Christian Alvarado (he/they) is an afro-latinx, interdisciplinary artist-educator from New Jersey and current Studio Art MFA Candidate at the University of Oregon, graduating in Spring 2024.
Through drawing, sculpture and writing, my worldbuilding practice renegotiates colonialism’s hurtful influence on afrolatinx identity. My work merges autobiographical, historical, and fictional narratives in order to find, fabricate and investigate opportunities for new identities and worlds. By reworking moments of colonial contact through autobiographical fiction, I’m able to redefine my relationship with my afrolatinx identity, my family’s migration from the Dominican Republic, and make room for possibilities within new afrolatinx futures.
My work utilizes a symbolic color and organizing method I created called Baroque Tropicalia, in reference to formal motifs in Baroque painting and sculpture and the 1970’s life-as-art-as-revolution movement, Tropicalia. Large scale mixed-material drawings on black paper, such as “SCENES! unearthing” and “SCENES! the rest of vela” depict colorful characters in cosmic landscapes. These characters are played by real or fabricated family members set on the planet vela, a dreamscape version of the Dominican Republic. This dreamscape is a collage of various compositional techniques borrowed from disparate cultures, specifically from the perspectival West and the planar Caribbean indigenous Tainos. By portraying ancestors, ancient and contemporary, fictional or autobiographical, living amidst a fragmented cosmos, I showcase their ability to navigate an overwhelming world.
My sculptural practice materializes the afrolatinx-futurist world of vela by referencing contemporary and ancestral machines. Recent space-faring technologies, like the James Webb Space Telescope and Carl Sagan’s interstellar beacon of human progress, the Golden Record, act as important references for “Contacting Lens”, a fictional guide meant to carry messages as far as the beginning of time. These “Lenses” are created through a material intensive moldmaking process, where a hexagonal assemblage model is created out of metals, beads, food items, clays, etc, is then casted from silicone molds with epoxy resin, and painted in dazzling colors. A related sculpture, titled “Contacting Array”, is in development. This life sized arrangement of hexagons, alluding to the James Webb’s mirror array, will be composed of metal, with engraving and laser cut details of scenes from far away worlds.
Christian's pedagogy values the communal aspect of artmaking, with emphasis on working with beginner artists to establish foundational research and making skills that are specific to the student. They are currently a Studio Art MFA-candidate at the University of Oregon and expects to graduate in June 2024. Christian’s work has been featured in the Museum of Trades and Crafts in Madison, New Jersey, Laverne Krause Gallery in Eugene, Oregon, the Center for Arts Research in Eugene, Oregon, Foundations Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.