the artist between art and medicine
Sandra Gea is a visual artist daughter of Mother Earth with a deep interest in medicine. She proposes a sophisticated conceptual art that reflects her values: art intended as well being and salvation of the self. Sandra was born in France to Spanish parents and has an interesting background that pushed her to gain an interest in medicine and mental health topics and practices that allowed her to merge medicine and art.
In this interview, we will explore her as a person, her techniques, and the messages that she wants to send out with her artworks. Her artworks are a clear point of view about women and art, let’s see why.
Well, I would like to start from the beginning: you! Who is Sandra Gea and what is your background?
I am a visual artist – mainly a collagist, a poet and a medicine woman. I was born in France to Spanish parents and grew up in rural Burgundy. I graduated in translation and interpretation studies and worked for ten years in import and export for the jewellery, furniture and spray paint industry in Spain and Greece. Ten years ago, I had an existential breakdown, left my office job and moved to the island of Gozo in Malta where I started my artistic journey from scratch. I am an advocate for mental health, breaking stigma and taboos around trauma. Passionate, intense and impulsive, I find solace in a simple and minimalistic lifestyle. I am the happiest walking barefoot in nature and listening to the silent whisper of the stones in ancient archeological sites.
How did art become a job for you? Can you consider your art as your job? Why?
A friend from Gozo asked me to create Christmas cards with collage for her. From this idea, I began to make more and one year later I had a stall at an artisan Christmas market. This experience gave me wings, I became more experimental with materials, more consistent and deep in my practice. I took many chances on myself and applied to festivals, exhibitions and projects. I was introduced to collectors who liked my work and commissioned me pieces to document their personal stories with collage. Art is more than a job for me. It is a vocation, a calling, a commitment, it is Life expressed through many facets and voices. It is my most beautiful story of (self) love and homecoming.
How do you combine art and medicine? What do you mean when you say you are a medicine woman?
The combination of art and medicine is as old as humanity. Testimonial of it are the paintings left on the walls of the caves by our ancestors the artist shamans whose inspiration and medicine came from their communion with Nature. Seemingly, for me art and medicine are not two disciplines that I combine but one that I express in different forms either in my artistic practice through my statement or in the healing spaces I hold for others. My great grandmother on my mother’s side was a curandera, a healer. I prefer to use the word medicine woman because I believe the medicine for our healing is already in us. As Nietzsche wrote: “There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” I have been on a long journey of healing my own traumas and connecting to the wisdom in my body- it’s an ongoing process – before opening my sanctuary to others. The only person I can heal is myself, yet from this place I can hold the space, be a presence and a guide for someone else’s healing to happen. Even if I only know my great grandmother through the stories I have heard of her, it is important for me to follow the tradition of the lineage that is alive in my bones. I sum it up in these simple words: the gift of touch and presence. By touch I do not mean a physical one but a more subtle one, heart to heart, soul to soul. The medicine is not a chemical substance but our own truth and wisdom that reconnects us with our true nature, with who we were before the world told us who we should be.
Can you tell me more about your motto: “Be, Feel, Flow”?
I love the simplicity and purity of the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, it moves me to my core every single time I dive into its words. Every sentence is a practice for life in itself! I obviously will not have enough of this lifetime to implement it all, therefore in the spirit of the Tao, the way of Nature, I came up with a motto simple and easy to remember. Yet, like the words of the Tao, the apparent simplicity is a challenge to implement its practice in my daily life and that is actually the beauty of it, I am never bored!
Be: I am present in the here and now, grounded in my environment.
Feel: I am aware of my emotions and senses.
Flow: Catching the wave, I move/take action or non action from my body instinct and intuition.
Can you describe your art practice and what are your main techniques?For the last eight years, I have been mainly focused on creating analogue collages. I love the touch of paper, the hunt for images and the manual deconstruction with my scissors. My favourite part is the dance of pictures recombining themselves on the paper, the thirst and curiosity for a brand new story to emerge. I love my world of paper! My process is intuitive and organic, anchored in the core body, here and now. This process continuously challenges the limits of my awareness and sensitivity, it is a travel within to extract the substance that will be transmuted into pictures. The birth of a piece is sometimes soft and flowing, other times visceral and violent -feeling physically like giving birth! – always through me and out of me. Revolving about resilience, memory and identity, my artworks metabolize the tension between the Natural and the human by invoking the power of language, myth and symbol to create sharp visual narratives infused with the profound and the profane of the feminine essence.
I was particularly fascinated by one of your latest works: Hearth_Gaia! Can you tell me more about its meaning, symbolism and how you created it?
Hearth_Gaia is originally a performance I presented in Athens in 2019. It was inspired by my family stories of exile and maternity mirrored in my own quest for roots and belonging. The performance speaks of the body as container “hearth” for family narratives and my quest for a home in a place so far yet so close from my family roots: Gea my family name is Gaia, the Greek Earth Goddess. The collage “Hearth_Gaia” was made in 2021. The memory of its creation is still vivid in me because it came from a moment of tension and surrender! I had to send my contribution for my participation to a collective project and even though the initial artwork I intended to show had been ready for weeks, at the last minute I decided that it was not reflecting my actual state of being. I had to create a new one in basically no time! My table was laid with a whole stack of pictures of flowers I had been cutting and deconstructing. In that process, I had found the shapes very sensual and feminine. I took a breath, centered and started moving the papercuts spread on my table right in front of me. I got in my flow and all I had to do was allow the hands and scissors to move, pick and cut the pictures. I felt like being in a trance. Hearth_Gaia is to this day my most minimalistic work. Primal, delicate, sensual and profoundly feminine, Hearth_Gaia symbolizes the encounter of the Natural world and the human body in the shapes of the flowers symbolically arranged in the shape of a vulva, ovaries and an egg. An ode to the feminine body giver of life and to the Earth Goddess Gaia creatrix of the world.
Are you working on (or planning to) new projects or researches in this last period?
This last period has been quite special in my life. I lost my father at the end of last summer and decided to move back to France to be closer to my mother. These last six months have been a personal inquiry and observation of the different phases and faces of grief, the relationship mother/daughter, family narratives and transgenerational trauma. It’s been a time of shedding skin and revisiting my own narrative. I have been keeping a documentation of this period in a collage journal and in writing which are good material for upcoming series of collage and a collection of poems.
How important is it for you to have solidarity between women?
I believe that women coming together with a true spirit of sorority can make big waves and move mountains. I give importance to nurturing each other by sharing our stories from the heart, our talents and resources to grow, co-create and support each other in the community.
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That spark that makes you come alive, nurture it until it becomes a fire and never let it go off.
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