I have spent many a day looking upon Cristina’s mobile digital illustrations. I would say she is one of the leading figures of the surrealist movement of this growing artform. The selection of images that we have included within this interview represent a superbly lucid and erudite collection of collage and visual illusions. I consider this collection some of Cristina’s greatest work.
This is our thirty second published interview within this series of ‘intimate interviews’, this time with Oola Cristina from from the Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.
To read the other published interviews in this intimate series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Kathleen Magner-Rios and myself, go here.
All images ©Oola Cristina
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
I wanted to be a nun. I don’t know if I would call it an ambition but it was something I thought about a lot. I had a positive experience in primary school being taught by nuns. They were fun loving, had a lot of heart and were good teachers. I felt close to them and got to visit the convent from time to time. Their simple lifestyle, the way they cared for each other and their sincerity in doing good in the world appealed to me.
The first recognition of my creativity was in the third grade. I was asked to help decorate the class bulletin boards at the beginning and end of the school year, and for the various holidays. Construction paper, scissors and paste, FTW!
When I was 13, my father died and my mom needed to find full-time work outside the home. While she was looking, she got some part time gigs through a friend helping in the kitchen and serving food at country club and dinner parties. I worked with her at some of the larger events and eventually ended up working a few smaller dinner parties by myself.
Private or State School?
K though 9, private Catholic school. Senior high, public school. College, state school.
I had two and a half years of university, but changed directions and went to work. I’ve never regretted that decision. I was taking liberal arts and music classes and enjoyed them, but when it was time to declare a major, I didn’t feel a strong enough pull toward anything. I wasn’t put together to do something I felt no connection with just to do it, so I left school. I found a full-time job right away at Arthur Murray Dance Studio. It was the most fun I ever had in a work environment! I was hired to do general office; party prep and decorating; a little graphic design for newsletters, invitations, etc; and, my personal favorite, assisting with dance demonstrations. The instructors would call me to the dance floor on and off through the day to help them demonstrate the steps when another instructor wasn’t available. I was a huge fan of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies as a child and dreamed of ballroom dancing one day. Working there wasn’t just fun and paid the bills, it also gave me that dream. It was a good segue.
Who was or still is your mentor?
My journey has been more of an internal one… psychological, emotional, spiritual. I’ve not really had a mentor but there have been teachers who’ve helped along the way. I’ve been very lucky that each of them came into my life when they did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their understanding, guidance, support and love. My greatest teachers though have been chronic depression and autoimmune illness. Both impact every area of one’s life. In my 20s, they changed the direction in which I was going. For several years, I was unable to work. After, only part time and not consistently. They slowed me down and insisted I pay better attention, caused me to look deeper, changed my priorities, and gave me a more expanded perspective about what it is to be here. Though they’ve been demanding companions, they’ve led me to what I’ve needed most.
How physically fit are you?
I have a stretching and core strengthening routine that I do regularly in order to maintain flexibility and reduce pain but it lacks cardio at the moment. I do some gardening but don’t have what it takes to be as active as would be ideal.
Ambition or Talent – What matters more to success?
A combination of both with some good sense and a lot of luck.
From where I’m sitting now though, I think of success more as enjoyment and contentment with what you have.
How politically committed are you?
I educate myself about the issues and candidates as best I can and have voted in every national and state election since I turned 18. That will continue. As far as rallies, letter writing, avidly keeping up with current events, etc., I don’t have the energy to be involved like that these days.
I think two important parts of being a good planetary citizen, which in turn can positively impact politics and culture, is treating others the way you would like to be treated and not leaving a mess. My political choices are based on who embodies those things the most and what can lead to those things the best.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A comfortable, energy efficient vehicle and the current 12.9” iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.
What is your biggest extravagance?
My mobile art gear.
What places are you the happiest?
At home in the flow of making art or in my garden when temps are just right and there’s a cool breeze, knowing my closest friends are reachable and we are all well.
What ambitions do you still have?
I would love to have improved health; to create much, much more; and to have the wherewithal to print my work.
What drives you on?
Curiosity. Creativity. Connection. A good meal.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I’m alive and feel very grateful for my life… probably more grace than achievement.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Those who stubbornly cling to ignorance… their unwillingness to question and educate themselves with factual information is disheartening and exhausting. Entitlement… it’s hard for me to listen to people who think they deserve more rewards and fewer or no consequences because of their race, gender, religion, nationality, status, etc.
If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would she think?
She would be concerned about the health stuff, and very happy and relieved about the creativity and love that’s in her life.
Which object that you’ve love do you wish you still have?
A 14K gold necklace with a small medallion of a guardian angel standing behind a little girl that my mom’s best friend and my guardian gave me when I turned 12. I wore it all the time and lost it at the beach when I was in college.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
So many choices… climate change and the destruction of the environment; corruption and the worship of status and money; the insatiable hunger for power and control masquerading as leadership; extremism, radicalisation (in any direction) and the growing problem of deep fake; nationalism, tribalism, “us vs. them”; ignorance, denial, shortsightedness and the lack of critical thinking; the inability to accurately self-reflect. Human nature is what it is. It’s beautifully wonderful and it’s deeply horrible, and not everyone has the capacity or the privilege to do life any differently. The greatest challenge of any time in human history has people at the source. So, I think it’s the limitations of our own human natures. Barring a miraculous collective heart and mind-opening elevation in consciousness and boatloads of grace to repair the damage we’ve done, what can be done about us?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I find ideas about the afterlife and cosmologies interesting and often comforting, but they’re filtered through the human mind. The human mind may be amazing but its capacity is finite. Belief isn’t necessarily truth. So, I’m curious but don’t know. Afterlife or not, it doesn’t make any difference in how I live and how I treat people.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
In one way, my life has been very challenging and restricted because of unreliable health. There are always blessings to be counted but there’s been more difficulty than anyone would want. However, my life has often been unconventional and interesting due to choices I’ve made because of those challenges and limitations. When I look at who I am and what I’ve been able to do and have with what I was given, my life looks pretty good. I’ve got the basics of what a person needs to live a satisfying life: healthy food, clean water, comfortable shelter and a full sock drawer; love and companionship; help when I’ve needed it; creative expression; and enough intelligence, self-awareness and luck to be okay in life. In that respect, I have more than many of the billions of people on the planet. I consider myself very, very lucky.
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