Honest Marks in the Autobiographical Abstractions of Cristina Muñiz

In the blog-like “Studio” portion of her website, artist Cristina Muñiz ponders one of her drawings in a post tellingly titled “Future Paintings? Maybe Not.” Often blending identifiable and non-representational objects in complex compositions inspired by personal experiences and observations, Muñiz’s small-scale sketches are, at times, studies for larger drawings or paintings. Hinting at an organic process of visual translation, Muñiz admits that “the ones that are would surprise most.”

Born and raised in San Antonio, Muñiz famously “walked away from a partially complete painting major” 20-plus years ago, got a “stable full-time job” at a retail chain and finally returned to school to study art — this time focusing on graphic illustration and earning an associate’s degree from San Antonio College. Showing her work locally since 2011 — including group exhibits at High Wire Arts and Melinda Martinez Studio and solo shows at Mitos Gallery and Hello Studio — Muñiz eventually transferred to Kansas City Art Institute, where she furthered her studies in painting and earned her BFA in 2014. 

Shortly after graduating from KCAI, Muñiz was accepted into the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency Program, which provides resident artists with dedicated work space and champions Kansas City as “a dynamic home for artists in various career stages and disciplines.” In addition to giving Muñiz a deadline-free format to develop projects that might not have come to fruition within the confines of college, Charlotte Street also opened doors via curator visits and exhibition opportunities. On the opening night of the Kansas City group show “Tungs” in 2015, Muñiz met visiting curator Joel Damon, who offered her a solo show at the Omaha, Nebraska gallery he runs with collaborator Josh Powell. Co-curated by the duo at their Project Project space, Muñiz’s “I Speak Everyday” showcased works she created at Charlotte Street alongside abstract drawings and paintings she described as “tangible documents of my memories, interactions and activity.”

Currently splitting time between her hometown and Kansas City, Muñiz says she’s found a refreshing reminder of San Antonio in the Mattie Rhodes Center, a Missouri nonprofit dedicated to “[educating] the community about Latino culture and traditions through the visual arts.” Likening the center to the bygone Melinda Martinez Studio where she met and showed with like-minded emerging artists, Muñiz says the center “feels most like home” to her. “Mattie Rhodes has that feel of a community that is inclusive of everyone but also has a strong Latino presence,” she told us. “You can feel the love with its environment and their volunteers.”

Courtesy of Cristina Muniz

Among the first to respond to our open call for San Antonio artists who keep sketchbooks (details below), Muñiz submitted an intriguing array of samples but was quick to point out that she defines the word “sketch” on her own terms. “Sketch to you may be different from what I say is a sketch,” she explained. “[These] are drawings in the sense that they are finished pieces … Whether they are reproduced and turned into paintings, [they] are finished.” Brought to life with anything from pens and markers to graphite and (more recently) watercolors, Muñiz’s “autobiographical” renderings combine personal memories and family narratives with impulse and instinct: “When something comes to me, I grab whatever is near and lay something down quickly.” 

For more about Muñiz, visit cristinamuniz.com and instagram.com/driedpaintbrush.

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