Federico Uribe: Beyond Unreal, Part I
David= D Federico= F
D What was it like growing up in Colombia?
F The fact that it was in Colombia or the fact that I was growing up?
D Let’s say the environment.
F I spent a large part of my childhood, about half, in my grandfather’s farm and the rest of it in Bogotá.
D Tell us about the farm. Did you like it?
F It was a big farm. There were a lot of animals. My grandfather had rabbits, pheasants, peacocks, dogs, pigs, anything. Any domestic animal or semi-domestic animal, parrots and cockatoos, whatever you can imagine they were all there.
D And now they’re all here.
F Si, I was always shy so I created my own games, my own universe; my own house in the trees. I loved that part of my life. It’s the only part of my life that was good and pleasant.
The rest, Bogotá, well, Bogotá is a very unpleasant and hostile city, and it’s always been. As soon as you open your eyes and once you understand that the street exists they start telling you that the street is dangerous and the people on the street are dangerous and the people out there are going to rob you, and all these things we have; it’s danger all around you. Besides that, I grew up in a dysfunctional family to say the least. That part of my life is not pleasant and I hated school.
D Why did you hate school?
F I went there, and from the first day they bullied me and that did it for the rest of my life. I had a miserable time. I hated going to school.
D How was it when you left? How was it to express yourself once you went to New York for school?
F Having a lot of baggage is not an easy thing to get rid of. It takes you a while to understand that you’re by yourself and to understand you’re not being watched by the society in Bogotá, and your father, and your mother. You still feel like they’re watching you, like ghosts. So it took me a long time to shake it off.
I wanted to be a painter, I moved to New York to get a Master’s Degree in Painting. I painted politically related subjects, things that talked about political and social issues in Colombia: The war against the drug lords, and Pablo Escobar, and the army, and the bombs, what was happening in 1987 and 1989.
I think I was the only person, in his twenties, living in New York that went to a bar once or went to a movie once in two years because I was obsessed with the idea of being a painter. I painted and painted and painted obsessively every day of my life so I didn’t have any money to go out or do anything. I had no one to go out with. I lived at the dorms at school and I was almost celibate and I just painted.
D When did you transition from painting to working with objects?
F I lived off grants for a long time. I went to England for a grant and then I came back to Mexico. In Mexico I painted oil paintings, religious-related kind of paintings. Because of painful intimate experiences, I was very angry at the church and priests and I painted a lot of images about this anger, and what had happened and what it implied to me. So as a young adult I painted with a lot of anger and things about castration and pain. It was, I would say, cathartic and therapeutic.
D Do you feel you’ve let some of that out, even if not 100%?
F Not really. Deep feelings like depression and sadness and anger are sort of addictive and you want to taste how far you go, how depressed you get, how self-destructive you can get.
I was addicted to it. I rummaged in these feelings and this anger. I got a lot of information, I read about a lot of people being screwed by priests and the history of the church and I got angrier and more depressed and more upset. Was it helpful? No, I just needed to do it.
But while I was in Mexico I met my partner and that really changed my whole perception about my sexuality, because he made it normal, he made it okay. He was handsome and I liked him and I feel proud of him and he loved me and it was good. It’s still very good. I lost the need to complain about it.
Emotionally I didn’t have the need to complain about it anymore. I couldn’t justify it anymore because I was happy, I liked my partner and I liked being gay. It was good for me.
So I couldn’t paint anymore because I related painting to that, so I started playing with objects. We moved to Guadalajara and once I was there I started playing with objects and creating these things. I grew confident pretty quickly, I understood this was my thing.
Growing up I did a lot of handcrafts when I was in school in my grandfather’s farm. He had a little workshop and he worked with leather and plastic, and I liked it. I helped him. So I understood I had a knack for this and it came easy to me and I grew confident quickly and I started thinking about the plastic possibility of objects and the aesthetic possibility of objects, any object.
Federico Uribe: Beyond Unreal, Part II
More information on Federico Uribe can be found at: www.federicouribe.com
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