Meet Paloma Tendero, a visual artist who works across photography and sculpture to explore genetic mutation and inherited disease.

By Mission.

Paloma Tendero creates deeply personal work by combining elements of photography, sculpture, and performance to reflect on the complexities of inherited DNA. Tendero was born with a genetic flaw passed down from her mother, which has affected her relationship to both her body and mind, something that she explores within her artistic practice. Below, Tendero discusses the choice to make herself her subject, her recent Flawed Beauty series, and quarantine’s impact on her craft.

1. Can you tell us about your artistic background?

I studied fine arts at Complutense University for 5 years in Madrid, where I trained in classic techniques including painting, anatomy drawing, and history of art. I specialized in sculpture and after graduating, I moved to London to do my MA photography at London College of Communication where I really started combining my passion in sculpture with my love for photography.

2. Your work is multidisciplinary, involving elements of sculpture, photography, performance, and mixed-media. How does utilizing such varied disciplines help you achieve your artistic vision?

My work explores physical and psychological relationships that spring from inherited DNA. The work often begins with a photograph of my body, contorted through performance into a sculptural form, and physically overlaid with a knitted or crafted representation of the internal genetic flaw. By representing the body transformations alongside its real external form, my work weaves in issues arising out of the emotional struggle between such biological determinism and the countering effect of self-will.

3. How did the body become such an important driver in your work?

We relate to the outside world through our body. A body that joys, suffers, and is the container of our organs and our emotions. A significant part of us is made by others, we take and receive qualities from each other. In the same way we inherit the color of the eyes, we inherit genetic disorders and habits that influence us throughout our lives.

4. Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind your Flawed Beauty series?

In this project I placed myself as a sculpture on a plinth, enveloped by an imaginary cyst. The idea was to redefine beauty. Some of the greatest classical sculptures in the world are broken and missing limbs, however they are highly precious and appreciated by society without questioning body flaws or illness. This series represents how the body has a natural life of its own and we suffer periods of change, pain, and metamorphosis without control, in contrast to these historic works of art.

5. Why is it important that you are the subject in your photographs?

I was born with a genetic disorder passed down through generations that is the basis of my research. My artwork aims to represent the period of changes the body suffers, working around dualities: between the inside and outside, health and sickness, and the transmutation from one to the other. The most difficult part is exposing my inner self in order to explain to the viewer what drives me.

6. How has your time at Sarabande influenced or had an effect on your work today?

Personal and professional growth comes from having access to caring and constructive feedback, and by sharing a studio space, talking and listening to other artists about work in progress. Sarabande is an ideal place to focus in creating new work and interact with other artists. The fact that everybody comes from different backgrounds makes the studios highly interesting, promoting cultural understanding and exchange of an artistic endeavor between artists from various countries.

7. What is your artistic process like? How long does it take to complete a piece of work?

My process is a combination of research and intuition. It starts with meaning behind an idea or responding to personal experience. Making the sculptures is a really organic and intuitive process. I would like to say nowadays I have a good balance between following my instincts and planning a project. It all depends of the complexity of the materials or the photographic process I used. It varies from 3 months to a year.

8. Has isolation had an impact on your artistic process? If so, how?

The impact of isolation has brought me to explore the idea of comfort and discomfort. We refuse to coexist with illness in the same way we avoid discomfort in our life. Lately I am researching soft sculptures and biomorphic shapes in art with this direction.

Photos courtesy of Sarabande Foundation.