Main Interviews with the Masters: A Companion to Robert Greene's Mastery
Interviews with the Masters: A Companion to Robert Greene's MasteryRobert Greene
Overview: A companion to the #1 New York Times Bestseller Mastery.
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13 May 2019 (18:53)
[image: cover] Teresita Fernández Wikipedia Teresita Fernández was born in 1968, in Miami, Florida. She received a BFA from Florida International University, and her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Fernández is a conceptual artist who is best known for her public sculptures and for her large-scale pieces in unconventional materials. In her work she likes to explore how psychology impacts our perception of the world around us; for this purpose, she creates immersive environments that challenge our conventional views of art and nature. Her work has been exhibited in prominent museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Her large-scale commissions include a recent site-specific work titled Blind Blue Landscape at the renowned Bennesee Art site in Naoshima, Japan. Fernández has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Academy in Rome Affiliated Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Artist’s Grant. In 2005 she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, also known as the “genius grant.” In 2011 President Barrack Obama appointed Fernández to serve on the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. Robert: You as the artist, I hadn't really done a lot of research, I must admit. It’s kind of a whim. There’s a lot of things that you’ve written. In the back of my mind I was thinking, what if I go there and I didn't really like it. But it was the opposite. I really, really liked it. So I was really excited, and I don't usually feel that way about a lot of modern art. It was a very wonderful experience. I’m glad I did it. Teresita: Yeah. It’s about being there. My work really doesn't function in photographic images at all. Robert: Well . . . Teresita: It’s sort of like a garden. It’s sort of what Adam Weiss talks about. There’s this bird’s eye view of the garden that you never understand the garden in that way. You understand it by facing the geometry of it with your moving body. So you unravel it. That’s important to me. It’s something that you just capture eventually. Robert: Yeah. I kind of did fairly well in looking at your book and really putting myself in the environment in my head, but it’s not the same. It was really great. What’s your favorite garden? Teresita: I go to Paris a lot. Robert: Yeah. I’m wondering if there’s something I don't know. Teresita: You know, no. Not one in particular. I go to Paris often, usually for work, and I just walk. I just walk and walk and walk and walk, and then I eat and then I walk. It’s just something about thinking and walking. The city, I think that’s what it’s about. Robert: I kind of have these general thoughts. One general thought was that you’ve got a really developed or refined sense of what I would call visual intelligence. I got that word, actually from Paul Valery who writes about Da Vinci, and Da Vinci had once tried to write a book, and he never did, about visual intelligence and to create a grammar of visual language, because he thought that that was a superior language to spoken language, or written language. And I just thought looking at it that there’s an intelligence there and a refinement is just really noticeable, and I don't really often have that feeling. There’s a real intelligence behind the work, but a way of thinking that’s sometimes hard for me to put into words. I don't want to go into your childhood and all of that, but there is an element where I want to find out where you emerged and where this visual intelligence might come from. So, can you think of a moment or a period when you were young when it became clear to you that working in art or a visual medium was where you were headed at? Teresita: Yes, but I didn't call it that. Robert: What did you call it? Teresita: I didn't. I just thought it was a strangeness. Robert: Explain that. A strangeness: Teresita: Yeah. A kind of alternative way of sensing. And not just visual. I actually think that all of my . . . to use your word, which I guess is good, I’m flattered. I think any visual intelligence that I have comes from my emotional intelligence, and I always felt going through art school, certainly, that there was really no value placed upon that. In fact, there was never even any forum with which to process how it is that you see the world and how it is that that effects a kind of output, whatever that output my be. In my case, it happened to be materially, but it could be anything. I really don't think that being an artist is that different than being a writer or a musician or a scientist. Certainly, when I’ve gone on these MacArthur Award winner conferences, they don't call it that. I’ve spend a weekend in a Frank Lloyd Wright house with 50 other MacArthur fellows from all disciplines, most of them not artists, and it’s fascinating. For starters, everyone has a very similar kind of humility. I thought it was going to be a nightmare. I thought, ‘Oh my god. I don't want to go to this thing. A bunch of pretentious genius wannabes.’ But there was this kind of humility, and almost like a kind of innocence to how the world was perceived and a sincerity. So I’m trying to access what that may have looked like as a child. I have very subjective memories specifically where I remember things, but I was a kid who observed. I was fascinated by a kind of voyeurism, and I spent a lot of time just eavesdropping on the adults. So I always had this sense of what was really going on, and that there were very important things happening and being exchanged that were never spelled out for children, but which were infinitely more interesting than playing outside or doing all the regular things that were kid things. So yeah, I remember that. Robert: Do you have any particular memories of something striking in your observing, or any kind of moments of epiphany as far as this visual sense that we’re talking about? Or is it just something wrapped up with everything else? Teresita: I don't know. In that sense, there’s kind of a connection between the auditory sense of observing and creating a kind of visual for that. This sounds really cheesy when you start from the beginning. If you start by describing this, this is going to be like Steve Martin. ‘I was a poor black kid growing up . . .’ You know what I mean? That whole, bring out the violin. The Jerk. Robert: The Jerk. Okay. Teresita: My parents, my whole extended family were all Cuban immigrants who came the year of the revolution. So they worked hard. And all of the women in my family were seamstresses. From haute couture to . . . Robert: Oh that’s interesting. Nobody’s ever brought that up before. That’s very telling. Teresita: Because nobody cares. Robert: I wrote this down. It seems like, I don't mean to trivialize it, but some of the things seemed almost like haute couture in dresses. The one on the floor was just so beautiful. Eruption I think. Teresita: Oh, Eruption, yeah. Robert: It almost looked like a dress or fabric. Beautiful. So anyway, that’s very interesting. So, who, your whole family? Teresita: All of the women in my mom’s side of the family who were all Cuban immigrants. They all went to one particular school in Havana that was very famous, called Madieta de Sevella that was a very highly regarded school of sewing. And it was like five sisters, so one was into haute couture, but she basically sewed for rich people. I always remember all of my clothes were made for me from a very young age even though we were not wealthy. And then another sister did interior design. So she would do drapes and interior stuff. I kind of grew up spending a lot of time in her atelier, in her shop. When they do curtains and drapes, they need very, very big tables. There are very big scissors, big shears, like this size. A lot of industrial equipment, which I used from the time I was five, because they just put us on it. Robert: You did what? Just played with it? Teresita: They put us to work to keep us busy, and because we wanted to do it. It was play. It wasn't like we were put to work. But at a certain point, we kind of learned how to do it. They were totally really dangerous industrial machines that could pull your finger off. Anyway, we grew up around that, and with the drapes, they need very, very big cutting tables. So basically the table is the size of the actually drape when it’s opened up. So it would be like say from here to there. Like as wide as this table and to there. And my world was sort of underneath that table. And I made stuff. I would take all the scraps, and I knew how to use the machines, so I would make things. I didn't feel like I was making art or anything like that, but it was more about seeing how things were made and put together and taken apart. Robert: Did you like working with your hands? Teresita: I did, but I was never the kid who thought of themselves as a good artist. So, that was just my little world. And then just listening, listening to the radio all day, because they had the radio on, Spanish radio. And listening to them talk about these sort of very important themes in their lives. Robert: Like what? Teresita: They were totally uprooted. They were in a different country. They totally assimilated, and they all sort of became versions of the American dream, not all of them, but in my case, my father became a very successful businessman, and from junior high on, my lifestyle was very different as well. But yeah. Just things about their family. In the immigrant experience, there’s always this sense of loss and remembering. And then just everyday stuff, just kind of eavesdropping on stuff. Robert: Are you an only child? Teresita: No. I have two brothers and a sister. Robert: So, if you could say that you had any inclinations towards something, it wasn't necessarily towards art, it would be towards something scholarly? Teresita: No, it wasn't that. Robert: I mean, for instance, I always knew that I wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. So I pretty much stopped there and never really leftt. Teresita: It’s not that. It’s just that I didn't know what to call it, because I grew up in a family that had a very middle class existence, where it was about just taking a vacation once a year and paying your bills and doing homework and getting to the next day. So there was a routine built into it. We didn't travel a lot. I wasn't exposed a lot. Now, my father, who had basically a 6th grade education and went on to become a very successful businessman. He had no formal education, higher education at all. But we had a humongous library, and he read constantly. Robert: Nothing about art though in particular. Teresita: No. My aunts, the seamstress ones, they all went to art school. Robert: So, when were you first finding yourself drawn to art in a way? You use the word calling, which is what I’m going to be talking about it in the book. And there’s a sense of a person, usually as a child, you feel in some ways that you're different and you're marked for something. You're drawn to it, even though you can't verbalize it. You don't know what it is. In retrospect, maybe it’s a little artificial to put a word to it. But you do feel drawn to things. That’s what I want to mime a little bit with you. The haute couture seems very telling to me. The industrial stuff, making things. Things are really crafted. And perhaps the fabrics. Teresita: No, it’s not that neat a package. It just isn't. Because I remember liking to make things. No, it’s not that obvious. It’s not like a sound bite that way, although that would be lovely if it made sense that way. Robert: I didn't mean that, to reduce it to that. Teresita: No, I know. I’m not offended, it’s just it’s not right somehow when I think about it. I’m like, nope. That didn't do it for me. That’s not at all what I was thinking. No. It was more about feeling like I was walking around in the world with this heightened sense of everything around. And it happened all the time. It didn't matter where I was, I always felt like I was kind of watching something from a distance. It’s very abstract, and unfortunately, it doesn't make a good story. Robert: It does make a good story. Teresita: Maybe I could draw it out, I don't know. I’m curious myself. It was spatial as well. Robert: Try and explain that a little bit. Teresita: Oh gosh. Robert: What do you mean by the word spatial? Teresita: Well, it’s spatial and visual. So for example, I always did really poorly in math, except for geometry, because at a very young age, I decided that certain numbers looked heavier than other numbers. Robert: You have synesthesia. Teresita: I know. I have some weird synesthesia. Robert: I thought that when I was looking at your work, and now I’m realizing that more. Teresita: Yeah. I’m sure it can be called all kinds of things. I was very highly functioning, and I was a good student, so it all fell through the cracks. There was nothing special about it. It was a very private sense of the world. But yeah, I definitely had this very synesthetic view of the world. Robert: You definitely have synesthesia. Teresita: Yeah. Five was always just bigger than seven. And there was no way of explaining that, but it was absolutely true. Teresita: It’s spatial as well, and sensory. It’s impractical. Robert: Impractical? Teresita: Yeah. Sometimes it’s very impractical. I’m not obsessive about it, because it’s all in my mind. But I do have this sense of sort of visually balancing spaces. I know some people have it in a very physical way where they're obsessively balancing themselves and things like that. I know people that way, and it’s really weird. So I don't do that, but I feel like I do it mentally sometimes, where I'll walk in and a kind of heaviness on one side of the room will balance, sometimes it happens based on spatial things that are sort of above and below. So in my own way, I’ve come to think of it as part of just my thinking. So I’m always really interested in this sort of plane that you as a viewer are standing on and this idea that there’s something above you and something below you, and there’s this hypothetical plane, which is where you stand on. But that it is hypothetical. There are all kinds of things above you and below you. And sort of trying to not privilege our kind of narcissistic sense of vision emanating from our eyes. I’ve always been really interested in what’s happening behind your head and behind your back. So it’s a very full round sensory perception of the world. Robert: And you had that early on in life in ways that’s sort of hard to verbalize the feeling. Teresita: Yeah. It is hard to verbalize. I basically always felt like I was navigating the world that way from a very, very early age. Robert: Navigating the world in what way? Teresita: With this heightened sense of visual and spatial situation. From a very young age, I always felt like I was assessing visually and spatially for no particular reason. I suppose now it’s practical, because I can make art based on it. But at that point, there was really no practical sense of it. It was just something that I did automatically. And then what happened is I just think that as I got older, I got much faster at it. And so right now, and it sounds so pretentious, but the way my mind works right now is so transparent to me that I have this access to it. And it’s something really like in the last five or ten years, I’ve gotten so fast at that. Robert: We’re going to be getting to all that. Okay. So, it was sort of impractical. It manifested sometimes when you were in a room or with the space around you. You didn't really know what to do with it, I guess. Teresita: It was just there. It was just part of who I was. It was uneventful, but it was there. Robert: When did it transfer into something starting to become practical, where you feel like, I could maybe use this? Teresita: I’ve never had to ask myself that question. When I was in high school, I was sort of in the art group. Robert: How did that happen? Teresita: What’s interesting about it is that it had nothing to do with what I do. I always liked art, but always in that way that art is presented to kids. It’s not sophisticated. It’s about making. It’s where you end up if you're not a good athlete or you're not a good this or you're not a good that. And I kind of ended up there. It was a place that was really comfortable for me. Some kids ended up in drama. The drama kids were like that, too. They ended up there, because they clicked with the teacher, and they just had more freedom there and could make stuff and draw and things like that. So I definitely ended up in that group. I never in high school felt that I would be an artist or that one could be an artist. It always felt more like this very self-conscious activity that had nothing to do with the things that I just talked about. So it was this very sort of artificial. And then when I started college, I took one class that was a sculpture class. I played with clay and things like that, and none of it did it for me. It felt like an extension. Robert: You were an art major? Teresita: Not at that point. At that point I was just taking requirements. A little bit the first year of college, of undergraduate school. And I remember very specifically that I wanted to learn how to work with metal. I got really into forging metal, casting metal, welding. And all of my undergraduate work is very handmade metal stuff. Robert: Why were you drawn to metal? Teresita: There’s this thing that clicked in my mind when I started to take a big piece of metal with heat and change the shape of it, where I all of a sudden became aware of how everything in the world was made and I could walk out my door and be like, ‘I know how that was made.’ So there was this sense of what things look like and how they get to that point and how material changes. It’s very visceral when you have a piece of molten metal, and you hit it, and it goes like that. And you hit it again, and you can make it do that. And then you hit it again, and you can make it look like skin. So there was something super empowering about that for me. And that’s why I’m refuting the whole haute couture thing. Because it wasn't about that at all. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was something really hard, and really not easy. Materials are very, very resistant. They don't want to change. It’s not fun. So, all of a sudden, I had this way of channeling, of imposing myself on something that was very resistant. Robert: And you like that for whatever reason. Teresita: I like that. Yes. And at that point, I was really into metal, and I was really into the process. And it was a very immature. So now, after I go through that, there was a kind of rush to doing that. I would make these huge things, and people were always very surprised that I made them, because I’m not a big person, and yet I was completely fascinated with this idea that I could make something that looked nothing like me but that looked a lot like what was inside of me somehow. So I could defy somehow my physical presence by making stuff, by making stuff that took the place of me somehow. Robert: Interesting. Teresita: Yeah. And there is something super empowering about that, because you put all of this energy onto something else, and then that thing has a presence in the world, and that thing has the power to create change and to enter people’s minds. Through the work, there’s an access to a very intimate aspect of other people somehow. When it works. It doesn't always work. So I’m only ever interested in that 5% of viewers that are actually engaged. I don't really care about convincing the whole world. Robert: These metal pieces, they were large? They were big scale? Were you using space like you sort of do now in a way? Teresita: Yep, yeah. They became installations, and they became big sculptures. What I meant by immature earlier is that it was this very direct connection between ’metal, power, I can change this.’ What happened after that was that I developed this much more sophisticated way of making very ordinary materials, transforming them into doing things that they normally wouldn't do. So that became more of a challenge. How can I take this thing and change what it does? So it’s a much less literal form of that original changing the metal into a shape. Now I do that with all kinds of materials. Robert: You're an alchemist. Teresita: I am. I really am. I don't want to make a homonculus, but it’s a bit of a wild goose chase. Robert: Where’s the homonculus? Teresita: Because alchemists wanted to make homonculuses. I’m not interested in that part of it. But there’s this sense of this wild goose chase. Robert: For you or for alchemists or both? Teresita: Well for me, but I think for alchemists, too. The search becomes the sort of really valuable part. Once you find it, you really just want to start searching again. It’s unattainable. There is really nothing to get. But it’s such a thrill to get close to it that you keep wanting it and challenging yourself. Robert: To get close to what? Teresita: Making something that changes the world or has an impact, or says something visually that has never been said before. Inventing something. In my case, I’m obsessed with the idea of inventing something that doesn't exist. Maybe that’s pretentious, but the way that I use materials, the first thing I do is just research. I found out what’s been done with it. Robert: Okay. The sense of being disciplined and patient with time, letting time take its course in building something or creating something. So children find their way to that, some never do. Do you have a particular relationship to being disciplined and to working on something over time and seeing results? Anything like that, or is that something you came upon later in life? Because you must be very disciplined. Teresita: I’m really, really disciplined. But I think disciplined is the wrong word. I think I’m really efficient, and I have learned how to layer a lot of things onto one another. So, I always fell like I’m doing five things simultaneously mentally. For me it’s not about sitting and waiting for something to reveal itself. I actually work all the time. I feel like I’m working all the time. There are certainly things that I come in here and begin, and there’s a beginning, middle and end, but that’s more to do with just executing something than thinking about something. I can think about something for a long time, and I can concentrate on something really, really intensely and deeply. Robert: That’s very interesting. Has it always been that way? Teresita: Yes. And it’s not passive. Robert: It’s not passive. Teresita: It’s not passive. It’s maybe a little obsessive, but there’s a kind of drive. It’s not a career drive. It’s an intellectual drive. And there’s a thrill. Robert: Do you derive any pleasure from being able to focus on one thing very deeply or whatever? Teresita: Yeah. There’s a thrill to it. It’s not always pleasant. It can be very frustrating as well, but I know how to work around things too. But I am a bit relentless when it comes to figuring something out. And so I can be patient. I can be patient, but not passively. I don't have time actually for it. Robert: Time for what? Teresita: For I don't know, sitting in a cafe with a sketchbook. I don't do that. Robert: That’s not really what I meant by discipline. That’s more the active sense that you're talking about. Teresita: I tend to write a lot of things down. For example, right now I have on my desktop four different folders of things that I’m kind of researching, that I’m a little bit obsessed by, and I have no idea what they're about. But I’ve broken them down into what seems like these sort of major subjects maybe. And so when I see something, I kind of put it in there. I’m kind of really obsessed with this idea of blindness, because I work kind of blindly. Actually, I remember doing this as a very young kid. I remember making lists. I would make lists, and the list would have things that were completely unrelated, but that were related somehow in my mind. They could be totally arbitrary. They could be serious. I remember maybe being, I don't know, 11, 12 and doing that as a way of understanding that certain things belong together even though it would be nonsensical if you read it. What they had that was similar was a tone. That’s all. Robert: You found the similarities. Teresita: In my mind. Although I don't know that it would make sense to put it out there in the world. But it’s just part of the work to arrive at why something ends up looking a certain way, for example. I do remember that. I remember being able to identify very disparate things that had a very similar quality that I was trying to get. But very abstract. Robert: Do you still go through that process? