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In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.
It's hard to go wrong with a video game when the controller is shaped like a vagina, but Infinite-O: Dreams of Space isn't just a game. It's part of an installation by artist Corazon del Sol, who created the interactive exhibit as a way to discover, embrace, and ultimately understand her role as an artist, specifically within the context of her matrilineal pedigree.
Del Sol's grandmother, Eugenia Butler, Sr., was an influential gallerist and art dealer who worked with the likes of John Baldessari, Ed Kienholz, and Dieter Rot. Meanwhile, del Sol's mother, Eugenia Butler, Jr., was an artist who managed to make the act of leaving her family into a piece of performance art. But for del Sol, her own practice is about navigating a vibrant inner landscape of dreams and memory. Like in a classic video game, there are traps, pitfalls, and other obstacles, but just like in life, there is an inner drive to keep moving through a crazed maze designed by an unknown architect.
Style, technique, and methodology are not things del Sol handles deliberately as an artist. Rather, she sees her entire life as an evolving "living sculpture" that reflects a broader world view about how humans manifest spirituality on the physical plane.
Del Sol grew up between Cali, Colombia and Los Angeles. In one of those classic tales recalling the opening paragraphs of an old-school, dime-store pulp novel, del Sol's parents met while her mom was on a break from UC Berkeley and her dad was on the run from the police. They moved in together, and a year and a half later, del Sol was born. "It set the stage for an interesting life," del Sol tells The Creators Project. "I did not study art, but it was always taught to me as a tool for expanding life into other dimensions."
Each one of del Sol's projects is an exploration of an inner dialogue. Recently while in Cali, Colombia, del Sol made two large sculptures with adobe blended with dirt from her childhood home in a cocaine-and-carbon-candy concoction that she describes as being "infused with personal histories of violence for the insects to eat."
Inside the installation, she placed medicinal and psychoactive plants, along with small sculptures, alongside her video game. "The work is always anchored to a place, and my experiences in that place," del Sol explains. "As part of conversation with a particular place, I use the materials related to my memories."
Slumbering Beauty is a statement about Colombia's ongoing struggle to break free from the stigma of a violent state rife with poverty and civil unrest, when its reality is much more complex. "So many Colombians carry a deep shame born of extreme violence which is linked to familial histories in narco-trafficking or other collective acts of alternate systems such as magic," says del Sol. "The piece was a way to reaffirm powerful and ancestral systems."
The artist’s driving creative force is deeply examining her own unarticulated questions, "swimming in them, making friends with them, wrestling with them, getting knocked down." For her, it's all about breaking free from the toxic self-talk artists can get used to replaying. "When we live and create without shame, we are infecting each other's courage; it becomes musical and slowly dislodges the domination," she says.
Native Angelenos who are also artists can have a keen awareness of the way Los Angeles informs their work, and del Sol is no exception. "The collective dream here is palpable, and even though we have a tendency to go into our own wormholes, we are always connecting our wormholes," she believes. "It is profound to live in a city where so many people are simultaneously exploring, building, following, selling, deconstructing, excavating, plasticizing stories. We are a myth-making capital, for better or worse. There's a lack of beauty here that pushes us to use our imagination."
Read more about Corazon del Sol’s show, Let Power Take a Female Form, here.