Nicole Santiago interview

Nicole M. Santiago (b1976, Indianapolis, IN) is a painter/drawer who lives and works in Williamsburg, VA.

What attracted you to the b.j. spoke gallery open call?

What attracted me to b.j. spoke gallery was its long history as an artist-owned gallery, its standing in the arts community, and its mission to create a true partnership between artists and the general public. I am also very inspired by the gallery’s commitment to supporting underprivileged and emerging artists.

How will you continue to evolve your artistic practice?

How will I continue to evolve my artistic practice? Hmmm… that is hard to predict. Whenever I closely govern the direction of my work, I usually wind up at a dead-end. So, I try not to forcefully impose my wishes on my work. Rather, I let discovery and intuition guide the direction, which usually produces more dynamic images. I recognize I’m not an outlier in this practice. I don’t think this is a unique way to work. If I had to guess how my practice will evolve, odds are I will continue to combine observation methods and imagination. This, along with the pictorial narrative, have been long-held interests of mine. However, I am uncertain how my narratives will morph and evolve as time goes by. I suppose I will know when I get there!

Can you detail the story behind one of your work selected for the exhibition?

My works in this exhibition are a record of my caregiving role as my Father succumbed to his terminal illness. The first in this series is aptly titled Father. In this image, various household items are strewn on the floor, along with several cans of beer (in various states of consumption), half-smoked cigarettes, pill bottles, etc. While the tools are an overt reference to my Father’s hobbies and profession, they also allude to physical and emotional things in need of repair. The pill bottles, beer, and cigarettes are a nod toward my Father’s physical state. The various states of the cans symbolize personal hurdles and setbacks. The unopened stands for future possibilities and things left undone. The fallen can alludes to present actions and failed attempts, and the unopened/crushed can points to past actions and destruction. I wanted the painting to portray the feeling of absence by alluding to a recent presence. The burning cigarette and spilled beer point to the figure’s recent presence, but these residues of activity also highlight the absence of the figure (Father), something that became a familiar part of my day after his passing.