Born in Cali, Columbia and encouraged by her architect father and artistic grandmother Didi’s childhood was creative and she went on to study fine art at the Pratt Institute in New York. While in her first year there she discovered the ceramics studio and her love for this medium. Didi’s beautifully detailed work draws our attention to an everyday object that may be both functional and fashionable. Through her sculptures she encourages people to reflect on why we assign so much of our identity to our footwear and see the beauty of everyday objects even when removed from their wearability. Drawing on online and pop culture Didi’s art highlights a conversation around consumerism, status and individuality in the modern world. Didi speaks about how she was inspired to started making her signature ceramic shoes, her perspective and identity as a twin and what she has learned from working with clay has taught her.
Your family is a very creative and artistic one, how has this shaped your life? Did the support of your grandmother and father in particular encourage your passion?
Yes! They taught me how to be resourceful. They pushed and supported me in finding creative outlets for myself even at a young age. My family taught me that there was importance in my ideas and what I created. I was encouraged to follow through on those ideas.
What first drew you to working with ceramics when you began studying at the Pratt School of Art?
I had never worked in ceramics before my freshman year at Pratt. I came across the ceramics studio and immediately wanted to learn as much as I could. I knew about ceramics before then but had no idea this was something that was within my reach.
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You once described ceramics as ‘a great metaphor for life’, what has working with this medium helped you reflect on and learn over the years?
Ceramics has taught me that there’s only so much you can control. It’s taught me to not be super precious about my work but that each piece leads to the next. It’s a medium in which so much is possible and there is so much to learn that it feels impossible to know it’s every technique. I learn something new from each sculpture which I apply to future ones.
Did peoples’ response to your sculptures come as a surprise at all?
Totally! I made my first shoe sculpture (a Nike Air Force 1) because I would wear my Nike sneakers to the ceramics studio everyday and they started to look like they were ceramic. They became covered in clay and glazes and I thought it’d be funny to recreate them in the medium. I became obsessed with the process and continued to make other sneakers which then led to other shoes by luxury brands. I loved playing with the idea of having these shoes even if it was in ceramic and not the real ones.
It’s been interesting to see people’s response to that. I’d like to think that the work is relatable and humorous to an extent.
What do you hope people take away from seeing your art?
My work aims to push the boundaries of what objects mean to us in a consumerist society and question why we see ourselves profoundly in footwear. I’m mainly interested in how people interact with an object we are all familiar with, the shoe, even when it cannot be worn.
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In previous interviews you have mentioned your identical twin and the deeper connection you see between a pair of shoes that appear and function similarly while remaining totally individual. Does being a twin influence your perspective and experience of identity?
100%. There’s so much about my experience as a twin that influences me deeply when it comes to my connections and relationships to others. It’s tricky navigating as an individual especially being so close to my twin whom I’ve been close to my entire life. I think this is where my work helps with that individual identity search. Even though we collaborate from time to time, our work is so different. My art is solely mine and it’s nice being able to share that with my twin and with others as just something I do separate from our “twinness”.
Maybe that is why I find shoes to be so charming/the perfect subject matter. I love that they look the same but the right shoe wouldn’t necessarily work on your left foot or vice versa. I relate it to being a twin.
What are your own favourite shoes to wear?
For the past year I’ve been wearing a pair of Dr. Martens Mary Janes almost daily.
Your shoes range from realistic, wearable sizes to larger-than-life sculptures. What decides how you want to portray a particular type of shoe?
I approach my work impulsively. Most of the time it’s the excitement of getting into the process of making them that decides. Each one is a new challenge for me.
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‘A Whole Vibe’, ‘Chaotic Evil’, ‘Had to do it to them’, ‘Listens to Migos once’: the titles of your pieces mix art with pop culture in a cascade of references that highlight the intersection of the personal, political and cultural in fashion. What is one of your favourite titles and what does it add to the sculptures meaning?
Ah! I don’t think I can choose a favourite but I will say that I was very proud of the title I came up with for my solo show in 2019 You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie at Launch F-18 Gallery.
The titles overall function in giving each piece an “of the moment” context.
How do you feel about so-called ‘ugly’ fashion trends?
‘Ugly’ fashion trends feel more comfortable and maybe a bit more down to earth than those that aren’t but I do think that ‘ugly’ is subjective.
What hopes do you have for your art in the future?
It would be amazing to show work internationally and to continue to broaden the work's audience.
I'm extremely grateful to be able to keep making my work even after all of the hardships from this previous year due to the pandemic.
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