Edra received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Robert Rauschenberg Residency. Her work was featured at the 4th Poly/Graphic Triennial of San Juan and the Hunter East Harlem Gallery. She co-curated the exhibition Present Standard at the Chicago Cultural Center with overwhelmingly positive reviews from Chicago Tribune, Newcity and Artforum. She was featured in Newcity’s Art 50 issue and awarded the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship.
Tell us about your early career. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I come from middle class Puerto Rico. I grew up at an urban development called Cupey in the San Juan area. My parents, particularly my mother, raised my brother and I slightly sheltered. I spent my primary and secondary education at a Catholic high school, attending church services every morning became influential to my art practice. The stage and its symmetry, ideas of hierarchy and the impetus for congregating communities is all dispersed throughout my work. Needless to say, I had nothing to do with the decision of being indoctrinated. I was a child. Validation from my artistic efforts during my high school years leaded me to pursue an education in the arts. Art made me feel interested in education.
I attended Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico, to pursue a bachelors degree. At the time, a conservative institution that encouraged artists to engage in traditional practices like painting, sculpture and printmaking. I chose to focus on painting because I was terrible at it and it represented a challenge. Soon before and after graduation, I found true validation from the commercial market. My work was sold for copious amounts of money. That visibility lead me to win a fellowship to live and paint in Paris for a year. Traveling the world changed my life and gave me a new perspective about the possibilities that I never considered before, including living outside of Puerto Rico.
Art usually addresses something conceptual… whether it’s political, personal, emotional. What does your work address in concept?
My work is motivated by constructed social hierarchies, diasporic identity, and colonialism, which I situate in engaging and contemplative contexts. I aim to challenge the boundaries between audience, artist, and the work itself and to amplify the democratic potential that art has to offer.
Alluding to issues of class, race, cultural origins, hierarchies, and myth, I create symbolic gestures of colonization and subjugation, prompting viewers to reconsider postcolonial visual culture. These gestures are directly connected to my upbringing, personal and familial relationships, and my geographical relationships with past and present communities in Puerto Rico, the United States, and the wider Caribbean.
My appreciation for multiple disciplines manifests itself not only in my visual work, but also in my philosophy on life. I want to create possibilities for connecting diverse communities and providing visibility to artists. This has led me to create an artist-run project space in the backyard of my home. This project space allows me to give opportunities to artists, at various stages of their careers, with a platform to experiment and showcase new work. More than providing visibility, I foster relationships between the artists and audiences. My affinity for curatorial pursuits has expanded in the last year; for example, I was invited by an institution to curate an exhibition, showing groundbreaking works by underrepresented artists, who have expansive and brilliant careers but are not focused on commercial aspects of the art world.
Can you explain your work? Medium? Technique?
My work walks the line between social practice, immersive installations, and architectural interventions to engage the public through my use of traditional and unusual materials. Materiality and humanity are intertwined, whereby I create an accessible experience for audiences who approach my work.
Where can someone see your work(s)?
My works can be found at edrasoto.com.
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Architectural intervention titled Manual GRAFT for the Arts Club of Chicago Centennial
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Manual GRFAT at the Arts Club of Chicago
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GRAFT at Terrain exhibitions
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