“We are all one human family,” says Christine Longoria. She admits to the life differences that come with chance and choice, but her assertion that “people are basically the same” is borne out by her remarkably diverse résumé.
Longoria has been a church cook, a probation/parole officer — a job that found her spending some of her evenings on stakeouts — and a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch (which she calls “an amazing experience for a small-town girl”). She’s worked in retail, and has spent the past 27 years as a certified real-estate agent.
As her multiple careers came and went, art remained a constant. “At age 4, I was already destroying my parents’ books by drawing in them,” she confesses. “People, trees, shapes, lines — “I simply had to draw. I was never seen without a pencil or pen in my hand.”
Lately, she’s had more time to spend at her easel, where she enjoys alternating between mediums. “I love everything about oils, including the mess and the aromas. When it’s necessary to become portable, I choose pastels.”
Describing her process for her current series of abstractions, she explains, “I often get fascinated with something I see … I usually step up to a canvas and just make marks, going where they lead. You bring everything you are and everything you have been or experienced with you when you come to a canvas.”
And it’s not always easy. “It’s very frightening to put your history and your heart and your soul out there for the world to see.”
But she discovers inspiration everywhere. “My current favorite painting was inspired by cracks in a friend’s driveway. I had to put it on canvas. Last year, I became obsessed with church stained-glass windows as icons for getting into the sacred.” She explored ways to depict these windows through luminosity, deep colors, and shapes.
The abstract-versus-representational question has particular resonance in her career. “You must remember,” she says, “[that] a painting of an orange is basically a picture plane covered in colors and assembled in a certain order.” In other words, “everything is an abstract.” She hopes viewers go in just as deep, “look[ing] into the layers for small areas of mystery that make me excited when I uncover them.”
Although Longoria says she’s painted in both modes since 1961, she became known in Asheville for her lush still lifes, mainly florals and fruits. However, “all my early major influences were abstract painters,” she notes. “My favorite painters are abstract artists. Most of my [abstract] paintings have gone to Chicago, Arizona, Texas, New York State, Florida. It’s been only in the last 20 years that Asheville bought my abstracts, preferring floral or nature pieces.
“I am now painting what I feel to be authentic for me.”
Christine Longoria, South Slope, Room 17 in the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Refinery Creator Space (207 Coxe Ave., ashevillearts.com). To schedule studio visits, contact the artist via e-mail (email@example.com). For more information, see christinedickeylongoria.com.