Last week, we learned about artist Czarina Mendoza, and her exhibition AGW Offsite: Witnessed in the Convex Mirror at 1012 Drouillard Road, in partnership with Mean studio. Now, we’re catching up on a conversation held between Czarina and Julie Rae Tucker, Head of Programs and Collection at the AGW. Read on to learn more about Czarina’s future plans, her cultural heroes, and the surprising lack of bagels in Windsor-Essex.
JT: How can our community be more supportive of emerging artists?
CM: I think sometimes people find that they’re isolated or within their own thoughts and it’s a matter of establishing more of a cultural hub, being able to meet other artists, and other people creating or making things. I find it peculiar that sometimes these circles like writers, musicians and artists run very separately. I think it can be intimidating for folks and when these circles don’t intersect it can become quite insular. I float around. Find what’s comfortable and be open-minded.
JT: Yeah, having a cultural hub that makes sense.
JT: Can you give me another example?
CM: Just being curious about your neighbours, asking questions, being critical, knowing what already exists in the community. Looking at event calendars, et cetera.
JT: That’s really good advice.
CM: Well I guess I’m just thinking about the first time that I moved here to Windsor like the first thing I was drawn to was Media City. And then from there, it was like, oh, there’s a film workshop, there’s an opening at Artcite, and then from there I would say, I hate the word network, but it’s like, it was just a matter of timing and meeting the right people. As simple as that. You can’t just live and work in isolation or a vacuum. If you pursue the things you are interested in, the easier it is to meet people who share the same interests. I feel like that at the root of it is where actual conversations begin. Just show up and take space. I didn’t know anyone when I moved here. People are happy when you show up. I guess this rant is all pre-pandemic though. I miss strangers.
JT: I am always sad to see artists leave the City. Do you plan to stay or do you think you will move to find success elsewhere?
CM: Why are you asking me that because I don’t want to leave. Ha. It’s hard. It’s really hard. I’ve seen this really good side of Windsor. I’ve also observed Windsor as like a transient place for people. Yet, over the years I’ve built relationships with people that I never thought I would form. I do find there is an expiry at some point. I feel like a fly on the wall. I’m observing but I’m also feeling restless. Over the pandemic, I felt confronted with specific goals I wanted to fulfill and lost my sense of self that extends beyond Windsor. I’d also like to be closer to my family for a period of time before I make any major move in the future to settle.
JT: Do you have a plan? Are you waiting? It’s a secret?
CM: Yeah, I mean I think there’s a lot of uncertainty like obviously things are delayed and have been put off. But I really took the time to be able to work with what I have here. And that has helped me seek the best out of a place that I felt like I wasn’t planning to stay in for this long.
JT: Okay. I’m interpreting this as you’re never leaving.
CM: I guess what I can say is, when we leave — then there’s a place that I will always look forward to visiting. I’ve built lifelong friendships here. It’s an adopted home.
JT: Who are your cultural heroes?
CM: That’s a good question. Oh, I’m so indecisive, I feel like I know this will probably change tomorrow and the next day after that…cultural heroes. Off the top of my head, it’s Stephen Henderson from WDET, the host of Detroit Today 9am on 101.9!
CM: The one that I always go back to which grounds me. My parents.
JT: What are your favourite things in Windsor- Essex?
CM:…Ah, I feel like this can be both good and bad, but I think it’s awareness of working people. I feel like coming from Alberta, there’s a different view of defining working-class people. There is a union culture here that is very interesting. And I came to understand that sort of perspective, like walking, driving around the city, understanding how residential is framed around industry. Where development is focused and not focused. And I feel like there’s something to be said about the relationships between industry, migration, work and culture. So I don’t know if that’s the most favourite thing, I think that’s like the most interesting thing that I feel may be distinctive and to be aware and critical of. There is potential here. And then I’ll say on a good note there is the food. I think now people are really tapping into different access points to culture, specifically different global cuisines. It went from hot foods that people would post on Facebook marketplace or Kijiji, or a community board in Sandwich, and now I’ve seen it progress with social media where we finally celebrate these amazing talented home-cooks that can share their story through cooking and have tables at the local farmer’s market.
JT: What is your least favourite thing in Windsor Essex?
CM: I could be problematic. There are no good bagels.
JT: I know, I have to make my own Montreal-style bagels. It makes no sense.
CM: Yeah, like I have to get those Montreal bagels in the frozen aisle at Metro.
JT: Where can people find your art?
CM: My website is czarinamendoza.com and my Instagram is @cocktailbun which by the way is a sweet milk bread bun filled with coconut. And not what you think it is.
JT: Anything else you would like to mention?
CM: Oh I wish we had a more pedestrian city. More bagels, public transportation, real change, less performance, less cars and why does amber mean speed up here. I’ll leave it at that.