Visual artist Christina Carfora spent some time in Indonesia during 2009 and 2010. Some of her work since then is a direct result of her time there, including the work-in-progress Mechanical Hand for an Orangutan, seen above. She created the piece after seeing orangutans in the Indonesian jungle that had been mutilated by villagers. Although not a widespread practice, some villagers cut the apes' hands off in an effort to "teach" the orangutans not to steal. "It's awful to see in person," Carfora tells us. "I don't go out and try to change the world, but a lot of times when I'm traveling I run into political issues. So I made this mechanical hand that was supposed to be this very simple, man-made harsh, poor replacement for the orangutan's own hand."
The piece took Carfora some four months to craft. It's not finished yet -- she's attaching it to a life-size sculpture of an orangutan -- but already has quite an emotional impact on viewers.
What She Does: Carfora usually calls herself a sculptural ceramics artist, but she's been moving into drawing and metalwork as well so the tag doesn't fit quite as well as it once did. "That seems to be a less up-to-date description of what I do, so I guess visual artist is more accurate."
Carfora further blurs the lines between mediums with sgrafitto, a technique that involves drawing directly on a clay surface. One example of her sgrafitto work is An Indonesian Epic, a towering piece with the upper half of a woman's figure on top, under which a series of ceramic panels decorated with various Indonesian motifs make up her skirt.
Why She Likes It: An ardent traveler (she's been to 23 countries as an adult), Carfora says being an artist helps her to "rationalize my insane wanderlust. There's always a very, very strong itch to go out and see the world.
"And it gives me a way of sharing what I've experienced with other people. It gives me an opportunity to comment on what I've seen. And I'm not trying to scold people or teach anybody anything, but sometimes things need to be said, or thought about and addressed, questioned."
What Inspires Her: "Human interaction inspires me. I'm curious why we are the way we are as humans. It's that curiosity that makes me work."
If Not This, Then What: "In the past when I've been making art, I've also been teaching art. If I had to have no art at all, I think I would do something in anthropology. I got to travel with an anthropologist and I think I would want to do what he was doing, finding out about the less well-known places in the world and understanding how and why we live."
If Not Here, Then Where: "In the United States, I might end up in Colorado or California. I have family in both of those places. I need to live in a city but I like that those areas have a combination of cities and nature. Outside of the US, it would depend on what day you asked me. I would happily move to Asia and different parts of Europe."
What's Next: Carfora is currently working on her master's degree from the University of Houston/Clear Lake. She'll complete a residency at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and a stint at the Glassell School of Art. Following that, her plans aren't quite firm. She may work with a professor at Texas Women's University in Denton, teaching while she continues to take classes, or she may work with an artist in Colorado as a studio assistant.
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