In Cristina Cordova’s sculptures, natural, earthy textures pair with otherworldly figures and surreal compositions to create thought-provoking meditations on identity and family. Both boldly contemporary and classically inspired, Cordova’s eerie work usually features people: in nature, accompanied by tigers, birds, edges of leaves; surrounded by 1980s-inspired, bold patterns and colors; close-ups of pensive faces; glints of gold and stone; ruffled feathers.
Born in Puerto Rico, Cordova was on track to become an engineer when she realized that she would rather be making art. She was anxious to make what seemed like a risky career switch, but ultimately decided she had to give it a try: “I really didn’t know a lot of full time studio artists,” Cordova says. “I remember I went to visit one, and he was very methodical and he had a successful career and was sustaining a family, and so that for me created that little stone in the water for me to jump in. I thought, ‘Okay, I can jump into this, and I can feel good about my future and my place in the world doing this.’”
Getting started as an artist wasn’t easy at first. “In my younger years I was really resistant to acknowledging failure,” Cordova says. "I thought that it was like breaking a streak of success, or the beginning of the end. I was very melodramatic about anything that felt negative in my trajectory, and now I realize that 20 failures will take you that to epic little inch of progress, and you can’t have one without the other. "
In Format’s most recent InFrame video, filmmaker Bas Berkhout talks to Cordova about the challenges and rewards of switching from engineering to art, and about how she balances a full-time studio practice with raising two daughters.