Today a portrait of Cristina. This remarkable lady is originally Argentinian but has lived in Paris for almost 20 years.
I am a big fan of her work and was, therefore, very happy to meet and portray her during my visit to the city of love.
It is sometimes difficult to figure out how or when, but sometime last year, I started following Cristina. Her beautiful paintings are food for the soul and I also have a specific taste when it comes to art. What I especially like is to follow and support female artists over 40.
During the lockdown in March 2020, I responded to Cristina’s message with the call to support and buy art from artists. It gave me the idea of actually purchasing a work from her. Not long afterward, I received a beautiful painting through her daughter, who coincidentally lives in Amsterdam. I am still happy every day that I could buy this beautiful work and hopefully one day a more significant work after visiting one of her future exhibitions.
Tell us what you’d like us to know about yourself:
Can I write three chapters? Jokes aside, I put my life under scrutiny to find my most striking feature – instead, which one would be useful to share with other women? I also asked people who know me best. They all said the same: my most striking feature is my capacity to reinvent myself – recycle, I like to say – every ten years or so…
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I graduated as a teacher of English as a foreign language. I got married, had three kids (now, twenty-seven, twenty-five, and twenty-two). Then, one day, we decided to leave Argentina, with a broken heart, as when you choose to end a toxic friendship. We loved our country immensely, and still do, but at that moment, we sensed our future could not be there any longer.
Disillusionment weighed too much on our hearts, resulting from so many corrupted governments that plunged a rich country into eternal and cyclic economic crises. But leaving your country is never easy. Much less when you are forty. I was leaving my friends, language, culture, professional identity, and elderly parents. Those were the most challenging thing to leave behind. Yet, they supported me. They told me not to look back and encouraged me to focus on the future; instead, it could only be brighter for my family. Their parents had been Europeans who had come to Argentina for a better future. Now it was my turn to make the trip back to Europe…
You are Argentinian but have lived in Paris for years. Can you tell us something about that?
When I first came to Paris, almost twenty years ago, I didn’t speak French. My degree as a teacher of English wasn’t recognized by the Ministry of Education. My children were small, so I decided to become a stay-at-home mother. But not having a career anymore was difficult for me. I loved to work, to be economically independent, and, in contact with other people. I had to look for other “at-home” interests. I turned to cooking, eventually writing a blog: From Buenos Aires to Paris.
I bought a camera, took a course on photography, and soon my blog was being read worldwide. My recipes were published in books in the USA and Australia – people were drawn to the tone of my writing, intimate and authentic, and the creativity and color of my photography. I was even the finalist of an online cooking contest in the USA that started with 1,000 contestants… I like to think of it as my moment of “celebrity”. 🙂
That is when I decided to train professionally; I started my own catering business around South-American food. Sometime later, I went to London to learn how to make multi-tiered cakes. One day, I was contacted by Hermès to cater for a Tango soirée. They wanted food but also a giant cake with several tiers. That was the beginning of my Paris Luxury Cakes. The catering business is fantastic, but it is also physically demanding, not to say exhausting—besides, the wedding-cake season peaks during summer. I missed several birthdays, parties… and Roland Garros games! One day, with tears in my eyes, I decided to end my adventures in the cooking world.
I do have to say France has always been extremely generous with my family and me. Personally, I dare say the French have spoilt me!! Can you imagine Parisians buying their wedding cake to an Argentinean? Trusting an unknown lady over their prestigious pâtissier? But they did, so they won my heart!
Tell us about your work as an artist.
When I started making the cakes, people asked me if I had studied Fine Arts. They assumed my work could only have been done by someone with previous training in the arts. When I said “no,” they insisted. The French can be very assertive and stubborn in their opinions. “Impossibeul, impossibeul!” they would say. One day I decided to enroll in art school, and I realized only then that art allowed me to say so many things, to express myself like never before.
I stopped making cakes to study art seriously and become a full-time painter. After painting a little bit of everything, I realized my mission was to paint women. But I didn’t want to make just beautiful portraits – I wanted to give women a voice. My muses speak with no words. They suffer. They rebel. They are victims of domestic violence. They join political or social causes. They suffer heartbreaks, illnesses… They are in love. They come out of the closet. They are pregnant and empowered. It is a showcase of women with a lot of character, exuding self-determination, and very sensual at the same time.
Together we are an army of peaceful she-warriors!
What’s your fantasy version of your older self?
I imagine myself always starting new things. I am dressed in stylish clothes – Italian patterns, very geometrical, on the borderline between eccentric and crazy. Surrounded by dogs and cats and my paintings, cooking for my grandchildren, laughing hard with them, spoiling them. Drinking an occasional whiskey at night with my husband, going to the movies with my girlfriends.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
On the personal side, my family. On the professional side, seeing my wedding cakes at the Ritz and other French Palaces. Having sold a huge painting in my first group show at a ridiculously high price considering, I was a radically unknown painter. I am also delighted to be selected by the Committee of Curators for the Florence Biennale 2021.
What’s on your nightstand?
An antique metal jewelry box that belonged to my grandmother. It contains vintage silk handkerchiefs. The type women in the past used to put embroidered inside their bags, with lace and romantic flower patterns (fabrics are very important to me!). Spray perfume on my pillow. Books and home-design magazines.
What would you say is the best and the worst thing about becoming an older woman?
The best is freedom: I say what I feel, I paint how I feel, I no longer must justify my actions, and this is a shoot of adrenaline – it makes me feel powerful.
The worst is to feel discriminated against because of your age. For instance, in the art world, everyone is looking for “emerging artists,” as it rightly should be so – but it seems that “emerging” equals “young.” Can’t you emerge in your forties, fifties? Suppose most people today have lifespans stretching on to their eighties and nineties. Can’t they become artists in their forties and work as painters for another forty years? Yet, if you look at most galleries’ Instagram page, they usually show the work of young and cool artists. Women are also dramatically underrepresented, but that is no news. Discrimination against women in art is as old as history… and discrimination against older women artists even worse.
What makes you happy?
Cooking simple things for my family, then setting a lovely table with beautiful plates and glasses, even if I end up just making a “simple” risotto. There is Italian blood running in my family’s veins, so we typically engage in heated, boisterous arguments over dinner and end up laughing at our “youridiculousness”. Having lunch at a Parisian brasserie with my girlfriends and helping others, painting listening to Verdi, or Piazzola, or Annie Lennox, depending on the mood, and selling artwork, of course!
Like the day you contacted me during the lockdown, like that… “out of the blue”…to tell me you loved my art and you wanted to buy a painting from me…I had tears in my eyes!! Because it was unexpected… because by supporting my work, you are showing faith not only in me but in all the other women artists that have to find a reason for continuing to create every day. Hours and days working on something that is a “product” that nobody actually “needs” like a new dress or pair of shoes… a painting is a “product” for the soul.
My paintings, your writing, your photographs act as a soft balm for our inner selves. The artistic experience that gives us “visual content” as human beings. Art in all its forms is a solid anchor that saves us in times of trouble, and a compass that gives us direction.
Latest Google search.
Probably the biography of some unknown (to me) painter, and discovering a new fascinating artist from which to learn.
Favorite thing to do when no one is around?
Making a massive cup of strong coffee with a dash of milk, picking some Italian biscotti, and watching an absurd Argentinean soap opera on Youtube!
What is your age, and how old do you feel?
I am 58, but I feel much younger. How old it depends on the day. Sometimes fifty, that is my favorite age, sometimes forty when I feel sexy. Sometimes I cry over stupid things as if I were ten. Sometimes I laugh hard with my daughters over silly things as if I, too, were a girl in her twenties.