By Deb A.
Astrolabes & Constellations is poet, writer, and artist Cristina Querrer's first full-length collection of poems. Published as part of the Agave Press Manuscript and Portfolio Series, the volume brings together questions of self, identity, travel, nostalgia, loss, and forgiveness, and examines what it is to be the product of circumstance. We spoke to Cristina about growing up in the Philippines, creative expression, and the meaning of home.
AGAVE: Navigation is a recurrent theme in the collection, and you say of yourself that you've "taken the scenic route in life": You were born and raised in the Philippines as an American military child, and you're a U.S. Army veteran with an MFA and an arsenal of tech skills. How do your poems support you in finding your path? How do they reflect that navigation?
CRISTINA QUERRER: Navigation and nautical imagery have been my recurring themes. Firstly, I come from a fisherman family in the Philippines, so water has been in my blood, so to speak. As far as nautical imagery, it mostly comes from my constant traveling since childhood as a U.S. military child and into adulthood. It’s about my seemingly “meandering” migration pattern and the need to map and document the routes and experiences that appear in my poetry. It reflects back life’s circumstances, all of what is within and beyond my reach.
What does the Philippines mean to you?
The Philippines is my starting point. It’s my birthplace. I explore identity, and I find that being of mixed race, I was blessed to have a fixed Filipino identity, thanks to my mother and her relatives for their inclusion, acceptance, and love.
While you're a writer and poet first, you seem to want to delve into as many creative avenues as possible: You're also an artist and a blogger, and you've recently started podcasting; you've got your eye on songwriting as well. What motivates you to explore so many ways of expressing yourself?
What motivates me to explore various ways of expression is the discovery process. I like to explore other possibilities because I find the many modes of expression are interconnected and quite possibly feeds each other. Just as a visual artist can switch and work on several pieces of paintings, is how I approach the many creative avenues. Right now, building my podcast channel is on my radar, but I have other projects I’d like to return to, like my visual art, my next poetry collection, and finishing up my novel, to name a few.
You mentioned on your first podcast that you wanted to investigate what creativity means to you. What have you discovered so far?
Since my interviewing other writers and poets about their creative process on my podcast, I find that mine is not that different from theirs. Staying creative means staying open to ideas, to explore the possibilities. In my podcast, the writers and poets are doing this, no matter what projects they have done or plan on doing. Continuing to be creative to me is more about mapping and planning as well as being open and being spontaneous.
What do you hope readers of By Astrolabes & Constellations will experience through your poems?
I hope my readers can feel a sense of travel through my collection because it is a result of some of my travels: from the Philippines, the U.S. (Connecticut/New Mexico/Florida), to the Federated of Micronesia, where I have lived and worked briefly, and back. My opening poem talks about a paper boat that traveled the world and came “back to this island.” “This island” can represent the Philippines or something as ubiquitous and essential as feeling home with oneself.
Cristina's podcast can be found at yourartsygirlpodcast.com.
By Deb A.
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Inspired by her Tibetan Buddist practice, Hildy Maze uses her art to inquire into the nature of mind.
Her collages are made with environmentally friendly materials and rooted in a deep connection between mind and heart that allows her to begin her works from a pure uncertainty. Hildy's "an investigation of mind through art" is featured in Agave Magazine's upcoming 5-Year Anniversary Edition.
AGAVE: What does your collage-making process entail?
HILDY MAZE: All of these things, color, texture, tones are developed in various stages of the process. It begins with making drawings and paintings on paper using various colors and tools, like branches brushes, anything that will make a mark. There’s play involved, experiment, sometimes a specific image. I let the creative mind roam free, a state of uncontrived creativity where I step out of my own way. I call it making paper. Some of these drawings and paintings are put aside as complete. Others are strewn on the floor to begin a ripening process meaning the paper becomes a part of the existing tapestry of paper already spread across the floor. The haphazardly strewn paper reveals combinations I would not otherwise think of that attract me, and from this a collage begins, with pinning, ripping, cutting, folding, and so on. It’s a conversation without words or thoughts, preconceived ideas or attachment. The natural aging of the paper along with the wrinkling, stains, drips and casual handling of the already painted and drawn upon paper lends much of the texture. Out of this the colors, textures and tones arise. From this the image takes form. An instinctual energy seems to be doing it all. The images create and conclude themselves naturally. I have no idea what the finished piece will look like, its size or shape. I trust my instinctual knowing, the clarity of mind’s basic nature. I find the paper more beautiful and inspiring as it ages, adding texture and depth. then when it is freshly painted and drawn on. The aging paper reminds me of ancient ruins, old fabrics. There’s an earth quality to the paper that’s attractive to me. It displays impermanence and imperfection, which is part of life.
