Drawing from her experience as a Colombian-American, Lina Puerta’s art examines the relationship between nature and the human-made, and engages in themes of food justice, xenophobia, hyper-consumerism, and ancestral knowledge. She creates mixed media sculptures, installations, collages, handmade-paper paintings and wall hangings by combining a wide range of materials, from artificial plants and paper pulp to found, personal and recycled objects.
Puerta was born in NJ, raised in Colombia and lives and works in NYC. She holds an MS in Art Education from CUNY and has exhibited internationally. She has been honored with numerous awards including the 2019/2020 Artist-in-Residence at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in Harlem, 2017-NYFA Fellowship in Crafts/Sculpture, Fall 2017 Artist-in-Residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, the 2016 Dieu Donné Workspace Residency, Artprize-8 Sustainability Award, 2015 Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, 2015 Kohler Arts Industry Residency (WI), 2013-14 Smack Mellon Art Studio Program among others. Exhibition venues include the Barns Art Center, The Sugarhill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, the Ford Foundation Gallery, The Museum of Biblical Art, El Museo del Barrio, Socrates Sculpture Park, Wave Hill, and Geary Contemporary in New York City; 21C Museum Hotels in Louisville, KY and Bentonville, AR; Pi Artworks in London and Ponce+Robles in Spain. Puerta’s work has been written about in Hyperallergic, The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, and Artnet News among others.
What was your first job in the Arts?
Teaching art in the public schools.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
Realizing, from working with my youngest students, that they were teaching me so much about how artists think and see.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
From a young age, I’ve been a creative person interested in art, but growing up in a small town in Colombia, I didn’t think about art as a career option. However, once I enrolled in college in the US as a pre-dentistry student and took one art class, I quickly realized that art was my real passion.
What do you do now?
I am privileged to be a full-time artist.
Where are you from?
I was born in NJ and grew up in Colombia, where my family is from.
What is the arts community like there?
If you are referring to Colombia, I haven’t lived there for much of my adult life, so I can’t say much. However, as I often visit and have a strong tie to the country, my perception of the art community in Colombia is that it’s elitist, exclusive and quite Eurocentric, which corresponds to its colonial origins. Although, I think this is starting to change due to young people entering some of the art institutions and new, emerging galleries.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
I think it has, although it hasn’t been intentional. My Colombian upbringing and experience are part of who I am and, in my work, I feel it has a strong presence that comes through without me knowing. It is only as of recently that I started to realize the deep influence my Colombian culture, landscape, and experience have had on me and my work.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Be, and trust, yourself.
What is one of the greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
That I continue to make art and exhibit.
What has been a challenge for you?
An art career is difficult. I feel that as creatives, we are not designed for this system in which everything is measured based on profits. Also, as a latinx artist of color with language barriers and no generational wealth, being an artist is, in itself, an incredible challenge.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
When I arrive at my studio, I change into my comfortable studio shoes.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Thankfully, every day is weird and potentially exciting.
What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?
There needs to be trust between them.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Their humanness, kindness and willingness to learn and be humble/respectful.
What is your advice for making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for giving a great interview?
Be yourself and not take yourself so seriously.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Do your work without minding the artworld, instead create community with your peers.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Yayoi Kusama at the New York Botanical Garden. Loved seeing her work in the context of the garden and how plants influenced her life since her upbringing in Japan.
Have you seen any virtual exhibitions recently that you would like to comment on?
I haven’t seen any lately, I prefer to see them in real life.
What artwork is in your home office?
I have some of my recent work in the studio.
What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
I love being home and have previously had a home studio for many years, so it was not a challenge nor luxury.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery from Covid19?
I think art can play a fundamental role in the sense that it can make us reflect on the unbalance we have created on this planet as a species. I believe art is teaching us at this moment how we can not only recover from the Covid19 crisis, but also live a more sustainable life different from our pre-Covid lifestyle.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
Now more than ever we need art to help us reflect and guide us in moving forward. It should be shared and experienced by all means possible.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better, if anything.
I am grateful to be able to have technologies and online platforms that allow me to share my work, connect with an audience and my community, especially during these times of social-distancing.
What is your go to snack these days? And your go to soundtrack?
Cherries and peaches! As they are in season.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
My husband Alexis Duque and I, proudly have works in our collection by David Antonio Cruz, Sol Aramendi, John Ahearn, Blanka Amezcua, Maia Cruz Palileo, Norma Marquez, Noa Charuvi, Rafael Melendez, Daniel Lezama and Guadalupe Maravilla among others. We currently are in trade conversations with Rachelle Mozman, Tatiana Arocha, Marela Zacarias, Elia Alba and Tamara Kostianovsky.
Since we have been exploring more exhibitions, galleries and museums online, when you start making plans for your next trip – what will be your first art filled destination? Art destination bucket list?
I am very excited to see Guadalupe Maravilla’s Planeta Abuelx at Socrates Sculpture Park and participate in one of his healing sound Baths. Also, I plan to check out the public art exhibit on Riverside Park curated by Karin Bravin, with wonderful artists such as Blanka Amezcua, Jean Shin, Dahlia Elsayed, LoVid, Joiri Minaya, Valerie Hegarty, Mary Mattingly and more.
It can be argued that the art world has finally been forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
I would say the art market and art academia (which are linked), has adapted these technologies for the sake of surviving. But, in order to fully experience a great majority of art, it needs to be done in person, not simply through a screen.
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?
I think the artworld needs to be re-examined, re-thought, re-configured and re-created.