, Carla knew that art is her true calling in life and has pursued painting with the greatest of passions. Her style is very distinctive - a fusion of explosive colours, shapes, lines and curves which all come together to produce striking compositions. In each painting, Carla bares her soul and leaves a part of herself on the canvas. Consequently, her artworks are full of life and raw energy. Carla has exhibited her work at various galleries in Puerto Rico and the US and has also done some exciting collaborations with big brands, including the luxury bag company Coach. Carla Negron is one truly inspiring artist driven by her boundless creativity and vivid imagination.
Can you tell us about your childhood and growing up in Puerto Rico. Were you very creative as a kid?
I was a big surprise to my parents, they were 40 when they got the news that my mother was expecting me. They were filled with deep joy imagining a new member of the family. My two older sisters treated me like I was a doll - they taught me to walk, to swim, to read, they were my mentors at the beginning of my life. My relationship with my mother at this age was sublime, she represented all the good things that love can give to a person. Her sweetness protected me, she was the first one to see and love the person I really was, she saw the artist in me being born. The figure of my father for me was the most admirable in this stage of my life. The way he carried himself, his profound love towards literature, philosophy, freedom of expression but above all to my sisters, my mother and me. We were his life and his happiness. All the members of my family planted a little seed of curiosity, excitement and creativity that molded me into wanting more out of myself. Wanting more of that thing I was able to do with the world around me. And that moment when what you give to the world is something pure and new, is the moment you realize you just created ART. So now I’m six years old and aware of my passion and purpose and so is my mother Aurin. I remember that she took me with her everywhere in Puerto Rico, especially to the university where my father Santos was a professor of Economics and to a very special library called Libreria del Niño. I always carried with me something to draw with and that day there was this art competition for kids from 6 to 9 years old and my mother gave me a paper and some pencils. Suddenly, I was the happiest kid in the world painting on the floor in the library and a woman stopped my mom and said to her not to leave. So we stayed and my mom had already turned in the paper where I had made a drawing of the discovery of Puerto Rico by Columbus so we waited. Time went on and it was the moment to announce the winners in the category 6 to 9 years old and I was first place and the prize was a paid tuition to take art classes in La Liga Del Arte in Old San Juan. That was my first step into the art world as a kid surrounded by an amazing mother and father that always opened doors of the impossible for me and gave me the courage to scream and dance and love the way I wanted to love, scream and dance.
When did you accept that being creative is in your DNA and you just knew that art is your true calling in life?
I started to understand, through my own way of seeing the world, that I was an artist because every event, every situation or trauma or discovery I experienced in my childhood, I ventilated and transformed into art. That was my way of developing a relationship with the world around me. Sometimes, a world full of beauty and fulfillment, other times a world I could barely understand or cope with. But art was a magic window that I opened in my mind and soul and it would take me on long and exciting adventures of bliss and infinite possibilities. Since I was a child, the one thing that has never trembled in my life is the absolute certainty that I was born to create.
Could you talk us through the process of what happens when you pick up the brush and start painting?
The creative process is a mystery when it comes to the action of painting. Improvisation is the force that moves my brushstrokes and, in some way, I only perceive it through the action itself. The idea develops into something that a bi-dimensional surface can express or try to give life to something not tangible or conceptually fragmented. Personally, I experience a beautiful rush of infinite possibilities with a battle of balance and forms. I feel anxiousness, liberation, fury and the silence of absorbing what has been revealed or released onto the canvas. Giving birth to uniqueness and being pregnant with pure ideas that can only be encountered through creativity.
When you paint, how much do you think about the viewer of your paintings? Are you painting for an audience or is it more internal and then you let it go and share it?
I paint because it’s who I am. I can’t escape this gift I have been given since birth. There’s no logical way to understand this. It’s clear to me that the product of my creative action is for the world. Without the spectator, what I create is just a part of me like my heart or brain. The spectator transforms it into art by emancipating my own perception and confronting and accepting the perspective of the world where my creations are going to live and be present without hurting me.
What kind of feelings do you want to evoke in the viewer perceiving your art?
Feelings are a human expression by nature. Art brings out every inch of those deep emotions even the ones you are not aware of. I respect the power of art, it can change a life as it has changed mine. It’s a non-stopping foreign element that melts with who you are completely. And what I want to provoke in the spectator varies as the human element is so unique. I can’t even imagine the possibilities that one painting, sculpture, installation, song, poem, story and all the manifestations of art have in the universe of human perceptions, it’s a mystery that l’m willingly giving my life to.
Why do you think you love the process of painting so much?
