Catalina Jaramillo's "You Are Always Here" Explores Her Deceased Mother's Objects

​Everybody has a personal life that no one else has access to or cares to notice. Like our "to do" lists or old credit cards. When someone dies, the world gets a peek into those private matters and a fuller picture of the person is revealed.

Catalina Jaramillo used this new perspective to create the upcoming solo show "You Are Always Here (Distance Has No Way of Making Love Understandable)." The show recreates the energy of her mother, Yolanda Phillips de Jaramillo, who passed away after battling cancer for ten years in January 2010. A young parent herself, Catalina gathered tons of objects that once belonged to her mother, demonstrating obsession that was triggered after this trauma.

Born in Bogota, Jaramillo has shown at David Castillo Gallery, Calix Gustav Gallery and the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. She has also curated exhibitions at Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum and Francie Bishop Good. We talked with the artist about the upcoming exhibition.

Cultist: When did you start this project?

Catalina Jaramaillo: I (began) building an installation where I obsessively organize all the objects that were left when my mom died last year.

You worked on some art projects with your mom before she passed away? 

Yeah, and it was a difficult thing, you know, because there's always this lining between darkness and light. Part of me wanted to just celebrate, and really, really dig into the idea of praising them, like having extensive gratitude toward your parents regardless of your relationship with them. But then there's also this pull to make it a dark installation. The making of these pieces, I really believe that art has these mythological powers to affect your real life. It becomes this piece that really works you. The piece decides what to do with all the shit that comes up. You changing them, the process of dealing with something that hurts a lot is simply the leftover, the afterthought... 



Yeah, it becomes this map to follow, a quest. I don't know how to explain it, but that is definitely a separate challenge with the piece. Like the pull toward two sides. And yes, she definitely was my hero, she definitely affected my work. She performed with me at some point, around 2004, she was always up for everything. She had very, very, very little money, so for a while when I was broke during my undergraduate studies, I would make work that was affordable. I would love to have a room full of animals made of gold, but that's impossible. She would come up with a way to spray paint gold these Hallmark animals. And my theory was that the objects weren't, the objects are never, a person, and that was my goal-- to prove that all those things are not her, nothing will replace her, and I'm full of shit. Being in that room is being her. Every single post it, every single everything. The way things are edited and they way she collected things and all these things to me seem so normal, but for anyone else they're so foreign and say so much about something and someone that they don't know.

Your work is very personal. Do you ever make work that is impersonal, or does everything involve this really personal, emotional element? 

Yeah, I've done it. Painting definitely does that to me. I try to, and there's an explanation that ties me to the painting, so that aside from the paint I have this dialogue but it's always very positive, almost like a conversation with someone that is not there. You're just rendering this conversation with someone, but it's never like, stomach ache, waking up completely like troubled, like everything needs to be perfect, make sense, like dealing with all these things.

That's what I was telling (someone) today, by Monday, I'm going to be making charcoal drawings of dolphins. This is really, really rough.

(Laughs) This about you and your relationship to your mother's death? 

Yes, but also the relationship of everyone to objects themselves and to the everyday life. I really want to see the take on someone who has no idea about her, and see how these objects start up conversation. It's not a piece where I want you to walk out thinking that you met her and now all of a sudden her death also affects you. I'm interested in you saying, "Oh, I totally use that perfume!" or, "Oh, Weird!" or "Ew." Or, "Nail polish looks so gross when it's old."

Was there any one thing that made you want to present the show in this way? Did you wake up one day and think, I want to show things and ritual? How did that arise? 

I think that whenever I've experienced something really shocking, I know that one of the best ways for me to understand it, and be transformed by it, is to deal with it by making work. So, when she died, I wasn't interested in dealing with the missing her or the torture or appearance of these things, but I knew that I wanted to explore this decade-long story and how it was going to change me. I know that I develop really obsessive tendencies when I'm troubled, so I knew it would definitely be um... I wanted to find a relationship between objects and things, like understanding her.

When someone passes away you understand them in a different light and you see all these things and mistakes and successes, and the relationship to you and the way they affected you in such a clear way that I wanted to explore that and see if it's true that she wasn't there anymore. If these things are charged with her, what is an object that is definitely dominating part where you create another object. There's enough trash everywhere. I'd rather play and rearrange things that are already there and use them as vehicles than anything else. I definitely would love to have been born a shaman or something. For a shaman every single piece of crap, every single thread they have in their pocket, everything has a purpose and a meaning and I wanted to find out if that was true, I think.

You Are Always Here (Distance Has No Way of Making Love Understandable) will open on March 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. and closes April 23 at Dimensions Variable (171 NE 38th Street, Miami). 

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy