In a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, California, there is an artist/mother embroidering pillows and sheets – mixing colors of threads to make new colors and working around all the nail holes currently in the wall to pin up new work and critique it from across the room. This inspiring woman is Carmen Mardonez. Carmen is a Chilean textile artist making work that seeks to radically reimagine intimate spaces of memories, dreams, and discovery. In our conversation, we discussed her Catholic upbringing in Chile, her self-declaration as an artist, and how the Artist/Mother community helped shape her visibility – especially when she moved to the US in 2017 a newborn baby in her arms, and not knowing a soul other than her husband.
As the oldest of nine siblings (mostly female), Carmen regularly took care of her younger siblings and helped them learn the skills that were needed for home-making – the stand-out being embroidery and sewing. As she reminisces fondly about the closeness with her family, she also states, as she aged into adulthood, that she wanted to break free of those more traditional restraints. Carmen studied History and Arts in the Catholic University of Chile, and received her master’s degree in Community Psychology at the University of Chile, but it wasn’t until moving to the US in 2017 that she declared she would be an artist. In her retelling of her first months in the US, she recalls how she turned to the Artist/Mother community for support, and they were there to catch her and encourage her.
By transforming embroidery into something beyond its original intention, Carmen both honors her heritage and transcends it. The brightly colored threads push and pull on their domestic objects of pillows and sheets – trying all at once to dig in and also break free. The labor of pain-stakingly hand-stitching every stitch – poking and prodding at domesticity – points to a larger story of living life as an artist and a mother. What are the threads that connect us all? What does it take to build a home and a community? As Carmen wrestles intuitively, playfully, and freely with these themes, she invites the viewer to consider her own life, and to be encouraged by the simplicity and power of a single thread.
Biggest Art Crush: Joana Vasconcelos, Gabriel David, Suchitra Mattai
Dream Trip: Visit home in Chile
Film or book: Netflix series Grace and Frankie
Favorite meal: French Fries
Shout-out: Artist/Mother community and husband
The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn
Thanks so much to our sponsor COZI for helping us bring you this episode! Cozi is a surprisingly simple family calendar that can help busy families stay organized and well connected!