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: I do that, too. Teresita: But I need to just dump everything in there, and then sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes I hit the jackpot. Robert: This probably doesn't apply to you then, but a sense of feeling like there was this sort of destiny or a calling that you have. I like to use the word destiny, because some people feel that way from very early on. You don't really seem to be someone who necessarily had that kind of clarity early on. It was more sort of a fumbling around until you found it kind of thing. Teresita: I had no sense of what it looked like. I talk to students about this all the time, where there’s a sense of trusting yourself. But I do, I believe in destiny actually. Robert: You do? Teresita: Completely. Robert: Okay. Well that’s good. Teresita: I’m really sort of very fascinated by the idea of destiny, because it fits right into this sense of drive and working towards something. It’s just I don't always know what the goal is, and I don't always know what it’s called. And I think often people feel this way all the time. When people look at what I do, they think I’ve got it figured out. And I often sense that people who are searching and struggling think that it’s somehow easier for me because I have this set of problems that I’m working with. And I just plug things in and get different versions of things. And it’s not like that at all. So I feel like I carved the way of that destiny. But it’s not an egocentric kind of destiny somehow. Because I think a lot of people imagine themselves as a great filmmaker, a great writer, or great artist. Robert: That’s ego. That’s not destiny. Teresita: Okay. Well, I wanted to clarify. I don't sense that at all. I have no clue what I’m doing. I just do it. So early on, I don't think I had that sense of destiny. Now I do. Robert: Interesting. Teresita: Yeah. Now I do. I want to be making art when I’m 90. Robert: So when did you have this sort of sense of destiny? Later on, maybe in your 20s, 30s? Teresita: Yeah. My 20s. Robert: What is it that you tell your students? I was interested in that. Teresita: That you sometimes have something, and you recognize something. It’s just you don't know what to call it. And when you don't know what to call it, it’s very hard to give it form and to defend it and to claim it. But if you just kind of trust in that destiny, you can actually peel back the layers, and you become very efficient at working towards that destiny. Robert: Do you think some people give up because they can't put a name to it? Teresita: Because they don't know what to call it. Yes. Because they don't know what to call it. I think actually the most amazing thinkers are people that don't know what to call it for a long time. And so, I have feel a kind of compassion for people who don't know what to call it, because I think there’s something really, I don't know, just really human about being in that moment, especially in a world that privileges sped over emotional intelligence. Robert: Or it privileges verbalizing everything without really knowing what you're saying. Teresita: Exactly. Exactly. Or promoting yourself. We live in a world that celebrates the skill of self-promotion. I’m guilty of it as well. It’s not a bad thing. Robert: It’s nothing to feel guilty about. Teresita: I don't. I use it. I know when to use it. I know how to use it. I think it’s a really useful tool. I don't reject it in any way. But certainly, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. You could go around acting like you're really good at something by how you promote yourself and in fact be pretty mediocre. Robert: Is there a fair amount of that in the art world? Teresita: In any world. Robert: Every field. Teresita: I think in any world. There’s a lot of that certainly in New York. Robert: And in writing, too. Teresita: Yeah. You get by. Sometimes it’s really good, because it’s a way of getting a break, too, if you can convince somebody. Robert: Yeah, but usually, unless there’s some foundation of real, it doesn't really lead to anything. Teresita: And even when you know what to call it, then you're kind of fighting this idea that you know what to call it. Robert: Sometimes putting a word to it feels like you’ve betrayed your idea a little bit. Teresita: I don't feel that way. It just sometimes feels more mechanical or like it’s figured out. More pat somehow, more defined, more systematic. Robert: There’s a part of the book about apprenticeship. What does that word mean to you in relation to your career? Did you feel like you went through that? Did you serve that? Was it at the university, or was it actually going out on your own and making things happen? Teresita: It’s never been easy for me. I’ve never had an easy go of it. I’ve always worked really hard at it, and so I don't identify with the role of the apprentice in any way. Robert: I don't know what you mean by that. Teresita: Well, certainly not in the traditional way of a mentor. I’ve never had a mentor. Robert: Okay. You’ve never had a mentor? Teresita: I’ve never had a mentor. I’ve had people that I’ve admired. Robert: I’m going to be abstracting and say that that is a mentor. Teresita: All right. Robert: So you didn't have a living mentor. Teresita: Yeah. Robert: I didn't really either, but you had something long-term. Teresita: I had to find my way, yeah. Robert: But you weren't completely alone. There had to be people around that inspired or directed you. Teresita: Yes. I would say yes. But I don't know. I felt like I never had somebody to guide me through. I always felt like I have a real sense of self-sufficiency. And so, yes, I can think of lots of things that were really important cornerstones to my thinking that made me click, on mostly books and places. Robert: Places, like what? Teresita: Well, places that I can talk about, like Japan has always been a really important place for me. I lived there for a while, and I’ve been back every year since I was seven or something. Sometimes, it’s places, too, like really mundane places that just have a real effect on me. Robert: So there were no teachers? Teresita: No. I had one teacher in graduate school whose name is Elizabeth King, whose work couldn't be more different than mine. But you could be writing about her. Robert: Really? Teresita: Yeah. She is an amazing thinker and pursues ideas very passionately and very fully. I would say that I really admired her practice in graduate school, so I was 24. Robert: She had an influence on you to some degree? Teresita: Yeah. I would say so. I would say so although I would hesitate to call her a mentor because I didn't think of her that way, and I also didn't spend that much time with her. Robert: What about her had any kind of effect on you? Teresita: The fact that she taught me that the specific was much more interesting than the general. That’s what I feel I got from her. Robert: Do you feel a disadvantage or advantage, or it doesn't even matter that you had to sort of find your own way? Teresita: I think there are lots of different ways of getting some place, and I think it works differently for other people. I think it can be a burden for something to happen too easily as well, as well as too difficult. I don't know that I have a distance from it to answer that objectively. Robert: Is there anything you think in the way of what kind of shaped you early on into becoming who you are now? For instance, we talked about da Vinci, and he studied under Verrachio in his studio, for about four or five years in the studio, and he learned all sorts of technical things that became a huge part of his art. As an apprentice he would paint little tiny figures in the background of paintings, but he didn't like Verrachio. He hated being an apprentice. He was always trying to search for his own voice, but the conflict, the resistance of the two, I thought was very important. Teresita: You become something, either because of something or in spite of it. I was surrounded by examples of what I didn't want to do. Robert: Okay. That’s something. Teresita: Yeah. I was surrounded by examples of what I didn't want to do. Robert: Like art students, art school? Teresita: I grew up in Miami, and I didn't have the same goals as my peers. I was interested in a much bigger world, and I felt trapped a lot of times with the familiar setting and the familiar course of action of people I was going to school with, for example. I felt like my sense of the world was much, much bigger than that. And so, I didn't want to be an artist who knew what my next piece would look like, and I didn't want to be an artist who was known for doing a certain kind of work. To this day, I kind of start with an idea, work with it, make a bunch of stuff, and then the next idea may look completely different. Robert: You have no signature stuff. Teresita: No. I get bored with my own. I can't make something more than once. It just does not come out. Robert: So you had a lot of negative examples that you didn't want to be around you, that kind of in some way shaped you in some way. Teresita: I wanted to be in the moment of making something. I’ve always wanted to be in the moment of making something rather than looking back on something or dreaming about something. And so, that moment is very ephemeral because while you're in it, it’s quite thrilling, but it very quickly sort of turns into something else. And so, there’s this regenerative sensibility of how do you get back into the moment, of actually being into it. Robert: Well, what about on just the technical level where you're working with material like steel or other materials? Was each piece something new where you kind of have to learn about it, or was there a period where you developed the skill in manipulating material, the technical side? Teresita: It’s less about skill and more about kind of visual invention. It’s less skill because, honestly, it’s easier for me. If I need a specialist, if I need something executed and I know what that thing needs to look like, I just hire the person that’s best at doing it. I’m very, very efficient about my time. And so, I only care about the invention part of it, and everything else I can get the best carpenter or the best welder or the best whatever to do it for me. Even though I might end up having a lot of help in here, like today my assistants aren't here because I told them to take today off. In order for me to tell them what to do, I have to invent something. I have to look at something. I have to actually, physically play with it, see what it does easily. I’m never interested in the first 20 things that it does. I try everything, and then I weed out everything that’s just too easy or obvious. And then, it starts to get interesting and hard and unpredictable, and then I start becoming interested. Robert: This process that you go through which is very interesting, did it just develop on your own, something that you came upon or you're just talking about now or stumble upon it, or was it something you developed in the beginning when you were first working with steel? Teresita: Honestly, I don't know. I’m not so conscious about it. I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. But it’s a general dissatisfaction with what something does. I get bored easily. Robert: Yes. I understand. This theory isn't going to be very easy for me to apply to you, and that’s fine. I have my own idea about it. I’m getting a sense of this as I’m talking to you that each piece is kind of like a rendition. Teresita: That’s a really great way of saying it. Robert: So I'll think about that and how it applies to you. Teresita: And I think that’s why I never feel like I know what I am doing. I don't feel like I’m an expert at anything. Robert: Well, but you do because at the beginning we were talking about how things are coming faster and faster. Teresita: But I get bored faster, too. You know what I mean? Robert: I know what you mean. Teresita: You can't fool yourself. Robert: You’ve mastered something, but it’s not working with a particular material. It’s an abstract process. Teresita: That’s what I’ve mastered. And I use that word loosely because I don't know what that means. Robert: Well, that’s the highest thing you can master. That’s what makes all of the people that win the MacArthur award whatever they were in all the different fields. It’s a level of abstraction. It’s exactly what I’m trying to write about. Teresita: For me, it’s about transparency. For me, it’s about reaching a point where you're not satisfied with fooling yourself, and if you can fool the rest of the world you'd be very convincing. Actually, the smartest people are very, very good at doing that. I don't know. I find that socially it’s very easy for me to do that. Intellectually, it’s very easy for me to do that. It’s very easy for me to seem good at something or put together. It’s like learning to ski or like learning to draw. There are things that if you practice, you can become very good at. I don't care that much about that stuff. It’s the other stuff is that you can't actually hide anything from yourself. When you surrender to that transparency, you get rid of so much stuff. You can just go leaps and bounds over the baggage. There’s a lucidity to that transparency that makes things very, very lean but also very, very fast. Robert: That’s very interesting. I like that idea. Teresita: And sometimes I don't know what to do with it. Sometimes, it’s very, very fast. The thing I’m most aware of now is how fast I’ve gotten at that thing, not the thing I project but that very private process of getting there. Robert: Well, that sort of goal of trying to verbalize that. Teresita: Well, I can tell you that for me in that transparency, even recently what I’ve noticed is that it’s not about making art. What’s so addictive about it is that it’s not about making art, it’s about everything in your life. It’s about every aspect of your life happening simultaneously at that speed and how one thing informs another. Again, I go back to this idea of emotional intelligence, which is a term that’s overused, but you can call it emotional intelligence or visual intelligence. For me, there’s no separation between an encounter I may have with a total stranger, a kind of awareness of something, a recognition of something and a material. In fact, sometimes they're very closely related in ways that I don't want to make into a list, but they are kind of a list. They're all these things that happen on all these different levels. We’re just not given the format to look at them all at the same time together, but which is not a stretch because we are doing those things all the time at the same time altogether. If you have access to that, it’s kind of amazing because you can see how the things that affect you in one area of your life are, in fact, the very things that propel you to make decisions about very abstract things in your life, like what a piece of music might sound like or what a work of art might look like. The decision making, if you look at it on a microscopic level is really tied to these sort of schizophrenic mental meanderings. Robert: Just to finish on this before we transition, the idea that every piece has no sense of closure. Each piece is like you have to learn about it. That’s sort of very important to you. Teresita: Yes. Robert: That’s very important to your creative process, that you feel like you know something. You're already bored with it. Would that be a correct way of assessing it? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: Making every piece alike you are like a student is kind of what’s exciting to you. It’s part of the adventure. Teresita: I don't know that it’s making things as a student. It’s just making things as a master because I don't feel like a student either. There’s definitely like a means to it. I have access to it, but I don't know how people in other fields function. I think that in science sometimes the question is very obvious or evident. How do you find a cure for this? It’s a very concrete thing. There’s no question if you are an artist. There’s no problem. You can make the problem, and then you can make the question. In a way, that’s much harder coming up the interesting question. It’s so much harder. So identifying the question is actually, at least, 50 percent of the work because it’s hard to come up with a good question. If you're an artist, it’s like floating in ether. You're just giving form to something that’s completely abstract. Robert: Well, I'll close the door on that apprenticeship word and move on. I wanted to go into the creative process, which we’re sort of talking about already. You do a lot of research, and research isn't necessarily visual. It’s also literary, history. How does it start? You mentioned graphite, the rabbit hole that you went through. And then, you just spread out from there, or had the spreading out led you to this idea of the pencil and the drawing. In other words, where do you begin with your research? Is it like a feeling you have? Teresita: I don't know. It’s like I’m a visual pack rat. And so, everything goes in the pile. And then, sometimes the pile might have a label. Robert: There has to be some direction to this. Teresita: Yeah. Well, it’s tributary. It’s tributary. It’s like, you start here, and then this takes you there, and then that splits off in the end. And so, it gets very, very big. That network gets vast, and then it starts growing itself. Then, I start to throwing things out. Things just get moved to the bottom. That’s all. You can kind of pillage and take whatever you want and use it however you want which is a great freedom, but it’s also a great responsibility because you have to do something with it that hasn't been done before. So it’s a challenge as well. I can do that. I can kind of take all the stuff, and I can make a statement about it. That’s just interesting as an idea, but what I’m really searching for when they do all that research is usually one quirky element that’s been completely ignored that all of a sudden personalizes all of this information and makes it completely accessible in a very universal way, in a way that’s meaningful even though it might be a piece of information or a detail that’s very trivial. But that within that context makes the whole thing into kind of a poem rather than a speech. Robert: I understand what you mean intellectually, but it would sure help if I could hear an example because I go through that myself. Teresita: Okay. I'll give you an example. I did all of the research on Borrowdale and the mining and the history of how graphite became this commodity that was completely volatile and how the market was controlled. It was tulips in Holland. It was this material that could be very, very expensive when there was a lot of demand for it, and then they would finish a vein of graphite and then there would be nothing left, that kind of stuff. All of this information is really, really interesting. Lots and lots of information like that is interesting, that makes an interesting story. And then, I read something. It sort of took me to just what the place was. What happened to this place? It still looks exactly like it did when graphite was mined there. Robert: Borrowdale? Teresita: Yeah. It’s totally rural. It’s just rolling hills, a lot of farmers. I think I ended up on a tourist website for the lake region. Robert: What’s in the lake region? Teresita: In some little line I read how it was discovered. Shepherds would just mark the sheep with the graphite. You know, it’s in the ground. You take it out, and you mark the sheep. Robert: Right. Teresita: This light bulb went off in my mind of all of these sheep walking around with drawings and the idea of animation and the idea of the graphite and the sheep making this really beautiful animated drawing, the first animated drawing in the landscape. I shouldn't say that, but when that kind of light bulb goes off it’s like I know that no one ever thought of marked sheep as an animation, you know what I mean? Maybe, I’m being presumptuous, but it was, all of a sudden, a very different way of reading, for example, Leonardo’s drawing of the Arno Valley as this animation of a memory. It’s almost like this little linchpin that all of a sudden inserts this tone and this quality and this sensitivity to all of the scholarly information which is just stuff. When I can extract, and sometimes that happens more than once, but when I hit upon moments like that they start to define how I want something to feel. When I have access to that, I know what to start doing with the material. I know how I can manipulate a material to start feeling that way or capturing the essence of something. Does that make sense? Robert: Oh yes. Teresita: Okay. So, that’s one example I can give. Robert: But in a way you begin the process in a scholarly manner, trusting, blindly moving ahead, trusting that this will simply show up. Teresita: Yes. Robert: And it probably usually does because you're ripe for it, and the smallest thing could trigger an idea. Teresita: No. I’m on a quest. It’s not passive. I’m definitely on a quest. Robert: Vision itself isn't just a passive process. We know that scientifically it is reading. Everything is interpreting. Teresita: Exactly. Robert: Did you finish that thought? Teresita: I think so. I think we started out talking about research and my process. Robert: Yes. So you're accumulating things that aren't necessarily going to literally be in there. Teresita: They're almost nothing. Robert: Are they going to be kind of in there somehow but then they disappear in the object? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: But then it’s important that you go through this accumulation. Teresita: I have to have a reason to make something. There are no stabs in the dark for me of just trial and error. I don't even touch a material or even begin to think of how something, the presence of something materially until I have a sense of why it’s interesting to me. These are the kind of connection points that start to make sense for me. Robert: I see. So then, let’s take fire, the discovery view. What was the origin of that? Teresita: I’ve always read a lot of Buschelata. Robert: Oh right. Teresita: I was interested in the image of fire or the phenomenon of fire as a psychological space that I hadn't explored. With pieces like that, I often do sort of put them aside for a long time because it’s hard to find a way of dealing with them that isn't a cliche. I really struggle with it. Until I know how it’s not cliche, I put it on the back burner, no pun intended, but I kind of put it on the back burner. There are a lot of pieces like that that stay on the back burner until they can mature somehow. With that piece I didn't want to represent fire. I was interested in behavior of fire and how I could make something that was active and alive and moving because for me that’s what defined fire without actually making it move. I’m not interested in making films. I’m not interested in making kinetic art, but I am interested in the fact that our eyes move and that I can control something, just so I can make you be the animated element or you be the element that actually can animate something in the very visceral way. So that’s what that piece was about. It was about how other people could kind of set this piece into motion. Robert: By walking around it? Teresita: Yeah. You walk around it, or you can stand still. And other people can walk around it, but it’s a bit of an optical illusion, which has much, much less to do with what’s in front of you than how it is that your eyes work. It’s very simple, actually, the way it’s made. Robert: This was before you kind of came upon the materials that sort of made it happen, the threads and everything. Even before that, it was just something in your mind, an obsession that you had for a while and you put it on the back burner? Teresita: It was a curiosity. It was, can I make this? Can I make something that is not fire but that isn't scared to be referenced as fire. So something that’s enough of its own thing that it’s okay if you called it the fire piece. I don't care, but that would still completely surprise you and do something unexpected and place you in the moment of engagement, which is the moment that I give most importance to. It’s the hardest one to do. Robert: What’s the hardest one to do? Teresita: Engagement, being in the act of engagement, being aware that you're in the act of engagement. Robert: Are you consciously trying to create that? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: And so, I’m very interested in that. Is it possible to talk about the process of thinking how to create that? Teresita: For me, it has to do with not filling in all the blanks. Robert: Yes. Teresita: And so, the work has to be generous and gratuitous, and it goes back to editing. So if there’s too much information, it’s gratuitous. If there’s too little information, it’s completely abstract. It doesn't do that. So it’s about amounts of information but also kinds of information. Somehow, these little moments are the ones that tweak it and give me the tools with which to decide what’s important or not. I’m not sure how that leap is made for myself, but I think it’s partially that I have to be inspired myself and be engaged myself. And so, when I come across these moments that are truly engaging for me, that are kind of like this amazing sense of discovery, I somehow try to then do the piece with that same sense of revelation and epiphany. Robert: Is that easy to do? Teresita: No. Robert: Is that the hardest part? Teresita: It’s really hard to do. In making things, it requires a very light touch, and it requires this assumption that your viewer’s infinitely more intelligent than you are. Robert: What do you mean by that? More intelligent than you are? Teresita: In a way, yes. Maybe, not more than you are but not assuming that your viewer is a generic entity. I always assume that even though my viewer may not intellectually make all the connections because they don't have to, because I’m not putting a label next to it with all my research, they will instinctively and how it is that I can draw that. I don't believe that everybody has it. I’m not interested in the people who don't bring it to the work. Robert: You said only five percent? Teresita: I threw that out. I don't know what the percentage is. People respond to things in different ways. I just never underestimate who that’s going to be or why or how because I find that people have access to things in very different ways. Sometimes, the people that know the least about art are the most sensitive to being in the moment the work is doing or sometimes, the people that are surprisingly most resistant are the easiest targets in a way. I don't know, all kinds of things that are unpredictable. Once I put it out in the world, I kind of sit back and watch because it never plays out the way you think it’s going to play out. It’s like that a little bit with public art. You get to these big proposals, and public art is always about this interaction and how the public uses the space and engaging with the surroundings. I can plan it out and design it to the last detail, and every single time I learn from how people use what you put out there. I think of myself as a conceptual artist, but I only think the conceptual is interesting when it’s personal and when people are affected by it in a personal way. So when people put the conceptual into a kind of action. I could care less about defending it as conceptual art because I can do that with my eyes closed. I can write an essay talking about the development like a concept. That’s easy to do, but I can't always prove that it'll do that. It has to do it in real life, too. It has to kind of do it. It has to transcend what it’s trying to do and actually be that thing. Robert: I noticed in some of the pieces that really affected me. They all affect me in different ways, but I’m thinking of the vertigo and, I guess, it was the blind landscape. Teresita: The wild piece, the cut metal? Robert: The cut metal. They're evocative in many ways, but one thing that strikes me but also in the effect was the shapes that kind of come through. The shapes are very visceral, very interesting, and I don't know why, like the line landscape or the kind of blobby, puzzley shapes that trigger in me many associations and probably in other people. Does that come from deep within you because a lot of your work has these sort of weird blobby shapes? Teresita: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s funny because I struggle with those shapes because it’s like, how do you make something that’s a really specific blob? And so, it’s easy to make a blob. You can make a blob. It’s really hard to make a significant blob. Robert: Yeah. Teresita: And so, that thing is still hard for me to do. It’s kind of morphing. It stretches one way and then another, and then at some point it arrives at this point where it’s not a cloud. And it’s not a this, and it’s not a that, and then it becomes just what it is. It can be any of those things, and you can read any of those things into it, but it doesn't quite give you enough information to complete that image in any illustration as an image. It doesn't complete the illustration. Robert: That’s what makes it so interesting, and it makes it kind of alive. Teresita: Because you have to fill in the blanks. Robert: Yeah. But I’m wondering how you do that. Teresita: I don't do that. The viewer does that because the viewer can't be passive to do that. Robert: But you trigger that. Teresita: Yes. Robert: It’s not easy because there is a fine line where it becomes, as you say, too literal or too subtle. Teresita: I'd stop just short. Robert: Yeah. But I don't know how you do that. I usually think of myself as fairly smart, but you're someone who’s a lot smarter than me, and I’m interested in how you create it. For instance, the projection screen, you know which one I mean? If you're looking at it, you're seeing, your mind is having like a hallucinatory effect on you, and you're bouncing from one possible shape to another. I don't think it’s that easy to create that illusion. It is an illusion. Teresita: It’s very man made. It would be very easy to take the dimensions of that rectangle, plug it into a computer and just have a program do a scatter, but that’s not the way that piece was done. Robert: No. I know. Teresita: The way that piece was done, it would be very hard to actually tell the difference. You can only tell in your feeling of it. Robert: My idea from this book and the reason why I wanted a visual artist is I feel like the artist has to feel something in order for it to communicate. Teresita: Yes. Robert: And that’s what draws me to anything. So, I feel like you're feeling something, and that’s what kind of communicates it, although I’m getting a little bit into voodoo here. Teresita: No. I mean, it’s the transparency thing again. It’s impossible to engage someone else if you're not engaged. I talk about that in the book. It’s impossible to be elusive unless something is elusive to you, too. Robert: Right. Teresita: I first have to identify it in myself in order to make a work that does that. I don't just know how to do it. I only know how to recognize elusiveness in myself. I actually don't know how to do it, but I know how to recognize it. And so, when I hit upon something and that’s the reaction that I have, I keep it. Robert: I see. Okay. There’s an element of serendipity involved. It happens, and then you recognize it. Teresita: It’s not passive serendipity. Yeah. I guess there is a little serendipity that implies a sort of devil may care, sort of sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. Robert: It seems like a lot of your work has a strategy of keeping them open-ended so that you're always a state of exploring and finding. You'd get bored, I guess, otherwise. Teresita: I’m always, yeah. I’m always working. It never turns off. I mean, I don't sleep. Robert: You don't sleep? Teresita: Yeah. I sleep very little. I sleep very little and very poorly. It’s constant. Robert: You don't look like it. Teresita: I don't look like I don't sleep? Robert: Yeah. Teresita: I don't need that. But I find, especially when other things turn off during the day it gets really intense. The mental part gets really intense because I’m not multi tasking although it’s always there. I’m always thinking. I’m always working on the work of it. I’m always looking. Anything’s game. It doesn't matter where I am. I write things. Sometimes, when I see somebody has done a picture, I'll write it and file it away, not quite knowing what’s important about it. Robert: Now, I know artists hate this. But, I’m going to say it anyway. The element of craftsmanship seems very detailed. I look very closely at this, at the cut glass and the metal. Do you find any kind of pleasure in that, or is it something like you want to hit me with a broomstick to bring the word out? Teresita: To me, it’s really funny because I don't think it’s that well made. I don't think it’s that perfect. I get this all the time, like exquisite execution and all that. People really think that of the work when they see it. They sense it to be that way. Robert: I hate that word, exquisite. Teresita: It’s not. I don't think it at all. I kind of think it’s a little messy. Robert: Oh, you're not. You don't know the perspective on it. The one, for instance, Eruption. That’s extremely well crafted. Teresita: Here’s the thing. I’m not a high tech person. I don't make things in a high tech way. I’m not into it although I love what technology does for me. Even though those things look very mechanical and they're very hand made. Robert: That’s what nice about them. Teresita: But there’s a quirkiness to it. It’s like drawing a straight line with a pencil. It can look pretty straight. You can call it straight. It looks straight, but there’s this sort of, for lack of a better word, a sort of presence to it. Each one of those little glass things is hand made and polished, silver to the back, but not because it’s so important to me. It’s just that I really can't find anything else that does it. I never, ever find the material that’s made. Robert: I think I see what you're saying. What is your biggest challenge, getting it to be engaged? Teresita: Figuring out a formal solution to how to visually tweak things, not that it’s easy. It’s just not my hardest. Robert: No. I understand. Okay. Teresita: That I have an ease with, for sure. Robert: That you have an ease with? Teresita: Yeah. I feel like that’s just kind of like a natural instinct almost, but I don't get to that point until I have a real sense of why I’m making this thing and what I wanted to do. That’s much harder to figure out. Robert: That’s sort of like having an emotional connection to something where something sort of vibrates within. It’s not just intellectual. Teresita: Yeah. No. The intellectual has to become emotional, and the emotional has to become physical in a way, physically harnessed somehow. Robert: I noticed that. It’s kind of a primitive quality. That’s what sort of excites me because I’m kind of a primitive myself, obsessed with primitive art and shapes and cave art and religious art because there’s something really sort of visceral in the shapes that they chose because they're obviously feeling something very powerful and evoking it somehow. I feel like I’m projecting. You're trying to strip away until you get it, that kind of primitive experience, immediate primitive experience in relation to something. Does that have any validity in what I’m saying? Teresita: I think it has a lot to do with instinct. Robert: Primal? Teresita: Yeah. I suppose instinct can be primal, yeah, in the sense of instinctive knowledge about something. Is that what you're talking about, a kind of trusting an instinct as a way or an instinctive impulse as a way of decision making. Robert: I wasn't talking about that, but that’s a nice tributary to follow. I was referring to our primitive relationship to fire, for instance, which we’re not aware of, the importance of fire in our life. Teresita: Okay. I understand the question. Robert: And so, if you literally recreate a fire, it has no effect. If you create the effect of fire, it can have that effect. You can make a stink about that. And I find that in a lot of your pieces. I found it in Eruption. I’m wondering if that’s just me because it happens to be my proclivity or whether there’s something in you that’s attracted to something elemental in Fireball. Teresita: No. There is. Robert: You remember the word, telluric? Teresita: No. Robert: It’s having to do with the earth and deep within the earth. Teresita: No. I am absolutely drawn to those things. I’m really interested, especially now, and I'll tell you what I’m working on now, too, which isn't here. But I’m really interested in things that are universal. Robert: Okay. Teresita: I’m interested in a kind of collective understanding, meaning not cultural. There’s a knowledge and a kind of deep understanding of things on a really gut level, especially of materials, that I think is deeply ingrained. Robert: In everybody. Teresita: Yeah, in our biological sense of the world, that runs deeper than just the cultural read on something or all of the other things that are layered on top of it. I think it’s why I use landscape as this kind of blank slate because it can be anything and because I can look at a formal garden and look at one set of problems, let’s say, or one set of situations within this large context of how it is that we have this connection to the ground and distance and how vision is inexplicably and intricately tied to distance and how landscape is always framed as something that is far away. And so, yeah, all of those things are things that I think are very raw, very base, very common denominator. Robert: So in that sense it’s like the alchemy where you're trying to get to the basic elements. That’s what alchemy is all about it, instilling it into the ultimate essence. Teresita: I always end up working with those same kinds of images, the land, water, air, fire. They're endless. You're not saying much about them by calling them an element because there are endless specific qualities and shapes and permutations of all of those things. But there’s an attraction to them that I think is universal and a kind of deep-rooted understanding of those materials or images as materials that’s quite extensive, even though we may think of ourselves as urban beings that don't. People come up with all kinds of ways of not recognizing that instinct in themselves. Robert: Well, a major thing that’s obsessing me in this book is the element of time and the fact that as humans we’ve evolved over three million years and been civilized for, maybe, four or five thousand years, if you want to go that far. So, an immense stretch of time that you can't really conceive of three million years. It’s so deeply embedded in us. Teresita: Right. Robert: Every day, the act of just seeing anything, how long it took for the brain to evolve to the point where we can do just things that we’re not even aware of. It’s so immense. And I’m really wanting to bring that out because I think it’s so important. It’s almost miraculous that we can do anything, simple things. Teresita: I am with you on that. Robert: One thing I wanted to backtrack on a little bit was the apprenticeship idea. It’s sort of sticking in my craw a little bit. Teresita: I know. I noticed. Okay. Go ahead. Robert: It’s an idea that nobody kind of is born from the forehead of Zeus fully formed. So you don't have a signature style, but there is something that kind of connects your work together. It all comes from you, and you have a certain way of looking at the world and a certain process you go through, and there must have been stages along the way. So, I’m wondering if there were things you did wrong, lessons you learned, dead ends that you hit where you said, “I don't want to be an artist like that. I don't want to work like that,” where you kind of formed yourself through your experiences that could be illuminating. Teresita: There’s a sense of self-sufficiency. Robert: I’m very interested in that. Teresita: It comes out of a kind of need, and then it becomes a kind of obsession. So it starts as a kind of defense mechanism for surviving or just not falling apart or not dying or not disappearing. And then it turns into a real strategy for attaining control. It’s empowering. I like the word empowering more than power, because power always implies what you do with it out in the world, and empowering just means that you're strengthened by it. So it’s the same thing, but I’m talking more about feeling empowered. I think that when you’ve figured out a strategy to do that, you can be productive, and you can somehow contribute to something that’s much bigger than me. Robert: Okay. But as far as this formation along the way where you really want to be self sufficient, no one helped you. There weren't incidences or experiences that stand out where you learned this lesson the hard way? That’s kind of the idea from the apprenticeship. It’s like learning from your own mistakes and from experience, and not necessarily even the teacher. It’s just yourself. Teresita: I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s never about what you're mastering is not the thing you do, but yourself. Robert: That’s what this is about. Teresita: I’m not trying to master graphite. I have to master graphite, because if I don't master graphite, then I can't master myself. So it’s about the kind of will. But what I’m trying to master is myself, not the work. Robert: That’s exactly what this is all about, self-mastery. Teresita: I don't think I’m an expert in art making. Robert: The word expert isn't entering here. If you don't feel like you're a master of anything, that word doesn't apply to you. I want to be open to people tell me. I don't want to be imposing my schema on them, so it’s a little bit difficult. Teresita: I just fell like if I don't master myself I'll die. That’s how I feel. Robert: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Teresita: I feel like if I don't master myself, there’s no other option. Robert: So, we’ll close the door on apprenticeship. I give up on that one. I think I’ve got something. Actually, I'll figure it out. Teresita: It’s interesting. It’s a very, very confusing word to me. What do you do if you have no one to mentor you? Robert: I look at myself. I don't want to talk about myself. This will be the last time I talk about myself. Teresita: Note to self. Robert: Yeah, note to self. So, I’ve always wanted the write, but there are these things that happened in my life. I had no mentor obviously. Writers rarely do. But the mentors were writers that I loved when I was younger, and I read them all, and they got into my blood inadvertently. So, your mentors could be other artists. Teresita: I grew up in Miami. We had like Miami’s aquarium. We had no museums. I grew up not seeing any art at all. My mentor is my fantasy life. That’s my mentor. My mentor is a hugely active imagination and books. Robert: And books. Teresita: And traveling. That’s my mentor. Robert: Okay. So for instance, I was in high school, and I wrote an essay, and I thought it was brilliant. He gave me a very bad grade, and it was a teacher I really liked, an English teacher. He said, ‘Robert, when you write, you're not writing for yourself. You're not trying to impress yourself. You're not trying to show off. You're thinking of the other person. You have to really think of the person you're communicating with. That’s why writing is about. It’s not about just expressing your own ego and stuff like that.’ I never forgot that, and it completely changed how I approached writing for the rest of my life. Then, there were other moments like that where I would go off and make mistakes, like the one I made with him. Then I would realize, my awareness, ‘Oh my god, that was really stupid. I’m violating that one tenant. Or I’m writing something that I’m not suited for. This is what I’m suited for.’ Slowly, I found my way to a form that suited me, which was the first book. So I’ve sort of self-formed and self-educated myself, somewhat through experiencing things and reevaluating them and learning very deeply the lessons that they contain and why they don't suit me. Things that don't suit me, they come from the outside. They're not what I should be doing. So it’s like sloughing off dead skin until you emerge to who you are. So, there’s no single person doing it. There’s no mentor, but that’s the formation process. Otherwise, it would just be a mystery who I am in the present. Teresita: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I know what you mean. I think then it’s about resistance. It’s about all of the things I didn't want to be. Robert: You don't want to talk about that? Teresita: Well, growing up in Miami is like growing up in LA maybe. I always felt like an alien, because I could physically blend in, and intellectually, I was completely lonely. Again, that sounds pretentious, because I’m sure there are plenty of interesting people in Miami. But I didn't really feel like I belonged there, so it was always about this search for an alternative to that. So the minute I left, things started happening, and I started to feel a connection to things. But I also fantasized a lot. It’s almost like I imagined angst or something. By being in a place that was so beautiful and lush and pleasant. Robert: Happy. Teresita: Happy and healthy and golden. I developed a really, really sharp sense of what was somber and what was quiet and what was intuitive and what was emotional and what was difficult. I developed a really, really sharp sense for a tone that was exactly the opposite of that. And it’s the same tome that you see throughout all my work. People usually think it’s the opposite. They'll see water, and they'll say, ‘Oh, Miami.’ And it’s like, Miami water doesn't look like that. That looks like the Seto Inland Sea. The extreme opposite was what was interesting to me. But in that context, it was like a caricature of itself. It was like fake angst or something. Robert: Early on. Teresita: Yeah. Pounding metal and stuff, yeah. You try putting a big pounded metal sculpture in front of the sculpture studio and your university, and it’s like hibiscuses in the background. It doesn't work. But yeah, aesthetically, that’s where that comes from. Robert: This was the University of South Florida that you went to? Teresita: It’s Florida International University. It’s a state school in Miami. Robert: Florida International University. Where is that? Teresita: It’s in Miami. Robert: So when you went there, I forget the word that you used, things changed for you or something opened up. Teresita: The material. Actually working with the material and transforming it really gave me this sense of access to the whole world, and that I understood how it was that things in the world were made and existed. The idea of imposing oneself on the material, changing it was very empowering for me. And it’s what I still do. So now it’s not necessarily about physically working that hard at changing the material, but intellectually and psychologically changing material. Robert: What is it about that that particularly excites you? Teresita: It’s like magic. It’s like alchemy. It’s like making something from nothing. It’s like inventing something, and it’s like creating a character. Not a character character, like a Kanji, like a Chinese character. It’s like inventing a character that you put in the world. It’s also a way of a manipulating people I think. Robert: Manipulating people? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: You mean their subjectivity, their experience? Teresita: Yeah. I kind of get off on the voyeuristic aspect of feeling like I’m inventing something and putting it in the world and then kind of watching and learning from it. It’s not manipulative in a self-serving way necessarily. Sometimes it’s manipulative in a really constructive way. But I like that. I like the thrill of observing that power that something has. If you relate it alchemy, it’s almost like you’ve created an elixir, and people are completely seduced by it. I know how to do that. I know how to make things that do that. When you put people in that state, they in turn are affected by you as a person and you're treated differently somehow. So by making the work, I’m actually mastering myself. I think that it’s about putting something in the world that’s much bigger than me, but the kind of efficiency of it or healthiness of it depends on this totally narcissistic impulse that’s about measuring. It’s like I’m the measure of whether it works or not. It’s like a nourishment thing. Does any of that make sense? Robert: It makes perfect sense. Very good. Robert: Did you know that the word magic and mastery and etymologically related? Teresita: No, I didn't. But I’m fascinated by this idea. When I’m making art, not doing the research, not putting something together. But when I really get to those points, like we noticed yesterday where something clicks, I do feel like I’m making something from nothing, something that doesn't exist. Robert: Let’s talk a little bit about your relationship to materials. You seem to get kind of excited by the materials themselves, certain materials like graphite, maybe gold is going to be the next one. Is it something that starts the process, or do you have an idea and then you sort of search for the material that excites you? Do you ever just start with the material? Teresita: Never. I actually don't find materials, I search for materials. It’s very, very different. I never see a material that’s interesting and just say, ‘Hey, I could do something with that.’ Robert: How did you find graphite? Teresita: It took me a year to find it. Robert: What were you searching for? Teresita: That is that part of my research, which is very easy to explain. The first thing I did was figure out where graphite is mined in the world. And then I found several distributors. I basically have to become an expert at the industry, educate myself. Most of it honestly depends on forming a relationship with a real person. So I'll go there, and it’s very hard when you're an artist to get online or on the phone and say, “Hi. I’m an artist. I’m interested in this.” There is no vocabulary. You have no common vocabulary whatsoever. In most cases, they won't even talk to you. So for the graphite, for example, I started by just ordering the smallest amounts that I could. Robert: How did you get on graphite in the first place? Teresita: Because of the whole landscape and the Arno Valley drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. And then I got to Borrowdale and the idea of a drawing and a landscape being a drawing. Robert: So it’s like the association of the drawings by Da Vinci were in graphite, and you were curious to learn about graphite. Is that it? Teresita: Yeah. And then I became interested in the material graphite because of Borrowdale and because of being able to mine it and the idea that graphite is used to make a mark, but it’s also a three-dimensional material. So I wanted to make sculptures that were drawings and drawings that were sculptures, so I needed a lot of graphite in order to build or construct something, which I also didn't know how to do. So, I did a lot of research. I got samples of graphite from all over the world. From Russia, from Pennsylvania, from Sri Lanka, from everywhere. And if you line them all up, they all look very, very different. They have very different qualities. Robert: Interesting. Teresita: They have different colors. They're completely different. So, the kind of graphite that I liked comes from Sri Lanka, which is where all my graphite comes from. Robert: Why did you like it? Teresita: Because it had the highest luster. You saw it in Cleveland. Those buckets are full of it. It had the highest luster, and it was just a very seductive material, and it was soft and I could work with it. But mostly because of the way it worked. It reflected the most light, and it was just almost liquid in its appearance. So I went with that, and then when I found it, I had to see how I could buy it in big enough pieces. Robert: Did you go to Sri Lanka? Teresita: I didn't. I dealt actually with someone who distributes their graphite here. So I went and met this person and spent the day with this person whose life couldn't be more different than mine. And surprisingly enough, I find that when you're generous with your time and your ideas, people are so, so eager to help you and respond. So I had one contact, and went and spent the day with them, and he was willing to work with my strange idea. He makes people where he works sort out the pieces that I want. Stuff that they don't do for other big orders. It really kind of handpicked. Each piece is handpicked. Robert: Don't graphite evoke any particular feeling for you personally? Teresita: Personally? Robert: Yeah. Teresita: After using it? Robert: Both. Just graphite itself. Even the look of it. You say seductive. Teresita: Yeah. But it’s more than that. For me, graphite represents a very, very, I want to say primal in this case. A very primal aspect of thinking and being human, and I don't really make a distinction between drawing and thinking. So it all started to blend together. When I went to this graphite distributor, for example, I was in the showroom looking at stuff. I was like, ‘I don't want to see the showroom. Show me the stuff. Show me where miles of this stuff is. Show me who’s working with it.’ And so he did. I put on boots and a hardhat, and I went out. I have pictures of it actually. If you could imagine men workers completely covered in graphite, where every surface of their clothing, their shoes, everything, their glasses had a kind of sheen to it. My floors used to be like that. But if you can just imagine everything like that. It was so surreal, because it was this scene that was like this living drawing. So yeah, there’s an immediacy to it, because the graphite gets on you, too. So it’s like, you make a mark with it, but it also makes a mark on you. There’s something very earth about it somehow. Robert: So is something similar going on with gold? Teresita: The gold. Okay. I’ve been thinking about metallurgy and alchemy for a while. And when I got offered the show at the Met, the first thing I did was walk around for two hours in a daze. Robert: Here or there? Teresita: In the museum. And I was a little overwhelmed, because to get to the gallery that I’m working in, you have to go through the Greco room section, the African section, arts of Oceania, Americas, modern masters, and then you get to my room. And by the time you get to my room, they're all stacked up on top of your head, and it’s hard to top them. That’s the way I describe them. It’s like it’s hard to put another hat on it. So I was struggling with that, and I walked around the museum and I had a million ideas of what I wanted to do. So I walked through paintings, and all of a sudden I wanted to make something about landscape or panoramas. And then I'd walk someplace else and I'd want to do that. And it all felt so didactic and so derivative. Robert: Your idea? Teresita: This idea that I would respond to something so linearly. I kept rejecting and rejecting it as I was walking along. And I kept thinking, what I really, really want to do is I want to find a way of understanding why it is that when we walk through those spaces and look at those amazing works of art from our ancestors, why is it that we have this amazing sense of awe and reverence? And how is it that you could capture that sense of awe and reverence? How can you kind of bottle it? How can you kind of recreate it so that someone would bring that same sensibility to a work of contemporary art, which is psychologically very different. And so for me, a lot of it was just trying to identify what that was, and it has a lot to do with, yeah you're looking at this African mask, and you're looking at clothes. You'll see the tiny little bit of dried blood on one side of it, and it’s like, this is us. There’s something about being human that’s in all of this. It was very clear to me that I wanted to identify what that thing was and try to make this seamless connection into whatever I make, which was kind of, on my side, lofty desires on my part. But I wanted to make something that would be read in a very universal way. And I kept going back to the gold treasury, the Jan Mitchell. It’s right by the African stuff. It’s kind of tucked away. It’s all the pre-Columbian gold. Robert: Oh, at the Met? Teresita: Yeah. Robert: Yeah, I’ve seen it once. Teresita: Anyway, so I was already interested in gold because of this book, and its something that I had already ordered. Like a year ago, I had ordered all of these materials made out of pyrite, which is fool’s gold. And I was working on a piece with fool’s gold, and I ended up using this instead, this iron ore instead of this. Robert: Is that iron ore? Teresita: That’s iron ore. It’s called Galena. So anyway, I had already been thinking about the idea of gold for many reasons, and when I went into that space and I started doing all this research, I really kind of realized how universal gold was as a material. And then I walked around the museum again. You can go to any time period in any part of the world and there’s an association with gold. The material itself projects and requires a kind of reverence and a kind of something bigger than yourself. It’s always than the thing that’s it. I love this idea that most of the gold that’s ever been mined is still in circulation in one way or another. I love the idea that it wasn't like I was making this historical thing, but the idea that all the world economies are linked only by gold and that what we think of as our economy is completely based on all of these arbitrary numbers, but that there is a vault someplace with a bunch of gold bars, and that the gold standard is still, if you had to physically measure it, that’s what it looks like. It looks like a room full of gold bars, even though we don't see it. It’s almost like we’ve lost the tactile sensual aspect of our association with gold, but it still kind of dominates the way we gauge, the way we put a number on value is still measured in gold. So historically, politically, socially and politically, it had all of these ramifications as a material, and it was also just very beautiful and very sensual visually. I thought I could make something of this. And it connects almost every religion and every gallery in the Met. So for me, it was like a real revelation to identify a material that somehow would resonate in every other part of the Met. So at the moment, I’m meeting the curator who deals with the gold. I’m dealing with a scientist who works at the Met, the scientist that works with gold. And I’m doing a lot of research for four or five months before I even start making something. Robert: So you're not sure where it’s going to lead. Right now it’s pretty open. Teresita: I don't know. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like, but I know what I want it to feel like. Robert: Can you share that? Teresita: Yeah. The gallery that I’m in, it’s after you go through all those things and you go down the stairs into the mezzanine. So you go downstairs, and you go into this room, the gallery that I have, which has a low ceiling and it feels like you're underground. So there are all these connections also to mining and to extracting metal. I want somehow that you turn that corner and before you even enter this room, I want you to experience it before you actually identify it or recognize it or call it something. So, what I know I want to do is something very experiential, rather than in objects. Robert: Do you think it’s the radiance of gold that connects why we’re so drawn to it? Teresita: There’s a universal appeal. I think it’s because there’s something magical about gold. Robert: What is that? Teresita: I don't know what that is, but it’s so consistent throughout everything, throughout our whole history. It’s so consistent. Robert: Do you have any ideas, theories? Teresita: I’m not interested in coming up with a theory about it, but it’s almost like it takes up more space than itself for me. So it’s like, here’s a piece of gold, and it’s this big, but the space that it radiates is this big. Robert: That’s what I meant, the radiant factor. Teresita: Yeah. But it’s visual, but it’s also a kind of psychological radiance. So from here to here, this is not the object. Here’s your eye. Here’s you as a person. Here’s the object. From here to here, there’s this zone which is the radiance that’s created by the gold. Robert: That’s the magic. Teresita: That’s the magical part. I think actually that’s really what interests people in gold. Robert: That’s very exciting. Teresita: It’s this attraction to it that’s involuntary. I like that it’s involuntary that we just automatically are attracted to it. Robert: Did you know that great pyramids in Egypt, originally some of them had immense gold on top? We have no idea what they looked like, but some 19th century artist tried to recreate it. I forget his name. Teresita: Yeah. It’s really different. Robert: It was like the sun hitting this immense thing and all the gold. I can't even imagine what that would look like. Teresita: Yeah, I know. And it’s about light. It’s about light. Robert: Maybe that’s what it is. Teresita: Yeah, yeah. There is this almost animal instinct that about survival and light associate to that. But also just like all of the figurative things