I love the process of painting so much because it's improvisation in the purest form. Constantly discovering a new and unique world of creation born in my soul, mind and spirit. Nothing can prepare you for what’s going to happen. It’s a beautiful mystery that I practice everyday. I love it sometimes and I feel afraid other times and so much more that it would be impossible to express.
When it comes to inspiration, is there anything in particular that lights the spark of your creativity?
The mystery within life itself is the most palpable desire and drive that I, as a creative, have experienced in my life. I am able to explain with absolute clarity what provokes this in me. Desperation is a beautiful gift that shows me that in the darkness, of all those things to be desperate for, something happens that transforms itself into a gift of self love and collective. Drive that navigates us through life. Yes, I’m lit up by life, the depths of emotion, the amazing innocence in my children’s eyes when I wake up to a family that lives love. I feel blessed giving the world beauty with my hands and imagination. The spectator plays a very important role in this process of awakening my creativity. Without the spectators, there is nothing to share or fear or love.
Looking at your body of work, is there a painting that you are especially proud of or emotionally connected to?
Truthfully yes, there is a body of artworks that I feel especially connected to and even fully expressed - my self-portraits. There’s something mystical and sublime when I paint myself. I called them (Las Que Viven En Mi) Those Who Live In Me. The creative process migrates powerfully through me in the form of canvas, paper, poetry and we become entangled together in life. By a process that I explore every single day obsessively in my self-portraits. Just to check in with the Carla inside me and enjoy the conversation of everyday life with myself on canvas or paper. It’s a relationship I work hard everyday to maintain, because I don’t know who will come out of those who live inside me. Those deep inside me scratch the surface of who I think I am and gift me the gift of growth. She has abolished herself through art and has become something else, something even more real than me.
Do you think painting is a form of therapy which can help you overcome or deal with difficult feelings and emotions?
I think of the ability I was born with is a form of conceiving the world around me and inside me in a beautiful collision of faith and consistency. I won’t label it as therapy because I really don’t believe it to be a form of therapy but a manifestation, a loud scream in the middle of the night of hope and survival. A struggle between all there’s inside me to gift to the world and all that the world, since its creation, has given me to this present moment. It’s an instant complex relationship.
The spirit of Boonji is to support and protect the creative. Is it important for you to support other creatives and what role do you see yourself playing?
It is very imperative for me to support, protect and learn from other creatives. That’s how we blossom - by exchanging our unique ideas and enriching each other's lives, as we should. All respecting our individual talents and the joy of being active in the community around us. As a creative woman, I feel the depths that loneliness can provoke and sometimes it gets hard to see a way out and then I realize that we are not alone that we have ourselves and our own beautiful way of seeing and perceiving the world. We need to unite from all corners of the world and speak loud and clear about what makes us who we are. I’m reaching out my hand in all the chaos around me and screaming for us to connect.
What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness? Wow. I believe that happiness is bigger than oneself. You have to be open and accept everyday life and be happy. Life is a big puzzle with new and unknown pieces constantly appearing in the most unusual moments and sometimes unnoticed. That’s when it can all go away or be synchronized in pure coincidence - notice sometimes it just takes a blink or a wrong turn to lose happiness. Those are the decisions that mold us and help achieve things that make us happy. The little things that leads us into the future and that future is constructed everyday by our own hands. The dream of total happiness for me would be to live in a world where life is respected and humans have a commonwealth to rejoice in. Achieving equality, justice and respect for all of us sharing this beautiful world. “El Bien Comun de Los Hombres” that’s my dream.
What would you like to say to your 16 old self?
Carla, you are not a selfish little girl. Until now, life has been a gift of pure joy and a safe heaven, but right now the decisions you’re taking with your life will change everything. It’s going to be a troubled path and pain is going to take you places unknown to you so far. But I can tell you these choices are going to be the only reason I exist right now. I promise you will never be alone because here I am 35 years old waiting for you. Staring at the life you are building for us. I love you Carla. Don’t lose your sense of who you should be and be yourself right now. Meet you there!
What are you currently working on?
I have been working on this new concept that I call “The Gift of Desperation”. It will consist of 25 canvases all in big format. The thesis is developed around the feeling of lost vs reality and intends to transport the spectator to a new pathway of freedom and beauty. Desperation is interpreted as a force of nature in the human state and it could and should be used as energy and drive. To feel desperate is a necessity that leads us to discovery, creation and craving more of the simple things around us. Wanting more of the world inside us and that surrounds us. I’m very passionate about this process I’m going through with these works. It has been revealed to me that believing and desperation is a gift, a precious weapon that transforms into action. It can overcome our fears and if we are awake and aware it most certainly will save our lives.