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Artistic Alchemist Catalina Jaramillo - Possessed by the Power of Art

By Rachel Galvin

Artist Catalina Jaramillo
"I was seeking the celebration of life. Maybe I wanted mom to forget she was sick.

I remember I thought if I could just chant enough, and be spiritual enough, I could heal the cancer, sculpt the cancer out of her body."

Recipient, 2014 South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Artists Fellowship
When inspiration hits, there is no turning back for artist. A recipient of the 2013 South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Artists Fellowship of $15,000, Jaramillo, known for her performance art, utilizes self-discipline, meditation and asceticism to gain insight that she passes on to those who witness her process. She explores concepts of joy, grief, love, pain, unity, purity and spirituality.

Seeing herself as a Robin Hood, taking the seemingly unattainable and transforming it into something accessible for the general public, Jaramillo has undergone a transformation of her own over the last few years a shift in her art.

Self-assessed as being more ego-based in her art before, Jaramillo has changed her style since her mother, who passed away in 2010, was diagnosed with cancer in 2000.

"Four months after we moved [from Colombia], we took my mom to the hospital," Jaramillo recalls. "The next day, they called us. She had stage IV ovarian cancer. They sent her straight to surgery." Since then, Jaramillo has used art as a way to make sense of her ever-changing world.

In 2003, her installation "I Am a Soul, I Have a Body So Let's Play" exemplified the new look on life. The idea of souls living a human experience are intrinsic to her work. In this piece, 400 pounds of sugar covered one room, and rice another. Instruments of play and utility were spaced out in the interactive scene, inviting participants to play and reflect: a rice cooker, a xylophone, a light bulb, a puzzle, a lamp, marshmallow peeps and more.

Jaramillo explored the idea of childhood joy and healing.

She said, "I was seeking the celebration of life. Maybe I wanted mom to forget she was sick. I remember I thought if I could just chant enough, and be spiritual enough, I could heal the cancer, sculpt the cancer out of her body."

She tried to heal others through her participatory performance "The Apothecary," in which she asked people what ailed them and gave them a product to "help" with healing.

"I was creating products that you would buy at Whole Foods for $200, but giving them away. I always want to make things seemingly beyond reach available to everyone," Jaramillo explains.

She found that the process became more about creating a connection.

 Catalina Jaramillo
 Catalina Jaramillo
"The first participant, a woman, laid naked in the space and cried for almost two hours. She had a pain in her liver; she missed her kids from another marriage. I think whatever concoction I used it would work in that when she smelled it, she would remember that day that she opened up to a stranger and would think `was I crazy?' or `that was cool.' There is something about talking to strangers, people you will never have to see again. It is a spiritual one-night stand," she said.

She found the most connection working with her mother, who was a willing partner in her art. In one performance piece in 2004, titled "Cocoon," her mother wrapped Jaramillo's naked body in yarn while the two shared a glass of milk and chanted. An egg boiling in a Pyrex dish on an electric stove served as the perfect unintentional ending to the piece, when the bowl cracked unexpectedly.

"That's why I love art. It has the power to sneak up on me," she said.

After this piece, she and her mother knitted the yarn into a tent, showing the vulnerability of being human.

Her art has inspired powerful revelations in her. After a break-up, she showcased her ability to move on, finding fortitude through unity, ironing names of people who were important to her onto a wedding dress and wearing it for her piece "Oneness II."

"Art is what happens to you while you are making art," said Jaramillo, who explained that she stepped on sand spurs while walking barefoot in the dress, making her realize she could not whitewash the hurt away. She had to acknowledge it and forgive it. This revelation led her to her next piece, in which she took the sand spurs, washed them and drank the water they were washed in, making them holy.

South Florida Cultural Consortium
Created in 1985, the South Florida Cultural Consortium is an alliance of the local arts agencies of Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

The Consortium’s mission is to develop cultural excellence and accessibility through collaboration among our counties. The arts agencies share strategies from the great cultural work in each of our communities and pool resources to initiate joint projects that take advantage of this collaboration.

Art seems to keep Jaramillo a willing hostage. When she thought she was ready for a new career path, she received the fellowship from the South Florida Cultural Consortium. She knew it was time to come up with something brand new. As part of "Who Am I To You?" she decided her artistic contribution would be shredding all of her journals.

After coming up with the idea of shredding her life's work essentially, she immediately thought it crazy, but knew that once she thought of it, there was no turning back. She knew she could not cheat the audience by pretending to shred them, or only shredding some of them; it was all or nothing. She found the process painful, but eye-opening as she turned the pages into something new, shredded strips of paper.

In Ad Hoc, her latest installation (ran through Sept, 15) at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, where she also works, she took copies of catalogs that someone else had seemingly discarded, left in the basement, and ripped pages from them. Placing these images chronologically on the wall as part of her display gave them renewed life and allowed people to see and interpret them in a new way.

Loss and renewal is a universal concept explored in many of her pieces dealing with her mother, as in You Are Always Here. In this piece, she laid out all of her mother's objects after she died, putting them on display and inviting the public to take a piece with them, essentially, carrying her mother's spirit all over the world. To Jaramillo, who calls herself a "frustrated shaman," this gift might be the most precious she has given.

Jaramillo, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree, attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for two years and received a bachelor of arts in religious studies and Asian Studies and an M.A. from Florida International University. CQ

To find out more about Jaramillo, visit find out more about Saccoccio, visit

About the South Florida Cultural Consortium
The South Florida Cultural Consortium, formed in 1985, operates under an inter-local government agreement to coordinate projects and share resources for the growth of South Florida cultural activities, organizations and artists.  It provides regional cultural planning, new project development, statewide cultural marketing, information sharing, regional arts education training and support for ethnic and rural audience development. Read More...


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