photo credit: Lisa East
Lisa Cristinzo is a queer painter and installation artist and a first-generation Canadian settler living in T’karonto on Turtle Island. Cristinzo’s large-scale painting installations traverse natural history, climate hazards, materialism, and magic. She holds a BFA from Ontario College of Art and Design University and an MFA from York University, where she received a graduate scholarship and a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council grant for her research into fire and climate change. Along with being an artist, she has spent over a decade managing arts programs and community cultural hubs, including Artscape Gibraltar Point, an artist residency and event space on Mnisiing/Toronto Island.
"Fraternal Fire," acrylic on wood panel, 77in x 60in, 2023
"How to write a painting," acrylic on wood panel, 36in x 48in, 2022
"Marked Trail," acrylic on linen, 60in x 82in, 2023
"Birch Bark is like Snake Skin," acrylic on wood panel, 36in x 48in, 2021
The basis of my research is the concept of materialism, as well as the lustrous objects I consider when painting. I use fire and its process as a metaphor, an illustration of environmental impact and a response to materialism. Through fire, I have drawn links between my own illness (cancer diagnosis) and the imbalances of the planet. I had developed a habit of excessive accumulation, a theme that presented itself in my work, my art practice, my health, and my relationships. This cyclical theme is what I call “the build up, the burn and the burn out.” This problem is not unique to me; I extend this behavior to our entire species, a species with the capacity to harness excessive amounts of materials from a fragile earth. Our obsession with possessions has caused a warming planet, leading to intense weather systems and catastrophic events. The planet, like many of us, is experiencing the build up, the burn, and the burn out.
The subject matter for my current body of work came to me while staying in a stone cabin. I started each morning by collecting kindling and lighting a fire in the wood stove, and soon came to see the pieces of wood, newspaper, burnable objects, and ash as triangular compositions suitable for painting. As a result, the fireplace became a still life within a frame. I began to postpone the fire each morning to sketch the arrangement prior to burning. Building a fire became a means of building a painting.
My paintings rarely actually show fire, instead the focus is on the potential for fire, a hidden energy moving through a landscape looking for points of friction. Friction, oxygen and fuel transform fire from a potential to a reaction. In the painting Birch Bark is like Snakeskin, all the unscorched materials in the world gather on top of one last stump to drink water from its center. There is gentleness in the gathering, though, because the desire to drink from what is left could cause it, too, to endure fire.
more from Lisa's perspective
Large collection of Lisa's daily matchbook paintings, often done in the woods or in reference to them.
Fraternal Fire in progress: Lisa sweeping paint with a large paint brush back and forth en plein air during the Halls Island Artist Residency.
Studio shot work in progress for Marked Trail. photo credit: Lisa East