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Christina Craigo was born in 1965 in Charleston, West Virginia, and showed a keen interest in art from early childhood. She lived in Nitro, West Virginia until 1976, when her family moved to the nearby town of Hurricane. She was graduated from Winfield High School in 1983 as valedictorian, having received a scholarship to attend West Virginia University’s fine arts program. Ying Kit Chan was the most influential of her instructors at the university.

In 1985, Craigo transferred to Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia, where she studied with Stanley Whitney, Richard Cramer, Winifred Lutz, and other artists. In 1988 she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tyler, graduating with highest honors. She was chosen by the faculty to receive the Essie Baron Memorial Award for Artistic and Scholastic Excellence. Her BFA exhibition comprised abstract works including large oils on canvas, black and white mixed media drawings, and a steel sculpture.

Craigo moved to Brooklyn later in 1988, and entered the graduate program in fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. There she studied with many prominent New York artists, including Judy Pfaff, Gregory Amenoff, and Jackie Winsor. She continued to be interested in organic abstraction, creating more large-scale oil paintings, followed by multi-paneled paintings, collages, and painted constructions. In 1990, she received a Master of Fine Arts degree from SVA.

In 1992, Craigo was awarded a Fulbright Foundation grant in painting, to travel in India and research the image of the serpent in Indian art. Based in Mysore, Karnataka, she traveled widely throughout the country, visiting museums and sacred sites. She created a series of mixed media works on paper relating to what she had seen, and exhibited them at the U.S. Consulate in Madras in 1993.

After returning to the United States, Craigo married Charles Swarts, a fellow SVA alumnus, and resettled in Brooklyn. The Eastern philosophies to which she had been exposed in India continued to inform her work. A series of watercolor and gouache paintings on paper began an exploration of circles and spirals – common elements in Hindu art and temple architecture, considered in Hindu cosmology to represent forces which pervade all things in the universe. Another series of drawings focusing on circles and spirals followed; new to the work was an intention of limiting means in order to bring process to the forefront. Some of the drawings were made by constructing geometric images with drafting tools and ink on damp paper; others were made by spinning the damp support while drawing with a virtually still brush.

In 1997, Craigo moved to Boulder, Colorado, and began working with colored inks and wax on paper. These works are connected to her interest in Eastern philosophies in a more integral, less literary way – creation as cooperation with forces and processes like gravity, cooling, and evaporation, rather than willful domination over materials. In 1999, a number of the drawings were included in the exhibition Zen Spirit: The Invisible Thread at Karen McCready Fine Art in New York. Craigo gave a gallery talk in connection with the show, discussing ways some contemporary artists continue in the tradition of John Cage, William Anastasi, and others influenced by Taoist and Buddhist notions of being and making. The gallery represented Craigo until Ms. McCready’s tragic death late in 2000.

After a period of experimentation with oxidation and other natural mark-making phenomena, Craigo returned to circles and spirals, creating two- and three-dimensional crowns which incorporate the quirks and tendencies of her materials. These works also are related to Eastern philosophy, most directly to Buddhism. Just as Richard Tuttle’s wire pieces “remembered” the spool on which they had been wound, Craigo’s recent works are collaborations with the natural buckle and curve of mylar, nylon, paper, wire, and duralar polyester film. Candid and complex, unromantic yet rich with associations, these are works which are genuinely “of their time.” Though plain and insubstantial in some respects, they have the capacity to enliven the space around them: the materials themselves are often upstaged by the light and shadows they harness and release. In April 2004, Jan Ernst Adlmann, juror of the Rocky Mountain Biennial, awarded Craigo the exhibition’s first place award – from a total of 1,645 works submitted – for her piece Chosen (Like Daisies), from this series.

As a result of this award, Craigo was given the opportunity to mount a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2005. Christina Craigo: Ordinary Glory comprised 30 sculptural works. These included several of her small duralar crowns, arrangements of prisms and water-filled glass vessels, a room-sized installation, and a large piece relating to Matthew Shepard, the young man who died in Fort Collins in 1998 after being brutally attacked because of his sexuality.

Craigo’s studio is in Jamestown, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She has taught acrylic painting and figure drawing at Naropa University; as well as oil painting, collage, and contemporary art appreciation classes through the University of Colorado’s Division of Continuing Education. She is featured in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who of American Women. Her works may be found in corporate and private art collections across the United States.

Copyright ©1995-2020, Christina Craigo. All rights reserved.