Meet Cecilia Picon, a Venezuelan Artist Who Revels in the Poetry of Paper

Picon’s work, like the paper from which it is constructed, is both delicate and dangerous.

Cecilia Picon, Corallo (2018). Courtesy of the artist.

Cecilia Picon, an artist who makes complex paper-on-canvas forms, has lived many lives.

Born and raised in Merida, Venezuela, her early life was dedicated largely to ballet, a practice she maintained for nearly two decades. Though her art practice would come long after, her career as a dancer influenced her work a great deal.

“Dancing is an exercise in discipline; it makes you want to give more of yourself every day,” Picon tells artnet News. “I try to bring that discipline to my work today. Ballet is a balance between movement, flexibility, and strength. All that is there in my current work. If you look at a piece you get a sense of strength that’s conveyed in the hard, heavy materials. But as you get closer and more intimate you see the fragility, the movement, the impermanence.”

Cecilia Picon, Mirage (2016). Courtesy of the artist.

The daughter of a painter, Picon grew up around art, but it was jewelry that provided her true gateway into making. She received her BFA from the Universidad de Los Andes, then her MFA from the Academia de Bellas Artes de Caracas, designing jewelry for herself throughout this time. “It was probably the first regular interaction I had with a lot of the principles I use today in my art. A lot of the technique and creative process applies whatever the medium is. In the end, it’s just art.”

It wasn’t until 10 years ago, when she moved to New York (“the best City in the world and the mecca for art”) that she picked up art herself. Upon coming to the States, Picon went back to school, studying at Parsons and Hunter College. She started out as a painter like her mother, but soon transitioned to the work she’s making today—abstract, wall-mounted compositions that exist somewhere in the space between painting and sculpture.

Her preferred material is paper—specifically shiny sheets of perforated paper, which she arranges atop colored canvases.

Cecilia Picon, Irina (2014). Courtesy of the artist.

“The flexibility of the paper made me fall in love with it, as well as the unique forms that I find with paper moving my hands through it, and feeling the shape it takes,” explains Picon. “It’s not a very easy material to work with, and tends to have its own opinions on what shape it will take. It often contradicts itself as well, going back and forth between strength and fragility. The fact that it’s a material that can easily tear when you’re working with it, but can also cut you if you’re not careful, is a metaphor I really like.”

Indeed, Picon’s work is full of formal dualities: hard and soft, figurative and abstract, reflective and matte.

“It’s always hard to categorize art, and it’s something that I personally try to avoid,” she says. “For me it’s about using all the techniques that are available to me to express emotions and ideas as clearly as possible, in a way that can move the observer. I will leave categorization to others. Hopefully the same piece can be a beautiful painting to some, and an interesting sculpture to others.”

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