A Chilean in Cleveland Talks about his Art and his New City

24-karat import

zygote press 1410 east 30th st., 216-621-2900, zygotepress.com

Master Goldsmith and printmaker Mauricio Cristóbal Cortés Fuentes is from Santiago, Chile. He's in Cleveland as one of the Cleveland Foundation's Creative Fusion 2015 Spring Class, which brings six international artists from Armenia, Bulgaria, Chile and Romania to Cleveland for three-month residencies and partners them with local, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, including the Cleveland Print Room, Sculpture Center, Ingenuity Cleveland, Inlet Dance Theatre, Verb Ballets and Zygote Press.

Zygote Press is hosting Fuentes, who studied with master goldsmith Waldo Villalón before receiving his own master goldsmith degree from Liceo Experimental Artistico, as well as a degree in printmaking from Universidad de Chile in 2013. Fuentes specializes in silver filigree work, taught to him by Villalón. He translates the intricate skills he developed as a goldsmith to intaglio prints through both etching and engraving. Since beginning his residency in March, he's been busy working with students at Kent State University as well as on a number of other projects. Fuentes recently took time to sit down with Scene and discuss his experience so far.

Josh Usmani: What drew you to Cleveland? What was your first impression? Has it changed since you've been here?

Mauricio Cristóbal Cortés Fuentes: Well, the director of the print shop where I do my work in Chile was in Cleveland in 2012. So when he went back to Chile, he kept in contact with the people here, and this time he postulated me come to Cleveland to be a resident artist at Zygote. He told me a lot of things about Cleveland and the print shop, but nothing about the cold, so my first impression was that, "This cold hurts." The city is something strange to me, because of the two sides: east and west. I found that it is so spread out, but at the same time, places are very close. My first thought about Zygote was, "This place is great!" This feeling has been reinforced by all the people who come to work at Zygote. I can see different kinds of work every time.

JU: Has the city (and/or its people) impacted the work you've been making during your stay? In what ways?

MCCF: Yes, because some of the materials are different from what I used to use. With the other people working in the shop, I've gotten to know how they are doing things here. Now I've adapted my ways to what I have here. Also, the city has a lot of places where I can see what local artists are doing, and the museum is so good. It's always inspiring to take a walk in the galleries and see what is going on.

JU: Do you see any similarities and/or differences between Cleveland and your home?

MCCF: The workshop here and the one in Chile differ mostly in materials and equipment, but both work in very similar ways. So it is very familiar to be here at Zygote. The biggest difference is that I live in a city that, like here, is very spread out but denser. So there is always a long road to go to some exhibition or openings. What I like here is that there are special days to see all the galleries, and all are very near each other. I think it's a great thing that people here are really interested in supporting local artists. It seems to me that here you can be an artist and work in something else. In Chile, it is very hard, because sometimes your job takes all your time so you can't work on your art.

JU: Have you seen much of the local arts community? Anything in particular that stands out?

MCCF: I've seen a lot of things from the local artists, not only from Cleveland, but also from Kent and Knoxville, Tennessee. I really like the very strong graphic art style in the U.S. I love the work being done in the jewelry shop of Kent State University. Also, the Morgan Art of Papermaking is one of the places I liked most, and 78th Street Studios is another great place here in Cleveland.

JU: Do you think this residency will impact your future work?

MCCF: Totally, because now I have seen what is happening in another part of the world. That is very stimulating to keep going on work and searching for new things to develop. 

JU: What can viewers expect from your upcoming show at Zygote next month?

MCCF: They are going to see work from somebody who really likes drawing and uses engraving for that purpose. Sometimes I spend all day just making lines on a plate, but these lines have shapes that are totally recognizable. So the people who come to my show will be able to see what these "drawings" look like.

Contact the Cleveland Foundation (Clevelandfoundation.org) or the individual organizations for more information on their Creative Fusion resident artists.

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