UO Alum Daniela Cárdenas-Riumalló displays art installation ‘Interno’ at the EMU
Daniela Cárdenas-Riumalló has always had a creative spirit. Surrounded by artistic minds — her grandmother was a painter, her dad a classical Latin musician, her mom a contemporary dancer — she said she could feel something inside her pushing her towards art.
“I never felt like it was an obligation to go into art,” Cárdenas said. “I felt I needed to be there because my voice was strongest to do art.”
Her show, “Interno”, is entering its final month on display on the second floor of the Erb Memorial Union. Doubling as her senior thesis project, it is a culmination of her growth as an artist during her time pursuing a BFA in painting from the University of Oregon, which she received in 2017.
“I was just listening to the news, listening to what was around me at the time when I started it,” Cárdenas said, “I was questioning how my own labels as a female, Latina — how can all these labels intertwine, how can I jump within them. Am I picking these labels because they are there or are they thrust upon me? How do I acknowledge them?”
To express these intersecting identities, Cárdenas literally sewed fabric into her paintings to mesh with the abstract shapes and lines that all seem to have a mind of their own. Bright blocks of color jump out from the dull grey background of her paintings, not unlike a neon rain jacket against the overcast Oregon sky.
“The paintings themselves have an initial idea, but they can transform into something else,” she said. “Just like everyone transforms into something else when they’re exposed to a different culture. Their identity kind of flexes and new terminology is thrown to you.”
Completing “Interno” was not without adversity. One of the hardest things Cárdenas had to recognize was when the project was finished. At some point, she said she had to let the artwork speak for itself.
“Once it’s on a wall, it has to do its own thing,” Cárdenas said. “I’m not there to explain anything. The statement is there which helps the viewer, but as well I want [the viewer] to struggle within themselves: what do they discover, what do they enjoy through it?”
Cárdenas said that her style changed since attending UO, especially under the tutelage of Laura Vanderberg, associate professor of painting, and Jane Reaves, senior instructor of drawing and painting.
“They really made me contemplate, like, am I done [with a painting]?” she said, “Am I doing too much? Am I going crazy, you know?”
UO was not the only influence on Cárdenas’ style, though. Born in Chile, her family moved to Springfield, Oregon, when she was 10-years old. She said she struggled at first to speak English and to assimilate into U.S. culture.
“There are still ‘I’m not used to that’ things,” Cárdenas said. “Sarcastic things I can’t understand for my life. In Spanish, you take the word how it is.”
Currently, Cárdenas teaches glasswork in the EMU’s craft center. She enjoys developing her students’ creative spark and seeing their sense of accomplishment when they finish a project, but, Cárdenas said she will always be doing paintings.
“My heart will always be [with painting],” she said.