Marcela Florido: Midnight Bloom

Marcela Florido, Midnight Bloom, Installation Shot, Ross Kramer Gallery, 2023

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Creating my work is an intuitive, often unpredictable journey. It starts with a large canvas and a day of drawing, laying out a basic structure. Then, I spend a lot of time imagining colors, experimenting with what I think will work and ruling out what won’t. It’s not always a logical process – there’s a lot of trial and error, which keeps it exciting and gives me a continual sense of progress, evolution.

I am fortunate to share a studio building with many artists, who also happen to be some of my closest friends. If I get stuck or confused, I invite them to my studio. We chat and exchange a lot of ideas, which often gives me hints for creative solutions to my questions. I typically work on multiple paintings at once, allowing them to inform and learn from each other. This practice also allows me to be more playful, movingborrow elements from one painting to another.

I often apply old pigments and binders in a traditional manner, while incorporating popular culture references like fashion, digital images, and cartoon stickers. I play with digital tools like Photoshop to create preliminary sketches and digitally manipulate photographs that serve as references for my oil paintings. This approach reflects my immersion in our current digital and capitalist cultural landscape and is often reflected in my paintings via the juxtaposition of elements from different sources and visual languages .

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Fun, personal, symbolic.

You are currently presenting your new solo exhibition, Midnight Bloom,” at Ross + Kramer in New York; what sort of new artworks do you showcase at that show?

My new solo exhibition features a collection of large-scale works: five of my iconic oil-on-canvas self-portraits, alongside a new body of works on silk that explore the interplay between color, form, and texture in a fresh and exciting medium. The gallery’s beautiful and spacious setting allowed me to create something special.
My paintings evoke my deep communion with the nature, evoking of my home in Brazil–  like basking in the beauty of a sunrise. In this new exhibition, my goal was to communicate the abundant and lush bliss of Brazil’s nature through the use of a maximalist color palette and imagery. A theme that stands out to me in the new paintings is the relationship between the natural and celestial worlds. I think of words like “stars,” “violet,” “lunar,” and “night flowers”:all suggest a connection to the cosmos and the night sky. Regarding the atmosphere of the new paintings, I think they’re dreamy, mysterious, and otherworldly. The darker colors like black and deep purple might evoke the mystery of the universe, whereas the lighter colors like pale blue and white in the self-portraits might evoke serenity or tranquility.

The title of the exhibition, “Midnight Bloom,” conveys this sense of mystery, introspection, and self-discovery. My idea was to juxtapose the familiar narrative of my self-portraits with something new and unexpected, inviting viewers to explore the inner universe of both the newer and the older style of paintings. In my studio, I’ve noticed that these two distinct bodies of work complement each other, with one suggesting a more descriptive narrative and the other creating an atmospheric feel that evokes the feeling of midnight, dawn, and sunrises. The group as a whole is playful, whimsical, and bold, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with everyone.

Female figures seem to dominate your recent body of work; is it a current motif or is there any particular reason for concentrating on female representation on your canvases?

My recent body of work predominantly features female figures, but they are not just motifs; they are part off a lineage of self-representation among Latin American female painters, such as Tarsila do Amaral and Anita Malfatti. I am fascinated by the historical and cultural significance of the female body in Brazilian art, and curious about why it’s become less prevalent in recent decades.

I first started painting landscapes without people, but I realized that my paintings actually depicted inner landscapes formed by my emotional attachments to places. I understood my body as inextricably connected to these landscapes. Gradually, the landscapes started being personified: faces and bodies emerged from layers of paint until I fully addressed the figure. hat’s why, in my paintings now, flowers become eyes, and hair strands become stems intertwined with leaves and foliage. 

Although my recent paintings predominantly feature female figures, they are not straightforward depictions of the female form or autobiographical portraits. I think of them instead as symbolic still lifes that blend reality and imagination, exploring the obsessiveness and fantasy associated with the body. I use the body as a symbol to investigate my identity and relationship with my surroundings – and my  simplified and schematic aesthetic emphasizes its symbolic nature. My paintings use recurring metaphors, such as stars, hearts, flowers, petals, and hair, to create a maze for the viewer’s gaze as they search for the figure, representing the obstructions I face in my quest for self-understanding.

