Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Ondrus.
Christina, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I have a deep appreciation for the natural world. I grew up in a small town in Northeast Ohio, spending long hours outside under the billowing thunderhead clouds of summer and heavy snow drifts of winter. I remember often laying in the grass watching the Milky Way expand overhead and setting up my first telescope the summer Halley’s Comet was visible. Experiences of the phenomena of nature and the cosmos feel essential to who I am. In many ways, they are at the heart of my work.
I think I’ve always been creative but the title artist often still feels strange. As long as I can remember, I loved drawing, painting and writing. I decided to go to art school because it felt like the greatest freedom, to learn and to create. I went to undergrad at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and later the graduate program at California Institute of the Arts.
Though my artwork is primarily studio based, it is informed by personal transformative experiences. After an artist residency in France, I had the opportunity to travel to a Neolithic archeoastronomy site called Carnac in the Bretagne region. This area has the largest concentration of megaliths in Europe, dating back to about 3000 BC, many of which are aligned with astronomical significance. I was astounded by how ancient cultures created monuments to denote the passage of the sun, moon, and planets. I came to understand that this impulse to mark our place in the universe is timeless and permeates humanity. It was a profound experience that continues to shape my interests.
I founded and direct KNOWLEDGES, a curatorial initiative that has produced two site-specific exhibitions at Mount Wilson Observatory. First in 2012, then again in 2017, KNOWLEDGES at Mount Wilson Observatory presents a constellation of cosmic-oriented contemporary artwork and performances on the grounds of the historic astronomical observatory located in the San Gabriel Mountains, outside Los Angeles. These exhibitions have created a new contemporary context for celestial-oriented art explorations, bringing people up out of the city below to experience art, astronomy, and cosmology in new ways.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do, why, and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I am a visual artist whose work explores the vocabularies of science, art, and ritual. Although these three disciplines contrast in distinct ways, I am interested in where they intersect on the threshold of the unknown. I make paintings, drawings, essays, and site-determined projects that utilize language, diagrams, and celestial observations as articulations of the ineffable. My work draws upon an innate human search for understanding our place among the earth and cosmos.
My recent paintings use written words both as linguistic content and visual forms. These works employ systems that transform phrases and diagrams into an exploration of mantra and pattern. They are made with layers of burnished graphite rendered on surfaces painted matte black; in person, there is an interplay of light on the contrasting materials that formally appears and disappears.
I am currently working on a new large-scale project that interprets skygazing artifacts and patterning throughout ancient history. In all my projects, I aspire to engage the experience of awe. My work is a contemplation of both inner and outer space—a place to consider the vastness of the cosmos that surround us and the immensity and beauty of human endeavor to understand ourselves within it.
As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
Somewhere I once jotted down a Robert Rauschenberg quote that “success” is not an artistic consideration; there are “works” and “non-works.” I like this idea because art is a process. Sometimes the final form speaks and reaches others, sometimes not, but either way, the journey and experience of art continues. Accomplishment should be self-defined and led by one’s own passion and vision. The danger of thinking in terms of success is getting caught up in fear of its opposite–failure. I think value judgments should be secondary to the creation of the work. The most important thing is to show up and do the work. Let it exist and develop, follow its lead and grow with it. The process of making opens possibilities beyond what we may imagine otherwise. Too many artists get discouraged from creating, often by their own inner critic. It takes courage to keep going and making.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
To see my recent work, please visit my website christinaondrus.com. I have a limited edition print and an artist book for sale, and you can also sign up to join my email announcement list. To learn more about KNOWLEDGES and the artist projects presented at Mount Wilson Observatory, please visit knowledges.org. Donations to KNOWLEDGES are tax-deductible, and there is an artist edition available whose proceeds support further programming.
- Website: https://christinaondrus.com/
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christinaondrus/
- Other: http://knowledges.org/
Portrait: John Hogan
All other images: Christina Ondrus