Freedom In Ambiguity: An Interview With Cristi López

We caught up with the artist about her newest exhibit, and what her relationship with OCD looks like now.

Escrito por Esther Fernandez

Freedom In Ambiguity: An Interview With Cristi López

01 Cristi is a Florida-based artist with OCD.

02 Her second solo-exhibition, Anima: The Feral Femme, explores human-animal interactions, feminine expression, and our engagement with thoughts.

03 Cristi’s exhibition will be open May 10 - June 2 at A Very Serious Gallery in Chicago.

Hi Cristi! So excited that we can catch up. Since we last talked, can you tell us how Unravel went? 

I enjoyed our conversation last year and was thrilled to see how it resonated with readers. The opening of Unravel: Portraits of My Obsessions, my first solo exhibition in Chicago, went splendidly! As a painter who mostly shares her work online, I know how impactful it is to have people observe your pieces in person. This can be quite vulnerable for viewers, especially when it comes to discussing sensitive topics such as mental health and sexuality. That being said, I’m grateful to vocal and silent observers. There’s no right way to enjoy art, but being able to see people exist with and react to the physical work in real time was such a treat.

Now you’re doing your second exhibition, Anima: The Feral Femme. I love this concept so much. Can you explain what “anima” is?

I chose Anima as the show title in part because the word is so close to animal, and the unifying theme of this series is human-animal interaction. The figures’ interactions with animals serve as a metaphor for how we choose to interact with our own thoughts: whether to confront, hide from, disregard, nurture, tame, or set them free. How we engage with our thoughts, particularly those that are unwanted or disturbing, is foundational to mental and emotional well-being. 

The show title is also a nod to the work of early 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, specifically his concept of “the unconscious feminine psyche”. While Jung’s interpretation of the essential “feminine” is considered antiquated by modern standards, his theories of psychological androgyny and gender archetypes ushered more nuanced dialogue around gender to the Western psychological canon. I’m continuing the conversation, with my work characterized by raw and expansive feminine expression. 

Beyond this surface appeal, there is a wealth of relevance and meaning within the word’s multiple definitions. In Latin, anima roughly translates to “the animating principle, soul, or spirit”. I invite the viewer to breathe their own meaning into each of my paintings. 

Your work is described as having “allegorical, surreal, and often abstracted elements”. For more anxious folks, these types of themes can be a bit anxiety inducing. How do you personally approach/process these more abstract and uncertain feelings? 

I’ve been drawn to surrealism in art for as long as I can remember. There’s freedom in ambiguity — the artist’s “true meaning” is obscured and undefined by design. So there’s no right or wrong, only different interpretations. The irony of my OCD brain finding pleasure in the unsolvable is not lost on me. 

When it comes to ambiguity outside of art, my reactions tend to be less pleasurable. When I’m in anxiety mode, the stakes feel high for most everything. Ambiguity has no place when craving definitive answers, moral clarity, and guaranteed results. So having a site where it’s safe to play in the gray is paramount. I can be as free, expressive, and unabashed in my paintings as I aspire to be in life. 

When I find myself being mentally rigid, I remind myself how free I can be when I let go of my need to understand. In time, perhaps life will begin to imitate art.

What is your relationship with OCD now? How has this project helped you with managing or understanding it better?

One of the more impactful mantras I’ve adopted in the nearly six years since my diagnosis is “good enough”. As a recovering perfectionist, these words are deeply uncomfortable to articulate and practice. But as anyone managing OCD knows, discomfort is where growth occurs.

Anima required about twice as much work as last year’s show. I couldn’t afford to get caught up in perfectionistic sisyphean loops. I’m familiar with what happens when I fall prey to “not good enough”. My world becomes small, dark, and heavy. In creating this new series, I had to routinely take a step back and tell myself “good enough” in order to move on to the next task.

Growing up Catholic, the concept of “faith” was regularly discussed. Faith is a choice, not a feeling. It is described as an act of courage. So even when I don’t feel like I’m good enough, I choose to act as if I am. Just writing that makes my OCD alarm bells go off, but again, I know what it looks like to go down the doubting path. I've learned to encourage excitement for the unknown in order to trump my fear of it. And I insist on something better for myself, even though I don’t know exactly what it looks like.


Cristi can be found @cristi.lopez.s on Instagram. 

Anima: The Feral Femme will be on display from May 10 - June 2, 2024 at A Very Serious Gallery, located at 673 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago. To find out more, visit

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