On weekdays through the end of December, Teaching Artist Carmen Recio is leading a Botanical Soft Sculpture workshop in the gallery. Inspired by the plants that grow in local neighborhoods, as well as our current Home Sweet Home: Is a Home a Sanctuary? exhibition, Carmen highlights that home can be more than just the building we live in — home can be our daily surroundings and the natural world around us.
Visitors will learn about Carmen’s artistic practice while making their own soft sculpture out of yarn and upcycled yoga mats. Learn more about Carmen below!
CMA: Hi Carmen! Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background and your journey to CMA?
CR: I have always admired art institutions and knew I wanted to work in one. Before joining CMA as a Teaching Artist, I worked at Eckford Street Studio and Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center, and also interned at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
CMA: How does working with plants and botanicals inspire you? Do you have a favorite plant or flower?
CR: My favorite plant is the aloe vera plant because it is very resilient and reminds me of home. As kids, my cousins and I would run wild in my grandparents’ garden in Venezuela, and afterward use the gel in their aloe vera plants to treat our cuts and bruises. My grandparents’ home as a whole is a source of inspiration for my work because I think it represents a time period in my life when I didn’t have to worry about anything. My whole family would often gather there and us kids would explore the gardens, which seemed dense and vast. My grandfather Gilberto was a marine biologist and botanist, and he had the most beautiful species of plants. He was a very bright person that appreciated nature’s wonders. In our home in the city center of Caracas we were surrounded by the El Ávila National Park. Its looming mountains could be seen from our kitchen window. Upstairs on the terrace we had a pomegranate tree, and downstairs on the yard there was a mango tree that we would pelt with shoes to get the fruit down. Another plant, or I should say fungi, that I love is mushrooms. They seem to sprout out of nowhere and they have intricate lines and patterns that inspire my work.
CMA: Complete the sentence: “Home is ___”
CR: Home is where you feel at peace.
CMA: Do you have a favorite quote about “home” from a movie, book, or song?
CR: My favorite quote about home is from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I just read for the first time. “She went out and took a last long look at the shabby little library. She knew she would never see it again. Eyes changed after they looked at new things. If in the years to be, she were to come back, her eyes might make everything seem different from the way she saw it now. The way it was now was the way she wanted to remember it. No, she’d never come back to the old neighborhood.”
CMA: What do you think makes “home” feel like a unique concept as a New Yorker?
CR: Now that I live in New York City, home has taken on a new meaning. It feels like my generation is constantly hopping from place to place, struggling to find a place that is affordable and that feels like a home. I think many New Yorkers seek out places and activities that remind them of home (or wherever they lived before moving here) like small bookstores, coffee shops, museums and community gardens.
CMA: In your own words, how does art have the power to connect and support community bonds? Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?
CR: I believe that art has the power to connect people. The process of making art invites people to reflect on their experiences and gives them a way to voice their ideas in a creative way. We have more in common than we realize, and some of these similarities become clear when we look at, make, or discuss an artwork together. It is important to create opportunities for children and their families to make art because it makes them feel like their ideas matter. Art-making also creates a space where children can think, reflect and explore.