Could you share with us some insights on your fresh painting named “I’ve grown Stars on this face of mine“? Is there any particular story or meaning behind this new artwork?

This painting has a special meaning for me.t originated during a road trip I took with my partner in California in 2020. We rented a van and drove from Oregon to the southern part of the country, and it was my first time visiting the West Coast. We decided to go camping, and I’ll never forget the incredible feeling of sleeping under a dark sky with no artificial lights around us and an overwhelming number of stars above. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and it made me realize how I had forgotten the sheer magnitude and beauty of the universe back in New York – and wonder why. But there was also an extreme loneliness in this moment, of course, since it was during some of the scariest months of the Covid pandemic. 

Two years later, I spent New Year’s Eve in Brazil with my closest friends in a secluded area surrounded by waterfalls called Serra da Bocaina. Once again, I saw that pitch-black sky, with nothing but bright stars shining above; together, we danced under it. I wanted to stare at each of my friends for hours, to engrave their brightness into my eyes and heart, so I would never feel alone in the world again.

That’s when the idea for this painting came to me: ‘I’ve Grown Stars on This Face of Mine.’ It’s a tribute to these moments, when you feel a sense of wonder and connection with the universe – and also a reminder to always look up (and in all directions) and appreciate the beauty around us.

Marcela Florido, I’ve grown stars on this face of mine, Oil on canvas, 80½ x 70 in

In this new painting series, have you tried to use any different art technique or material that you haven’t used in the past?

Yes. In the summer of 2022, I was returning to some drawings I had done during the lockdown, trying to use them – but I couldn’t envision them as traditional oil paintings. That’s when I decided to try painting on silk. I had a vague idea of the atmosphere I wanted to convey, but I had no idea what exact silks and paints I’d use  or how to control the pigments to create the effects I was after. I began by testing the consistency and color of the paint on a small stretched patch of silk and soon discovered how the pigments behaved differently when applied to that transparent material.

As I experimented with layering different colors into an abstract composition, a drawing began to emerge. I was intrigued by the new look. I’ve always loved how painting stirs so much discovery, as one brushstroke leads to another. I was thrilled by the endless possibilities this new technique presented. 
This technique led to a new series of paintings: large, colorful drawings of people and foliage on soft-edged, monochromatic backgrounds of vibrant hues and bold brushstrokes. These paintings have a more atmospheric quality than my previous work, and encourage the viewer to contemplate the interplay of color.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?

I would say that it’s a bit of both. While some works were n created through random experiments in my studio, others are the result of a particular concept or narrative that I have in mind from the very beginning – and for other works, the two modes feed into each other. For my new series of paintings on silk, for example, the initial experimentation with the medium was more random and exploratory. However, as I became more familiar with the technique, I began to develop a specific concept for the series. So, while the specific artworks themselves may have started out as random experiments, the overall series was shaped by a particular concept and vision.

Which are your plans for the near future?

That’s a great question. I have a lot of exciting projects in the works! First, I’m preparing for my upcoming solo show which opens March 2nd at Ross + Kramer Gallery in Chelsea, New York. After that, I’m thrilled to have a couple pieces in a fantastic group show at Volley Gallery in Dubai, opening in April. I’m also releasing a limited hand-finished print collection with Avant Arte, which has been a long-term project that we’ve put a lot of creative effort into. I’m also excited to  be in a group show at Woaw Gallery in Hong Kong and another solo show with Duarte Sequeira Gallery in Seoul (that one opens in October.) It’s going to be a busy year, but I can’t wait to share all of these projects with the world!

Marcela Florido, Floresta de Tijuca, Oil on chiffon, 76 x 66 in
Marcela Florido, Virtual Fields, Oil on canvas, 2022
Marcela Florido, Cosmic Violet, Oil on chiffon, 76½ x 65 in
Marcela Florido, Midnight Bloom, Installation Shot, Ross Kramer Gallery, 2023


All images courtesy of the artist and Ross Kramer Gallery

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