Four Years In A Vacuum – Violet Menace.

Allie Spidell, archival.

Carina Montero: There’s just so much pressure to have everything figured out so early. Community college lets me take it at my own pace & not have to worry as hard financially. My dad’s side immigrated here from Argentina & I felt a lot of pressure to be the first to get to a university in my family, you know? It’s a status symbol. & then my cousin did it before me, so I stopped caring, really. <Haha>

It ended up being a good thing that I didn’t do that… Um, my dad’s had cancer my whole life & it really started to weigh on him when I started at community. Having my dad a few states away, sick and dying, knowing I can’t do shit about it: I could not focus at all, & I ended up failing that semester. If I had gone to a four year, I would’ve wasted that money. I mean, I just signed up for five classes and it’s like $500, but $500 versus what, how much were you paying a semester?

AS: At least 20k, I think.

CM: Right. Going into debt for something you don’t even know if you want to do. At community college, we’ve been able to explore all of these classes that we had no idea existed. I was just scrolling through the directory & I saw stained glass & thought: I like stained glass. Why not take a class? It opened so many doors for me because I found something I actually care about versus trying to jump through the hoops right out of high school. When you’re already going through it between two homes with divorced parents & playing caretaker for your grandma &… It’s a whole deal. Just overwhelming. I couldn’t be there for other people, much less for education. I could barely be there for myself.

Carina Montero.

Allie Spidell: I feel the same way honestly. I really hate the way that everyone is pressured to immediately go to a four year. I was a product of that, went to a four-year straight outta high school. I wasn’t even really given the option. It was a required assignment in my classes to apply to the UCs, Cal States, all that. I thought it was the only thing I could do.

I ended up going to UC Santa Cruz for almost a full year; I guess I’d been prepared to be there, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was majoring in art, but like, what was I gonna do with an art degree? I was only there because I felt like I had to be there.

Allie Spidell.

Originally, I considered going into teaching art, which is something that a degree would help with, but I don’t feel passionate about it. It’s not something I wanted to do – it’s something I felt like I had to do, to have a career. The last thing we need is more teachers who aren’t passionate about teaching.

COVID hit & I dropped out. I’m really grateful, not that the pandemic happened, but that it got me back here, to go to community college. I really needed that space to be able to take my time & figure things out and explore my options. I used to feel bad about myself. Like I was doing less than I could be doing, all that. But I’m at a point now where I’m content with the amount of classes I’m doing. Community college is just a great place to take your time and explore things. There’s no reason to pressure yourself to go into something that you don’t feel like you need. Society puts so much pressure on youth to accomplish everything. But sometimes you need to just relax & figure your shit out first, you know?

Photos by Quill Reynera. @stilettostills

CM: We both started just doing one thing. I was doing stained glass, she was doing jewelry, & we got tired of it. There was just so much more that we felt we had to offer than one creative expression each. I think it was a process, breaking out of being known for one medium & not being understood for everything else that we wanted to do. Like when we started printmaking, the reception was something like, ‘Oh, they’re printmaking now. Just fucking go ahead. Do everything.’ I definitely felt stuck after doing one thing for so long. Especially since we’re kind of restless people.

AS: When I decided I wanted to study art at Santa Cruz, I was mostly focused on photography, which I enjoyed, but once I realized I was only doing that, I started to kind of hate it. Maybe I didn’t hate it, but I definitely dreaded doing it. ‘Oh, I have to do a photo shoot today… Oh, I have to go and do this assignment that I don’t really wanna do…’ That’s why I stopped taking as many photos.

Allie Spidell.

There was definitely a need to branch out & try new things. Even if it’s something that I’m not sure that I’ll stick with, for example, bronze casting. I thoroughly enjoyed that class, but it’s not really an art form I see myself utilizing in the future, you know? It’s just nice to have different outlets to express yourself creatively. Otherwise, there’s a burnout. It’s like you start to hate the art you create.

Lamp by Carina Montero.

CM: But yeah, Fullerton College has a phenomenal art program. We’re lucky enough to have such a great facility at our school. We can burn transparency, burn screens… Do everything that we need to there. We take classes together because both of us struggle with working on stuff on our own & each of us finds our own pockets we prefer to create in. That transfers over to creating when we get together. I’ve been reading about body doubling, where you can’t work on your own because there are a billion other things going on that you’d rather be doing than what you have to do? So if you have a partner working next to you, it’s motivating.

Allie Spidell.

We watch trash TV & hang out to make art. That’s pretty much it, our creative process. It helps to not have to pay your complete attention so you can do something with your hands at the same time. But the creators of our favorite TV shows are all Gemini/Libra duos, like us. King of the Hill, South Park… Geminis & Libras always go together when it comes to creative endeavors. Having two air signs, we just work really well together. The little conflict that has happened we can just talk out since we’re so comfortable with each other… There’s a lot of saying the same thing at the same time.

It’s really helpful having the same creative vision of what we want our table to look like. We love the same colors, so we tend to agree to the same color schemes. We make very different art, but it always tends to go together. The best thing is when someone will come up and buy two things, one made by her and one made by me, & not know.

Allie Spidell.

AS: But we love working with other creatives. All we have is each other, you know? This community has to support each other. Even if we don’t benefit financially or in a physical sense, we benefit spiritually.

CM: One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone will come over to compliment our table & end their compliment with ‘I could never do that.’ You can! You all are physically capable of this. We weren’t born good artists. Sure, maybe we were raised with a little more guidance from our parents & our community, but it’s never too late to start making art. We’re pretty fresh at everything we’ve been making.

Carina Montero.

I completely understand not believing in yourself… A lot of us are set up not to. ‘Oh, don’t do this, you’re wasting your time, what are you doing? Get a job!‘ <haha> But yeah.

You have to be louder than that.


By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald