We had the good fortune of connecting with Carolina Otero and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carolina, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I am living a superb time of my life as an artist, educator, married woman and mother. Honestly, as I see it’s the case of professional women who decide to have a family, my life used to be a non-stop chain of chores and roles to play. It is not the case nowadays. My artwork is a way of living; I cannot do without. I always knew I wanted to have kids. I also realized it was an immense and demanding responsibility. Our two children are grown-ups now, my son finished his Master in Architecture in May 2020 and my daughter completed a Bachelor of Arts also last year. They are both two wonderful, thoughtful, talented, balanced, accomplished young people, in charge of their lives. Their father and I could not be more joyful and thankful. I am now back to a fuller time with my own work. I find myself not only supported but also often in a collaborative relation with my husband and children. At home we share the chores: we all enjoy cooking, we manage to clean and grocery-shop in turns. As adults, we each have time to work, to exercise, to leisure and to share… gratefully, in much less haste these days.Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was born and grew up in a family of artists and educators. For as long as I can remember, I was enchanted by the practice — and the idea — of making things and inviting others to do so. To me, art is the utmost sacred possibility of relating and communicating with others. Art has allowed me to connect with people throughout time and across the world. My work is a dialogue with everything that I have seen, what I live and experience. When I do my artwork, my entire being is engaged. I find this to be much fulfilling and rewarding. On the other hand, my work is my tribute to life, to history, to living. It is a way to give back, all I am and have received from more than 40,000 years of human endeavors. I find this exhilarating.If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a visual artist and architecture lover, if my best friend came to town, I would definitively start by taking them to what I call the Alabama Street “art hub area.” I would begin at the University of Saint Thomas’ campus, a masterpiece by Philip Johnson, in my view. A modern, pure setup of right-angled buildings forming a magnificent green courtyard is crowned by an incredibly daring, robust postmodern building: the chapel. Asymmetrical, with an amazing light, every object designed/and or chosen and consciously placed, embellished by an embossed via cruxes, the interior space of Saint Basil is to me, architecture at its finest. Few minutes imbued in that cozy sacred place under the spell of great architecture, I would walk to the Transart Foundation, a new much-awarded Schaum/Shieh building that habitually hosts bewildering and wonderfully curated art exhibits. Yet another astonishing versatile space in itself. Two or three blocks west of Transart, we would land at the Sicardi Ayers Bacino Gallery, one of the most representative and prestigious galleries exhibiting Modern and Contemporary Latin-American art. Another beauty of a construction, a delight to visit designed by Argentinian born Fernando Brave. By then, it would be past lunchtime, and we would cross the street to the Bistro Menil. There, we would have a refined light lunch, rest a little, chat some, and continue on our tour. Housed at another fascinating building designed by Renzo Piano, the Menil Collection is a Houston art landmark. Followed by a must-stop at the bookstore and a stroll around the surrounding green areas, we would walk south to visit the Cy Twombly Gallery (also a Piano building) and finally west, to end our day, visiting the outstanding Drawing Institute. A Jonhston Marklee recent addition to a group of astonishing designs, this architectural joy is the ground for wondrous modern and contemporary drawing exhibits. On day two, I would still go to the Alabama Street Museum district area, this time to visit the Houston Center for Photography, the Rothko Chapel, the Dan Flavin Installation and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, all within walking distance. When we feel it’s time to eat, I would definitively go to Lùa Viet Kitchen for either a delicious Pho if it is a cold day or, a fresh salad if the weather asks for it. I would resume visiting the area. On day three, in the morning, I would take my friend to my studio; later, with a healthy homemade picnic, we would go to the Mac Govern Centennial Gardens where we would relish in the beauty of local greenery, publicly attended herbs/vegetable gardens and marvelous views of the park. We would also cross over to Hermann Park and continue to enjoy ourselves strolling under the shades of wonderful oak trees. I would make sure not to miss the Japanese Garden. After taking a shower and drinking a glass of wine at home, I would take my friend to Oishi, my favorite Japanese restaurant in town. With a majority of Japanese customers, chefs and waitresses/ waiters, Oishi is incredibly popular and affordable. Day four I would entirely engage in a slow pace, gratifying tour of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, both the Moneo, Van Der Rohe and recently inaugurated Holl’s edifices, which without a doubt house an extraordinary collection of artworks. I would stop for a light noon bite at the cafeteria, and probably a glass of wine in between buildings. I would also step out for a walk at the Noguchi’s designed Sculpture garden and climb up the Glassell School of Art’s terrace to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. After a shower and some rest, I’d invite my friend to indulge in a delicious dinner at North Italia in the Galleria area. On day five, I would flee to Galveston. It would be a day to walk alongside the water, enjoy the ocean breeze and open horizon much beloved by both of us. We would most certainly have seafood at Miller’s Seawall Grill, the first restaurant I ever visited in the area, one to which we always go back. We would also check the Galveston Art Center, that ordinarily showcases good local art. Day six in the morning, I would take my friend for a walk at the Buffalo Bayou Park, then I would drive along Heights Boulevard, have lunch at Postino and visit the small shops around the area. That evening I would prepare a healthy home dinner and later go for a Houston-by-night-Downtown car ride, stopping at the George Brown Convention Center for a drink and at Discovery Green for a walk. On day 7, we would visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. We would have lunch at the Madelaine in the Village. On our way, I would do a car tour of the Rice University Campus and book a visit to James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany at night.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am a never-in-my-life-did-I-imagine immigrant. Coming here seven years ago required a vast amount of work and effort in every sense. As the quite common story goes, we left our country in search of better education and overall, a broader horizon for our children. Venezuela, our country of origin, where we had lived and worked most of our lives, is turned to shatters. I dedicate our shoutout not only to the resilience of our family group but also to the support, love and companionship of friends who have become family. Houston a diverse city, home to people from many different walks of life, is a city that allows you, little by little, to weave a net to work and thrive. We are very grateful for it.
Portrait of myself by : Isabel Zubizarreta. Work photos : Armando Rodriguez Robles