28 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JANUARY 18-24, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE Ekaterina De La Torre came to the Monterey Peninsula from Ufa, Russia nearly three years ago as an artist and art historian. She has been working with mediums like mosaic, ceramic and bronze in galleries since she was 16 years old, but her debut solo exhibition, titled Channels, took place in November and December of 2023 in the Annand Gallery at the Pacific Grove Art Center. The exhibition showcased a room full of baseless vase-like sculptures, each with vivid textures and colors. The titles are simple one word descriptions such as “Flaming” and “Containing,” which is exactly how De La Torre carries herself—with more than what meets the eye. Her works are accompanied by an artist’s statement about the feelings that flowed through her mind and onto the clay she used to create the sculptures. Each begins as a sensory exercise in which she questions how her own feelings can transcend boundaries before tailing off into details and theories related to astrophysics. She cites the works of scholars in the field along the way. The reader is then queried to think deeply about their own sensations and, by way of the body of the statement, their own existence. For De La Torre, transitioning from a Russian city of nearly 1.1 million people to the Monterey Peninsula was a culture shock, but she found inspiration here, particularly in Big Sur and its grandeur. Weekly: Why did you call your first exhibition Channels? De La Torre: First of all, I was thinking a lot about how humans can cross our life boundaries around us. It’s interesting how everything in the world is intertwined and infinite. When a person touches a piece of a flower, that flower is changed afterwards, and how sunlight changes a person’s [mood]. Everything is intertwined. From my perspective, the channels I built are meant to be the invisible channels that exist in our world. I built them from a freehand technique from clay, and I believe that any movement we do by our hands, head, or legs is not just movement. It is energy. How do you turn that energy into art? When someone looks at these pieces, maybe they feel—I don’t know— hungry or sad. Maybe if they’re experiencing a dark day or a dark month, maybe somebody can explore deeper feelings. I’m not sending some kind of specific thoughts to people. I believe that the world is open for feelings to be explored by it. Everything that I felt I put to the clay. I didn’t have any plans when I did the work. The clay is a very natural material that the Earth has given us. Each sculpture here is a reflection of how I was feeling, how I was moving, how my body was moving. I gave my brain permission not to think about anything and create the pieces with my empty hand. That’s it, really. I like working with clay and touching the clay to give it some kind of form. Even if some cracks happen, I don’t try to hide it. For example, this brown and gold piece [gestures toward one of the pieces], I threw a piece of clay onto the main sculpture, and you can see not fingerprints, but where my hands were. Your artist’s statement speaks about magnetic portals. I’m talking more about astrophysics, and it’s just interesting to explore. I think that humans don’t put enough validation on how much it’s changed and influenced us as a people. I’ve seen how people live on our tiny Earth and not think much about what’s outside of that. It’s not fantasy, but I’m here to explore, and try to put science into my work. I believe that it’s possible. As an artist, I try to bring attention to those questions about validating that kind of research. What is it about astrophysics that you find so fascinating? I just read. I read different science articles from time to time and some books. I would love to dive deeper into this one day. I think it’s just amazing how much we can learn and know about our world. Astrophysics makes us feel like we don’t know anything, but at the same time we know so much. How does that kind of science intertwine with your philosophy? This is what I was trying to show in my exhibition. In day-to-day life, the two concepts don’t communicate with each other. Sometimes, though, words are not necessary to convey what we don’t know. Portals are always opening to new energy above our heads. What does your art convey that we don’t know? Time will tell. Clay Motion A recent arrival on the Peninsula, artist Ekaterina De La Torre likes the medium to lead the way. By Sloan Campi Ekaterina De La Torre surrounded by sculptures from her 2023 exhibit at the Annand Gallery in the Pacific Grove Art Center. For this particular show, the artist gave her pieces enigmatic one-word titles. 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