What techniques do you use to persuade the viewer to go beyond the image presented?
Touching on combining symbols and emotions that could possibly persuade the viewer to see in a personal way beyond the image. Also naming the work which evolves when I’ve arrived at that point of leaving the work right there without trying to improve or manipulate it. Once it’s completed I distance myself and quiet my mind to allow some kind of essence of the image to speak. The title may arise immediately, other times it may take a few days. I don’t make an effort to walk the viewers through their visual experience since I have no idea what that may be. I just point in a direction of possibility.
The titles of your works are often stark and provocative: her emptiness, unknowing the confusion, unrelenting, when coping strategies fail... what do you believe is the importance of a strong title?
Strong titles are important if there is something I want to share or discuss with the viewer. Titles help select what that discussion could revolve around. Of course this may not happen and I don’t consider audience reception in making the work. I have an abiding belief in the titles and the ability of oil, paint and paper crumpled, torn, aged or flat and the genre of abstraction to best communicate and possibly seduce the viewer to make their own journey into their humanness. It’s not a requirement, more like an invitation.
What can you achieve through collage that is more powerful than with other mediums, and when do you prefer to rely on another art form?
My relationship to collage is somewhat magical and indescribable. What I achieve through collage I don’t think I could achieve in any other way. It seems to be instinctual for me. An endless dialogue. Also the process involves painting and drawing so I don’t have to rely on any other art form since the process, covers it all. I do work with clay from time to time, but that’s a completely different story…..
What are you proudest of so far in your career as an artist?
I’m proudest of embracing the challenge of actually doing my work consistently with curiosity and enthusiasm everyday.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is on presale now in the Agave Press shop.
By Deb A.
Argentine photographer and Agave Magazine contributor Ivi Tello has been curious about art since she was a child. Her endless list of influences spans film, music and literature; with photos like those from her series On the surface everything is beautiful she aims to counter our overstimulated sense of sight with soothing pastels. Ivi's images can be found in the 5-Year Anniversary Edition of Agave Magazine.
AGAVE: How did you get started in photography?
IVI TELLO: As an adolescent I started to teach myself to take pictures. I entered the Faculty of Fine Arts (Design in Visual Communication); dissatisfied with the content and after resolutions of my personal life I decided to finish there after two years. I did not cease to create images, so I decided to venture into the professional knowledge of photography while pursuing a new career, journalism. Within that framework, plus a few existential crises, always with fear but always walking, I discovered that my taste and vocation belonged to the light, the movement: photojournalism and the love of cinema. So now I'm dedicated to illustration and photography.
What kind of gear do you use for your photography?
I use Canon since I like its gamma more.
Is there a particular subject matter that interests you most?
Within my works, those that I personally highlight are those where I was traveling. Although I use post-production for those images I like the naturalness and sometimes the possibilities with which they were taken.
How would you describe your style?
From dirty realism to magical realism, I am now using softer and more pastel colours. Personally I think that the aesthetics and the content of a photo go hand in hand, and in the current times it is necessary, due to the massive and harmful excess of visual advertising pollution, as a countercultural tool, to soften the world, giving beauty to the viewer.
How do you want to affect the viewer with On the surface everything is beautiful?
Within this miniseries, I try to provoke the coexistence of the aesthetically correct and that which, like death, generates a contrast that people are inclined to reject.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is on presale now in the Agave Press shop.
By Deb A.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is a retrospective of the last eight issues, combined with some new highlights that nestle comfortably amongst past favourites. Divided into three sections—Art, Literature, and Photography—this issue contains the essentials of Agave's past and present, and demonstrates the magazine's evolution through the years.
The 5-Year Anniversary Edition is available for pre-order now in the Agave Press shop. Issues will be shipped in May.
By Deb A.
By now you've heard that Agave Press will be launching its children's magazine, Prickly Pear Kids, in winter. That isn't the only exciting development in children's literature recently...
If you want your child to learn a lesson, those bunnies and bears just won't do. Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that only stories that feature human beings can increase children's altruism.
Speaking of bears, A.A. Milne was desperate to escape his own creation, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This year's Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children's picture book illustration has been awarded to Francesca Sanna for her book, The Journey, which tells the story of a mother and her two children fleeing war at home to find a new life in a foreign country.
You've read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you've probably seen at least one of the films, but what you never realised was that Charlie Bucket was originally black.
There are boy heroes, there are (significantly fewer) girl heroines. But chances are they aren't playing together. Amelia Hill takes a fascinating look at gender equality in children's books, and even offers a few titles for starting your non-sexist kids' library.
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