around it, like the golden mean. Robert: What is the golden mean again? Teresita: It’s the golden rule. It’s a very basic notion that you do unto others as you want them to yourself. For me, gold is the material representation of compassion in that sense. I think it’s all about that. And the golden rule is about that. And you can trace it. It’s such an ancient idea across so many different religions and cultures. It’s almost identical. Robert: We could talk forever about gold. Let’s move on. Do you find any connection between, since you're reading about alchemy, and your own creative process? Is there any kind of connection between that? Teresita: Between alchemy and my own creative process? Yes, yes. Absolutely. Robert: What do you feel about that? Teresita: I feel like I’m chasing something. I feel like I’m privileged. I feel like I’m part of a privileged group of people that can chase that information. I don't think everybody does it. Or I should say, it’s not just about wanting to chase it, it’s about needing to change it. I think I have a set of skills and a kind of, I don't want to use the word gift, but an ability to chase it and to recognize it. Robert: It meaning . . . Teresita: That making something from nothing, or that alchemy. But it’s never about getting it, because it’s not there. It’s just about wanting to always get it, which I think is what’s interesting about alchemy is that there’s nothing ever found that’s just the pursuit of that thing. Robert: You mean it’s always the pursuit. Teresita: It’s always the pursuit. It’s not about finding anything. Robert: Well they were in search of the philosopher’s stone, but they never found it. Teresita: They never found it. How is it that something so intangible and something so, I don't know, vaporous can prompt such a passionate search? So it’s really about the search. And I think then that the outcome, the actual thing to find actually looks nothing like what we think it looks like. That’s another thing I believe. Robert: In your work? Teresita: In my work and in my life. It’s that the thing that we search and search for actually looks nothing like what we think it’s going to look like. Robert: Okay. But is it also like a distillation process itself where you're getting towards the fire of the material that you're trying to get to the essence of. So you have to distill it mentally and creatively and do you get it? Teresita: Mm-hmm. In my case it’s about getting rid of everything that’s not the thing itself and being very disciplined about that, even if it means getting rid of things that I like. Robert: Can you give me anything tangible in that? Teresita: It’s hard. I do it all the time in my own work. It’s a kind of editing process, and it’s a kind of taking things away, because of course I start out with a very rogue sensibility of whatever I’m trying to create and whatever’s been stuck onto it as an idea. But what you put out in the world as an artist, as a maker of things, what you put out in the world doesn't function that same way. It’s almost like there’s a translation process. So I do my thing, and it exists a certain way in my head. Like everything I just told you about gold. It takes on a certain significance in my mind. So, sometimes I feel like I’m a translator, like I take that information, and I’m translating it to create this new form that harnesses the essence of it but doesn't give you all the parts and pieces. Because if you give everybody the parts and pieces, then it has no effect. And I only care about the effect. So I’m taking everything else away from it. I’m processing it. I’m reducing it. And then I’m putting it out so that it becomes purely about experience and reaction and engagement. Robert: One of my favorite pieces that I saw at MOCA was “Eruption”. I really liked “Eruption”. Was there anything in that process? Does that have any kind of alchemical process to it, or what was the process behind that particular piece? It’s a little different from the other things that I’ve seen. Teresita: It’s an older piece. Well, there’s a painting underneath it. Robert: Oh, I didn't know that. Teresita: Yeah. There’s a painting underneath. The beads aren't actually colored. There’s the painting underneath it. Robert: We don't know that. Teresita: You don't know that, but I know that. So I made an image and I blew it up. And you don't know what that image looks like. Robert: What is that image? Is it an image of something? Teresita: It’s an abstract image. And then to find those beads was actually really hard. Robert: Those beads are just glass. They're not colored. Teresita: They're glass. They're clear glass beads. But they're very specific clear glass beads. So, I spent many months delving into that industry. So glass looks a certain way. It depends on how it’s made, if it’s got too much iron in it, it looks green. If it’s recycled it looks cloudy. If it’s medical grade, it’s like completely perfect. So there were two factors. The size, the roundness of the ball, and the clarity of the glass. So those two factors are really important in why that piece looks that way. Robert: That took a while to find. Teresita: Yes. Robert: But you knew you needed something as clear and translucent as possible. Teresita: Yes. Because each one of these little balls is like a microscope that distorts the image underneath it. So in a way what I’ve done is I’ve put a lens over the whole thing, and I’m asking you to look at something that’s quite different than the original painting. It’s about seeing something in the distortion and distorting something in order to reveal it. Robert: But it has this really kind of mesmerizing effect on you. I’m not aware of the process you went through. I’m hitting upon all of these associations. For me, it was obviously a volcano, but then there was the galaxies or the stars or Pompeii. For some reason it evoked mosaics in Pompeii, things like that. You're not intending any of these things. Was it by accident that it creates these effects? Teresita: No. It’s not by accident. But that’s the distillation, so how much can I distill it and still have you think of Pompeii when you're standing in front of it, without ever even saying anything. It’s about the muteness of the piece. The piece says nothing. It speaks nothing. And yet something, by the color choice, by an edge, the information is always in these very unannounced moments that get worked into the piece, that trigger your memory. Robert: So what were you distilling that one to? Teresita: What did I start from? Robert: Yeah, I guess. Teresita: It’s not one thing. It’s sometimes a lot of things. It’s sometimes a lot of things at once. Colors are really important. Colors are a very strong way of provoking a very visceral response that’s never spelled out, that stays completely abstract. I’m talking about things that function, too, on an abstract level for the viewer. So, you can call it Pompeii, or you may call it whatever else, but there are times when there’s just no word attached to it, but you are thinking Pompeii. You're just not calling it Pompeii. And so you're looking at it, and you're thinking of transformation, devastation, transition, remnant, ruins, and those are the things that get applied to the piece. Now, you may have enough access to call it Pompeii in your mind or to remember, oh, I think I saw something like this Pompeii. But for the most part, people just enter it without that kind of awareness of why, and that’s actually the most interesting place, because it becomes completely universal. It becomes completely instinctive, and it becomes completely experiential, and it becomes completely personal and emotional. And that’s when the work works. My work only works if it evokes emotional response in the viewer. Robert: It seems like when you create color effects, you almost have this indirect thing going on where somebody else is creating the color, not what you think it is. Teresita: Yes. It’s like a ghost. It’s like a ghost of color. Robert: Are you consciously doing this? Teresita: Yes. I even talk about this etymological connection between spectrum and specter and spectral. So it’s a spectrum that becomes spectral. It becomes color that’s not to be looked at, at face value or directly, but rather indirectly. So you see it totally different, because you're really looking at light. You're not looking at color. Color is just light, but in the way that I use it, what you're really looking at is color rather than a surface that’s painted. And it’s that radiance again. Robert: Okay. Good. What about the fact that you have no signature style? You kind of move each piece like an undiscovered country that you're exploring. This is a very conscious creative strategy for you. Correct or no? Boredom is a big factor for you, so you want to deliberately put yourself in a place that’s a challenge where you have to kind of recreate yourself in a way. Teresita: Yeah. It’s not that I don't want to have a signature style, and that’s why I do it. It’s more that I don't know how to do it when I know how to do it. All the things that I’m trying to evoke in the work, I have to actually feel and experience myself, and I certainly know how to fool other people and do it. That’s very easy. But I can't fool myself. And so when something feels familiar to me, I immediately recognize it as the wrong way to go. Robert: When something’s familiar to you? Teresita: Yeah. When something is familiar, the solution to something becomes familiar or effective in a very easy way because I’ve used it before, I tend to reject it a little bit, partially because I’m bored because I did it already. And partially because if I’m not engaged, I can't ask the viewer to be engaged. And because I just feel like so much of what my work is based on is this kind of elusive search for how to do something. So I can be in it, and I can do it, but I can't make work about it. If that makes sense. I can't make work about being elusive. I can't make work about being ephemeral. It’s like, it can be ephemeral, or it can be elusive, but it can't be an illustration of something. I can make work about the behavior of fire. I can't make fire. I can't make a sculpture that looks like fire. So again, it’s this moment of making and being and a kind of presence, and so I have to be present, and I have to go through the work of it in order to make something that, in the end, the viewer cannot look at passively. I can't be demanding somehow unless I’ve worked at it somehow. Does that make sense? Robert: Mm-hmm. Teresita: Okay. And it’s very easy for me to recognize when I already know the answer. Robert: Is there any example where you realized that something was familiar and then you had to eliminate it? Teresita: All the time. Robert: Just give me one. I'll understand it better. It’s my own alchemy I go through. You’ve mentioned before that things start off a little cliché. Teresita: The cliches usually end up being the best works, because I’m fighting so much against the cliche that I inevitably have to invent something so different. Like when it doesn't work, it’s just optically or visually scintillating, but not intellectually scintillating. That’s what it means for me when I can make a work that gets the same response from people, but I know doesn't have the invention in it. It doesn't have that sense of invention in it. I don't do it very often anymore. Robert: Do what? Teresita: That. Settle for that kind of solution where it’s just not quite doing it or I’m fooling myself. But I think it’s a level of maturity. The older I get, the less time that I have for things that don't work. Robert: I guess I want to know a moment where you recognized a flaw, a particular flaw and you moved forward. Teresita: In a work? Robert: Yeah. If you can't talk about it, you can't talk about it. Teresita: Okay. No, it’s not that I can't talk about it. It’s just that I think that sometimes the flaws are really important, too. I kind of embrace the flaws a little bit. I believe in making bad work sometimes, just maybe not showing it. I feel actually very vulnerable about bad work, and I think that it’s very important to have a private space where one can indulge in bad work in all its glory. So I do that. I can do that. But it’s like writing. You know that there’s some cool book that you could write that everybody would just love and that would probably be pretty easy for you to write. Robert: