With an international population of over 3,000, many UCF students are familiar with the cultural challenges faced after moving to the United States. More have parents who made a similar journey. But the feeling this creates of being between cultures, and often between identities, isn’t always openly discussed.
Mär Martinez ’20, Leo Cordovi ’19 and MJ Torrecampo ’14, all graduates of the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), are creating this conversation through paintings representing their post-immigration experiences. The exhibition, In Between: Painting the Post Immigration Experience will be on display at the Art and History Museums of Maitland’s (A&H) Maitland Art Center Gallery from Oct. 8, 2022, through Jan. 22, 2023.
The paintings – created during artist residencies at A&H – separately examine each artists’ personal narratives while forming a united body of work.
For Cordovi, his landscape paintings represent memories and emotions evolving and fragmenting after moving to the states from Cuba. Torrecampo’s work explores her experience emigrating from the Philippines through a series of paintings showing a conversation with her father.
“My parents and I came to the states when I was nine, but we don’t talk about that experience at all,” Torrecampo said. “So, I think through painting is how I’m doing it. And when people visit, with friends or family, I hope it sparks that conversation.”
Martinez’s sculptural paintings carve out an identity layered underneath conflicting cultural expectations.
“My mother’s family emigrated from Syria, and my dad came from Cuba,” Martinez said. “And there’s a push and pull of cultural expectation in between those two cultures, as well as a tug between a desire to strive toward modernity without rejecting tradition.”
In their paths to becoming professional artists, the alumni credit UCF faculty for helping steer them in the right direction. Martinez was originally pursuing a BA in Art History, but decided to add a degree in Studio Art after an inspiring internship at Flying Horse Editions. Torrecampo, originally an engineering major, switched to Studio Art after taking an art history class.
“I think if I hadn’t gone through my UCF painting class with Professor Carla Poindexter, I wouldn’t have arrived to what I am now in the sense of like the context of what I’m painting,” Cordovi said. “The faculty were crucial in that process of going into the real world as an artist, being confident and knowing what to do.”
For current SVAD students aspiring to become professional artists, Martinez emphasizes the importance of hard work and practice.
“Make the work, don’t talk about making the work, and have some sort of organized plan,” Martinez said. “I think that art is no different than going to the gym. Just like you can’t expect to have a six-pack overnight, you got to work at it to get good. It’s a muscle.”
Cordovi points to the necessity for students to form connections with peers and the local arts community.
“Show up and be a part of the team of support in the arts community,” Cordovi said. “Because those are the people who will show up to the shows that you’re having. Look out for shows in town and make connections. That’s why you’re at school; not only to learn, but to walk with a sense of community that will guide you to the next step.”
The opening reception for In Between: Painting the Post-Immigration Experience will be held on Friday, October 7, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at A&H.