Artists in their own words: Carmen Mariscal

Carmen Mariscal exhibit Be Pretty and Shut up. (Photo provided by: The Mexican Cultural Institute)

Who: Carmen Mariscal

What: Visual artist

Where: Paris

Connection to New Orleans: Her exhibit Be Pretty and Shut Up (Calladita te ves mas bonita) opens at The Mexican Cultural Institute on March 21. 

Q: Whose point of view would like to have?

A: I wish that I could sometimes have just one point of view, but I’m not certain who has just one point of view. I think the important thing is being open and learning from different points of view.

In a way I would like to have the point of view of Louise Bourgeois, I think she might have had many points of view, but what I admire is her determination – determination comes across as having one point of view, but I think that what it really is is the force to bring together many points of view and turn that into one finished piece.

I like that even when she was very old Louise Bourgeois was sure of what she was saying and doing while also being human and sincere.

Bourgeois had different pieces – installations, sculptures, etc. – and so do I, and I wonder if this is because of the many points of view.

The opposite is true for the painter Giorgio Morandi. He painted still lives all his life. When you have that one point of view, you go so deep into the subject and I admire that as well.

I am obsessed with many. I’m interested by so many things, and I love that because it keeps me so curious, but I wonder what it would be like to not focus on so many points of view.


Carmen Mariscal in her studio (photo by: Kelley Crawford)

Yet, when I look at the subjects that have worked on, even this newest project that I just finished a grant for, it is the same subject that I was thinking about when I was eighteen. I think that maybe we have one obsession our whole life and we work around that obsession.

Q: What would your reaction to a constant blank face be? 

A: I find that very scary. I find that to be the scariest thing. Being with somebody is an interaction. Even when you are in front of a mirror you are having an interaction with your own face.

With people, they are your mirror, and you are a mirror for them. We make each other feel alive. So if someone had a blank face, I would find it scary. All I would do is smile and look deeply into their eyes.

Q: What do you think the difference between comedy and humor is? 

A: I would say that humor can be very sharp and witty. It can have many layers and is very subtle. You can be talking to someone who has a strong sense of humor, and you may not even realize it. I think that nationalities also have many levels of humor, but it is something that is particular to that culture.

For me, humor is more of an individual thing, and comedy is something that is more open and shared with the public.

I would not be a good comedian. Of that I am sure. My sense of humor is quite hidden. My children say that I don’t have a good sense of humor, but then again, I’m married to a Brit, so how can you compete?

I tend to surround myself with people who are very sharp and have good senses of humor. My two closest friends from childhood are very witty. I do not make the jokes, but I am great at laughing. I am a very good audience.

Q: What is something in Paris that always makes you stop and look at it for more than 5 seconds? 

A: La Seine. For me, that is the biggest treat about being in Paris – crossing the river. The city can get very noisy and fast moving, with people on the streets and in the Metro, and then you look at the river. It is flowing in the same rhythm that is has been flowing in for years and years. It’s always been there.

Also, I come from Mexico City – way high up in the mountains – and sometimes when I see a seagull in Paris I think: What are they doing here? We aren’t even close to the sea? They are here because of the river.

When you cross the river early in the morning or in the evening you have the most beautiful skies. Those skies always make me think that I could never leave Paris.

That gives me so much peace.


Carmen Mariscal will be at her exhibit opening on March 21 at The Mexican Cultural Institute (901 Convention Center Blvd.). Her exhibit Be Pretty and Shut Up (Calladita te ves mas bonita) opens at 6:00 PM, and it will be up until May 24. 


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