Morgan Cristine Flores
b. 1981/Los Angeles
I construct visual and written work from the perspective of the quasi-autobiographical character, Peanut, who emerged during the development of my thesis MFA Art Studio work at UC Davis from 2020-2022. My visual work is made up of collaged constructions in sculpture, paint, and photography focussing on themes of mixed Mexican-American identity, the environment, the passage of time, love and economics. My written work consists of short stories and essays with similar themes that follow different chapters of Peanut's life, and they accompany and expand on my visual work, but they also stand alone as written pieces. My intent is that each piece, written or visual, expands on representations of Peanut's psychological landscape: her wants, desires, fears, observations, musings and the values she holds close as a young Mexican-American woman growing up in the U.S. in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as she searches for place, belonging, and meaning.
Peanut Goes to Art School: AKA "An Artist Statement"
Photo by Juan Herrera
Peanut Goes to Art School
AKA "An Artist Statement"
When you look at my constructions, I wonder if you might taste the constant state of suspension, unresolve and amusement-in-spite-of-it-all that I do. It’s like: washing your garbage every day to try to save the earth, of conscientiously finding a place for it to dry inside your home, of carting it carefully to the outside bins, and then being told it is pointless just because it is packed on a ship and sold overseas–and this is why you should not recycle–and not ever knowing if this is true–and also somehow being inspired by this. It’s like being from a place and being told you don’t belong there, or spending all your money on something to just throw it away in a few years, or reaching down to tie your shoe and falling on your face. It feels similar to fighting with another person who also doesn’t have a lot of money over an attractive lamp at a thrift store. Or getting angry at an older lady for taking your parking spot at Grocery Outlet. As a Mexican-American woman growing up in the United States, these have been the gestures of my life. No one is rushing to break down the doors of the detention camps at the Mexico-U.S. border, and everyone–no matter who–claims tacos as their own. White boys I’ve tried to date screech “Ay ay ay” in my ear when I tell them I’m Mexican, Latinx people have to ask for permission to be where they are from, and Mexico is good-enough to vacation to, but not to defend like it actually is your own.
Because of this endless barrage of confusing experiences, my art practice must help me ground to place. One of my favorite things to do is to walk around as if I don’t have a care in the world, slow and lounge-y. I practice marveling with my eyes at what I see, and trying to not place judgment on the trash or the cement-choked earth, or cars racing by, their drivers’ eyes glued to their cellphones–but of course these things make me think. My current work developed as an alchemic and less lyrically-described combination of my desire to connect with the land of California, where I’m from–and what some rascally Latinx people call “old northern Mexico,"-- a curiosity to explore material and “sustainability,” and wanting to know, as an artist drawn to absurdity and abstraction, if I can contribute to personifying Mexican-Americans by communicating about my particular Mexican-American-ness.
I started collecting objects showing up on the land in repetition, that also seem able to communicate something about our relationship with place, time, history, movements of people and money. Once I started learning how objects can speak, I started curating the pieces I collect, making decisions based on my research into the history of California: its intersections of ecology, art history and colonization. If I buy something, it is from a thrift store first, and a purchased object always has to have utility. Then I bring everything back to the studio and let them live together, washing (or not), sorting and organizing. The constant movement of objects feels like a continuous performance, since I’m always looking around and looking for objects that say something to me, and making plans to swing back by to pick something up that I can’t stop thinking about. I also watch the items of my everyday life, which feels exhausting yet weirdly fun. I favor things that are funny, or that I just like, even in a kind of morbid way. Color is important too–our economy loves primary colors and high saturation–as do I, apparently. I juxtapose and arrange the objects in my studio to make sculptures and assemblages that are loose and constructed, temporary and sometimes more "permanent," thinking of how to make art “light footprint.” Sometimes I start with an idea of a combination of items or other times I decide what the base of the sculpture will be, and go from there, working closely with chance, discovery and impulse. Some of the sculptures have started to exist as photographs in and of themselves.
With my creations, I get to act out, and make myself laugh, or express frustrations, annoyances, concerns, pains and longings, but in ways where I am looking to create work that is a bit more confident than how I feel. My pieces are meant to confront, like a pebble in your sock, or eyelash in your eyeball, as if I were an irritated Mamá, or a woman like myself who despite her love of ‘peace and love’ is always looking around saying “What in the hell?” to herself. I also need a space to express what I’ve lived through. Some of my experiences have been so twisted and demented that I can barely tell anyone about them, so I make these pieces that rep for me when I can’t manage it for myself. These collaged compilations are my desire to see perfection in my own patched-up wholeness, and in the obscenity that makes up me and my surroundings. The jokes within the art express my yearning to find peace, love, joy, health and belonging for myself and for the people I care about and even…strangers. Of course I think about the environment too, and wonder what will happen next, but in the meantime, you can find me perusing the dumpsters, or snooping at the nearest freeway off-ramp, and hopefully not fighting with anymore older ladies at thrift stores.