Erica H. Adams: Where were you raised and born?
Daniel Barreto: In Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991. I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico since I was 18. My grandmother was born in Wisconsin and so my father was a dual citizen. He studied biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison then in California. My uncle Ricardo began in Boston and retired last year as Director of the UrbanArts Institute, a public art program at ‘MassArt’ (the Massachusetts College of Art and Design) in Boston.
What is your educational background?
Before coming to the U.S. two years ago, I studied a semester in animation but didn’t like it and didn’t think Mexico was well prepared for jobs (I might get) afterwards or to give me the little bit of freedom for the things I want to do. In Mexico, even though it’s an art school, they want you to make certain type of art or be on a certain path.
My uncle Ricardo told me about Mass Art but there was a lot of paperwork so I started community college in Houston where my brother was living. Before that I came to Boston for three weeks or less to see Mass Art and then I took English I, art appreciation and sociology.
Now, I am in my first semester at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (SMFA), part of Tufts University. But, I started last fall in Mass Art but didn’t get in because I took Continuing Education courses -painting and anatomical drawing class – and, because of bureaucracy (I wasn’t a resident) and never felt like I was talking to real people. MassArt offered me a scholarship, May 2013.
Tell me about the difference between your studies in Mexico and the U.S.
Difference between Mexico and the United States? That’s a hard question. In the beginning, it was excessive, but here in Boston, going with flow, with people, it’s better, I guess. Better how relationships and communication work here. Mostly it’s how I interact with people.
Why did you leave Mexico?
My whole family planned to move here because of the violence. Mostly all of the artists I talked to in Mexico said “you’re not going to make it here. The ones who are making it are receiving funds from outside Mexico.” And, because I found more elements that I could learn here that I couldn’t in Mexico.
What are these elements?
Maybe it’s more about materials, or the workspace that is more prepared than the work I see in Mexico. For example, animation in Mexico, it’s just being born, so not so well-developed, there’s equipment mostly missing, space and good teachers… and support to do whatever you feel to do.
I was surprised by animation classes here; it felt really free; you could express yourself through animation. Some people like basics but I found they accept or permit students to do all kinds of animation without following a certain format. I experiment and do things on my own. All the things you see I did by myself.
Tell me about the work: what programs you use, the intersection of trees and technology and, the idea of home when so many people in the U.S. are losing their homes.
I use PhotoShop, the space where you can make an animation, layer by layer to create the light animated, in one picture, a kind of elevator, where the light goes up a small branch and a simulation of an airport, a super small light that’s supposed to be an airport.
What about miniaturization? Does this make it easier to talk about things? Nature is large while the habitation is rendered small in your animations.
I don’t think I talk about making the houses so small. The beginning of the idea, I just wanted to do this, a great idea and just went out and took all the pictures including 200 pictures of trees in New Hampshire to see what worked. But I was not thinking of the idea of making houses smaller than compared to Nature.
I feel in all my art, I am having trouble communicating in text and language why I do things. It’s like a hunch, what you have to do. What Ethan Murrow (SMFA faculty) is making us do is to get to know our unconscious. And he wanted me to explain why I do my stuff and I didn’t know how to explain what I do.
Your photographs are on the same perspective as the trees.
In Mexico, most of the houses are covered by walls. Yes, that’s something inside the United States, coming back from vacation I’d already processed. It’s different. I think I wanted a house in Mexico without borders, a house of the sixties. I don’t know when security became such an issue and we had to be behind walls. I read in a U.S. magazine how we (in Mexico) live in cages, with bars on windows like in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries. That human beings see trees and chop trees down to make houses.
What about these ‘Wood Houses’ (2-3/2013) if that’s the right title?
I changed it to the final title. It’s not my idea of the meaning that has changed but the technical aspect that I would change to make better.
Trying to make relationship between the city of Boston and the woods of New Hampshire, between houses and factories but a lot of people read it as fairytales, like a magical space but for me it’s the combination of the city and forest. I didn’t intend anything magical.
What’s relationship to Nature?
