Congratulations to Hosanna Rubio, Contemporary Craft’s 2018 LEAP Award winner!
Born and raised in Southern California, Rubio currently resides in Greenville, North Carolina. Specializes in creating wearable art pieces and small-scale sculptures, Rubio explores themes inspired by her personal experiences with issues such as health, medicine, and nature. Her experiences might not be universal, but through her intricate pieces that serve as a platform to explore the recreation of identity, Rubio inspires an atmosphere of dialogue and shows that sometimes moments of pain and tragedy can offer opportunities for beauty and transformation. Her work has been exhibited regionally and nationally.
Read on to learn more about Rubio and her process. Also stop by The Store to shop her wearable jewelry pieces, which will debut on January 11 and be showcased continuously throughout 2018.
Tell us about your work.
I create wearable art jewelry and sculptural pieces that combine traditional metalsmithing techniques such as casting and enameling with newer technologies like laser engraving and digital manipulation. My work is a balance between the opposites: organic and inorganic, hard and soft, permanent and impermanent, and attraction and repulsion. I have gone through many difficult situations in my life and learned that moments of pain can offer opportunities for transformation, depending on how we frame them. By creating intricate and beautiful pieces out of tragedy, I reclaim those experiences for myself.
How does your background influence your work?
So much of the inspiration for my work is taken directly from my life experiences with issues such as illness, gender, and mortality. At a young age, I watched my grandmother’s memory slip away; it gave me a desire to document my life through my work and to use it as a way to process my experiences. Over the years I have dealt with chronic illness, injury, sexual assault, and abusive relationships, all of which have worked to inform my identity. Creating layered, detailed pieces allows me to find balance in the chaotic; attempting to exert control over the uncontrollable aspects of my life and in the world at large.
Why were you drawn to the medium of metals and jewelry?
I was introduced to metals and jewelry in the final semester of my undergraduate degree in art education, where I was concentrating in drawing and painting. My first class was in enameling, which was an inspiring transition from two to three-dimensions that allowed me to utilize my previous skills. I was instantly drawn to the physicality of the medium and its conceptual connection to the body as a site-specific context. Many of my pieces reference the body, either directly or indirectly, to explore issues of health, gender, and identity. Through metalwork and enameling, I am able to capture transient moments in a medium that holds a balance of strength and fragility.
What are your inspirations?
I have always been drawn to the macabre, especially Memento Mori jewelry and Vanitas paintings, which use imagery from nature such as bones, flowers, and insects to symbolize human mortality. I’d like to think of my work as a modern interpretation of those ideas, with X-rays instead of bones and fragile organics permanently captured in metal.
What is your dream project?
Right now, my most immediate dream project has been frustratingly stalled, stuck in limbo between realization and actualization. A couple of years ago, I molded my upper body to cast wax and plaster replicas of my likeness. Although I was able to reductively carve the plaster into a finished piece, I
graduated before I was able to cast the wax models in metal. One of the pieces is quite large, with two separate heads and arms pushing and pulling at the body, titled Talitha Koum. The other, titled Witness, features dozens of branches growing from the throat, which I plan to fill with felt leaves that have been etched with stories of abuse that people asked me to share on their behalf.
Tell us about your favorite artist or artists who have inspired you.
I could go on for days and not run out of artists who have inspired me. One of the first to come to mind is Melanie Bilenker, who reinvents Victorian mourning jewelry by using her own hair to recreate quiet moments of femininity. While the concept of wearing someone’s hair might sound unsettling, the pieces are gorgeous and offer a sense of delicate vulnerability.
I am also constantly inspired by Marissa Saneholtz, who not only makes beautiful enamel jewelry that challenges concepts such as gender norms, but also cofounded the Smitten Forum with Sara Brown. Smitten Forum is an annual one-week gathering for makers that results in a traveling exhibition as well as a publication. I would love to find a way, like she did, to not only create but also contribute to the culture of my field.
What role does the artist have in society?
I am of two minds about this; on one hand, I believe that the artist and their work can serve as a critique or analysis of the society that produced it, holding up a mirror to reflect the issues of our time. But I think the artist also has a responsibility to bring hope and beauty into the world to act as a respite against all the darkness and negativity we are exposed to on a daily basis.
What is the best piece of advice you received as an artist?
This was a tough one to narrow down – I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a lot of wonderful advices from amazing artists. I think the one that benefitted me the most over the years was to develop an elevator pitch, a concise 30-second explanation of what you make and why you make it. It required me to take a thorough accounting of my content and processes, which not only allowed me to make new connections between the two, but also made me feel more confident talking about my work.
What advice would you give others considering a career in art?
It may sound cliché, but honestly the best advice I can give is to be true to yourself, both as a person and as an artist. Make the work you want to make, even if you don’t know if anyone will want it, even if it might be really weird.
Find what calls to you aesthetically; find that thing that makes your heart beat faster. But most importantly, tell your own story, not someone else’s. Speaking from your own experiences, even the difficult or silly ones, can create an atmosphere of sincerity and vulnerability that resonates with the viewer.
How will the LEAP Award help with your practice?
As an emerging artist, every avenue of exposure can be an undeniable prospect for growth. Being represented by such a prestigious organization as Contemporary Craft is not only an incredible honor, but has also begun to open doors for me that I otherwise couldn’t dream of and also provide me with validation of my role as a maker. The award money will be immensely helpful in making my studio practice more safe and efficient by allowing me to purchase a kiln temperature regulator and update fume extraction system for better air quality.