A Matter of Dust: Cecilia Collantes

ArtT.K. MillsComment

On a Tuesday evening, I descended into the Mailroom Lounge for a special one-night-only exhibit of the avant-garde; A Matter of Dust. Curated and presented by Kurt McVey, the show featured the artwork of Cecilia Collantes and a range of multi-media artists for a cosmic experience.

Gravitation l
Charcoal and watercolor on paper
10 x 12 In.

The atmosphere was charged with a vastness — as if the universe itself was contained in the spacious parlor. A fog machine sent waves of mist rolling through the room like particles of the Milky Way. Drinks were served free and a steady crowd rotated around the lounge, admiring the art. In the center, a projector played a series of clips that vibed with the mood. Dancers performed, their bodies transmitting a universal energy.

As I made my way around the lounge I examined Cecilia’s work. What struck me was how evocative her pieces are. While I am not usually one for abstract art, Cecilia’s craft conveyed deep emotion. Longing, despair, and confusion; jubilation, tranquility, and a sense of still timelessness. The assortment of art was constructed with powder on paper, all imbued with the nebulous thematic elements; A Matter of Dust.

Several days after the show, I spoke with Cecilia to learn more about her artistic career and the inspiration for her work. She joked about feeling post-show depression; the quality of absence after an emotional build-up for an event. Born and Raised in Peru, Cecilia attended Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Her education is not the story of a linear path, but rather a tidal movement, pulling and pushing with the creative waters. At University, Cecilia studied visual arts for her first five terms. However, on the cusp of graduation, she turned instead to another outlet; dance. As a dancer, Cecilia worked for Danza Viva for 2 years. Here, she incorporating her background with color and composition into the art of movement, Cecilia blended her knowledge of visual arts with her footwork. After, Cecilia spent some time involved with an avant-garde group, Integro, in Lima, where she cultivated her personal aesthetic. Her experience here changed her perception of commitment toward creativity, pushing Cecilia to new boundaries, and abroad to Berlin. In her work, Cecilia has found herself drawn to the mystic. Mystical, to Cecilia, could be described as "that word with some sort of humbleness, relating to the unknown, what you cannot actually name or see, but a humbleness to embrace this bigger force that informs your work and life as a human.”

Fossil   Charcoal and iridescent powder on paper 14 x 12.5 In.  2015

Charcoal and iridescent powder on paper
14 x 12.5 In.

This experimentation played a large role in assembling A Matter of Dust. The art featured was compiled from pieces put together over the past two years; Cecilia has been in New York for four years, and it was three years since she met Kurt, her collaborator on the show. Kurt and Cecilia met through Mike Weiss, who prides himself on his ability to play artistic matchmaker to kindred spirits. Cecilia recalled that Kurt and her got on well, moving past idle-small talk directly into the ‘big questions,’ sacred matters of the unknown, of ceremony, and the universal.

The universality of Cecilia’s work is perhaps a reflection of her global insights. Beyond Lima, she has shown in Berlin, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and been awarded positions at the Thaillywood Artist Residency, the Darmasiswa Scholar-ship in Indonesia and the Eileen Kaminsky Residency Program for the Mana Contemporary. It was on her way to begin the residency at the Mana Contemporary that she had an impulse to drop by an Indian Market. Cecilia ended up buying red and pink Holi powder, drawn by their spiritual essence and brought it with her to the studio. The Holi ended up being transformative to her work. Cecilia loved the physicality and sensuality of powder creations. “I was trying to connect with my intuition... That was the moment I felt the mystical intention.” As with dance, Cecilia incorporated an aspect of movement; she practiced folding and refolding paper with the powder, letting the energy of motion inspire and create. The volatility of the material brought to mind a universal essence; "the passing of time, decay, erosion… the transformation of things.” Working with this medium, Cecilia felt connected with the first artists.

To Cecilia, one of the greatest innovations of human history is the power of art to express what it means to be human. “The power of expression connects us with our ancestors… the same feelings that stir within us, stirred within them.” As we finished the interview, I asked Cecilia if she’d like to offer some final thoughts. Instead, she read for me a quote: “Art makes things. There are, I said, no objects in nature, only the grueling erosion of natural force, flecking, dilapidating, grinding down, reducing all matter to fluid, the thick primal soup from which new forms bob, grasping for life.” – Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae.

Cecilia Collantes is an artist in touch with the mysticism of creation. Her abstract works invoke a universal mantra, one that connects the viewer to the energy movement and the volatility of form. Cecilia hopes to continue her artistic journey in New York, and the big city is lucky to have an artist with such a sense of depth.  A Matter of Dust presented a great success in capturing the audience; engaging a fluidity of motion through dancing, a cosmic atmosphere, and a universal soul.      

Towers   Pigment and charcoal on paper. 15 x 12 In 2017

Pigment and charcoal on paper.
15 x 12 In