President's Award for Excellence in Artistic Activity
From Psychology to Art
Legendary photographer Richard Avedon believes that you have to love your work so much that it is all you want to do.
“If I were going to be a politician, if I were going to be a scientist, I would do it every day,” he said. “I wouldn’t wait for Monday. I don’t believe in weekends.”
Avedon’s level of intensity may seem extreme to some people, but Associate Professor of New Media + Animation Cristina Molina, this year’s recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Activity, is not one of them.
“Every day I am motivated by the pursuit of ideas, by the beauty of not having all the answers, and by the thought that I can visually articulate my place in the world, and more- so, that this visual rendering is accepted and acknowledged by my artistic community, by Southeastern, and by my students,” she said.
Molina’s motivation for creating artwork grew through her study of psychology. She became fascinated by archetypal theories and how they manifest throughout individual lives.
“It seems each of us engages with a similar set of characters — parent, mentor, lover, child — who become key figures in our development. Artistically, I became invested in these characters and the stories they play and repeat in order to make sense of the world,” she said. “In my own private opera these key players are often female. Through moving images, photographs, language and sculptural forms, I create immersive narratives that centralize female protagonists in dominant, interpersonal roles.”
Molina joined the Southeastern faculty in 2013 after receiving her Master of Fine Art and Technology from the University of Florida.
“In just five short years, Cristina Molina’s reputation as an artist and her artistic accomplishments are astounding,” said Department Head of Visual Art + Design Dale Newkirk.
“Her artwork has been displayed in nine solo exhibitions, 33 regional group exhibitions, 11 national exhibitions and seven international exhibitions.”
Additionally, the leading art journal Art in America has recognized Molina’s work. Her artwork has been featured in galleries and museums such as the College Arts Association Conference in New York, Chicago Industrial Arts + Design Center, Miami Beach Urban Studies, American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center in Washington DC, as well as exhibitions in Germany, Greece, Poland, India, Japan, Argentina and the Dominican Republic.
“In her recent work, Cristina has psychoanalyzed herself, created a portrait of the female tree within her family, has looked at her personal story in relationship to nationality and place, and has created a meditation ‘chamber’ that asks the viewer to imagine a more perfect world than the one we currently live in,” Newkirk said.
Molina said creative practices have always been prominent in her family. Her aunts and grandmothers were talented landscape designers and horticulturalists. As a child, Molina observed one of her aunts regularly make watercolor sketches and site plans for landscape clients. She also watched her grandmother planting and arranging terrariums and her mother taking up various projects from still-life painting to jewelry making.
“As a single parent, my mother would take me to any cultural event, regardless of my age,” Molina recalled. “She never had formal art training but very much valued the arts. Together we went to community theater productions, experimental operas, and avant-garde films.”
When Molina recalls that time, she says what drew her to art was the possibility of engaging in a world of one’s own invention.
“I think that’s the amazing part about being an artist — that you can invent the rules to your own games,” she said. “Overall, seeing my family dedicating concentrated energy and interest to the arts was a very validating experience. It taught me an appreciation for practices that were generative and improvisational, and it also taught me that you don’t have to outgrow that imaginative part of you as you mature into adulthood.”