Childhood memories of places are huge in her art, which she recognized upon creating her “first finished piece,” an installation titled 720 sq. ft.: Household Mutations, featuring the long, rectangular carpet she grew up with. Perhaps another connection between Carmen and spatial thinking is the commute she endured as a young Magnet school student: a brutal Los Angeles bus ride from Pico Union across Downtown to the Westside, each early morning and each afternoon, even through the burning buildings of LA’s 1992 Rodney King Uprising.
Carmen explains, “that’s my interest in moving through different kinds of spaces, moving through different kinds of economies – because that’s what I did and have always done.” This is true. When she and her sister were very young, her family moved from Guadalajara (Mexico) to Los Angeles. Her father had studied architecture in Mexico, hand-drawn a portfolio of beautiful houses that he dreamed of building, but the Los Angeles offices had shifted from drawings to AutoCAD, leaving her father working a series of odd jobs. “He just needed to support the family and make money,” Carmen says. “But those drawings really stayed with me.”
Besides inspiring, her obsession with architecture, her family’s story and the story of many other immigrants is one that Carmen consistently explores in her art. “What does it mean to leave a place and come to another place, and also to have lived in that place and have memories of it, like my father? And what does it mean for him to be over here... wanting that, and then going back and seeing that the city’s changed without him? And for me to be growing up with all these narratives, what does that do to my ideas of Guadalajara, how do I see the city differently, or do I even know the city? Where do I fit in or not outside of these narratives?”