Since I was a kid I always loved Nature. My grandfather took me to gardens in Mexico to hug trees. I think most of us have this geo-love for the environment or nature; we just love nature or our world.
While I was born in Guadalajara, I lived for 8 years, when it was super small, in Porta Vallarta that now looks like a small version of Miami. Then, my dad worked in a hotel three hours drive in Mancilló – I used to go a lot there, always supposed to be in nature, sea life and animals there iguanas and a lot of birds. I liked fishing when I was 9 years old.
Then, I moved to Guadalajara and my brother and I didn’t like leaving our friends. And our eyes were red, itching from pollution. I read an article about Mexican babies being born with bigger noses and probably lungs, a probable response to polluted air.
Americans have a Harry Potter-, Hobbit- and Disneyesque approach to Nature.
Not what I think, but that’s impossible because this is a mainstream view.
You don’t think these works are ecologically grounded? Were these an assignment? Do you work best with assignments like many graphic designers? The idea of the miniature.
I read Narnia tales as a child. I like your idea about the scale, miniature. The most important thing was to change scale of windows and doors. Was thinking to animate the inside with people, I could change idea of Wood Houses, in general, part of the mystery is they don’t have any humans that you could see through the windows.
What about all the attention for ‘Wood Houses’ your first semester at SMFA?
I want to become more articulate explaining my art. This semester, I took ‘Print Matters’ and I realized talking with graphic designers is not what I want to do at SMFA; it will only teach basic programs like PhotoShop which I’ve already done on my own. Not interested in making logos.
Animation made me realize how much I like it. Painting with Ethan Murrow and a metals class, I’ve never done anything like that and was looking to experiment from this. This semester’s history sculpture and public art/landscape art: I really like public art but don’t like asking for permission from public places.
Unlike Christo and Jeanne Claude’s The Gates project in Central Park?
They were more interested in the experience of the public than making art for those 16 days, it was like a present that people could have that experience.
I like that Christo forms these works for himself, and some English artists: not like Richard Long, very minimalist. But, an interaction with nature like Andy Goldsworthy, he’s really a creative person in relationship with himself and nature. I have a new idea, using the front of my house and will try to make it on my own: how time will upset Goldsworthy’s work and make it disappear. How public art can make a lot of changes… must go through processes – maybe people will take it down. A student of art who is Polish and installed life-sized sculptures of Russian or German women being raped, in a public park; they were taken down and he was put in prison. These stated mistreatment of women in World War II. He didn’t ask for permission.
I don’t want to be political in any of my work; that was an example of how artists are expressing themselves. It was a bright idea to put work in a parking lot.
But your work doesn’t require permission.
Next work is an installation without timelessness: geometric figures, floating like rocks on top of a pond; photographs of me throwing rocks into a pond, manipulated photographs into a square or circle, floating on pond, a final piece. For my final piece: does this count as an installation?
Photography for me gives you the idea of timelessness (not like Andrew Goldsworthy)... if we could have the memory... What’s the work of art now? Most of us will only see it on internet or books and we’re not actually looking.
Did you see Scorsese’s film Hugo from the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret about the end of cinema as it’s being projected on smaller and smaller screens?
At an SMFA talk, Phil Solomon talked about film. Solomon said it seems it’s impossible to do something out of the box.
What about Occupy Wall Street? Back to the trees ‘Wood Houses’!
These were made at Mass Art, Fall 2012/SP13.
What are you doing now? Where do you want to go with your work/life?
What was that Japanese saying about two faces?
They didn’t publish what I said, the meaning of what I said. My feeling about the work is more technical: before and since the article in Designboom that is more into architecture… so, different approaches to it.
How to characterize the difference of your thinking between March and now?
Wasn’t so articulated then, even in English and the idea. Maybe now I feel more comfortable speaking in English since the beginning of this year. It seems so far away now; that’s in general.
Erica H. Adams is an artist, curator, Contributing Editor of Glass is More and Faculty at School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston. In 2013, Adams delivered a lecture series on art and architecture in Italy, curated traveling exhibition Respeto/Respect that opened at Yale University and her own exhibit Maya at the Crossroads: Chiapas, México concludes this December, in Boston.