New Orleans / Oaxaca
What moves you to create?
Most of my art starts in my dreams. Whether they’re daydreams or dreams I have at night. A couple weeks ago, a vivid image of a waterfall came to me while sleeping. The waterfall was pure white, the background deep green, and two blood red flowers blossomed at the bottom of the falls. My dreams are often very colorful and help to inspire the palette I choose in daily life. My desires also move me to paint. I envision the kind of life I see for myself, then paint it in order to feel closer to it. I love to listen to music while painting. My paintings tend to absorb the mood of whatever music I’m listening to. Salsa for example might bring more red tones into my work, quick brushstrokes, and lots of movement.
What other kind of music do you paint to?
I like to listen to instrumental music or music sung in a language I don’t understand, so that I can just zone out without being distracted by words or meanings. There is a Portuguese artist I especially love named Lula Pena. I tend to listen to her when I work with watercolors. Her voice is very dreamy and faraway, like something heard through the mist. I’m obsessed with the genre of her music, Fado. The genre was born from the ports of Portugal, and the music revolves around themes of nostalgia and longing for loved ones who disappeared overseas. If the ocean was music, it would be Fado. It’s haunting and speaks to me because I feel my artwork comes from similar sentiments.
Is painting your primary medium?
Yes. I work with acrylics, watercolors, oils, and sometimes natural materials to create pigments. I love ceramics and printmaking as well, but painting has always held the greatest intrigue for me.
How do you approach a painting?
Lately I’ve been trying to paint like a little kid again. Fingerpainting, experimenting, using strange color combinations, painting completely from my imagination, even holding my paintbrush a little loosely and carelessly in my hand. I want to fight the urge to make something great, or better than before. I just want to create. Freely, openly, and without any judgement of myself. I feel like this is the way we can best accel at anything we love in life—to relinquish a little control and allow our mistakes to be catalysts towards something greater. I really admire the paintings of Marc Chagall. If you look at his pieces, you’ll see most of the people in his portraits are hovering off the ground or even floating above the clouds. He paints roosters green and dogs blue. It’s like something from a dream. But why can’t it be a reality? Painting really has no rules. The only rules are the ones you create for yourself.
She would change the colors in our house the same way leaves change with the season. She’d get into a fiery mood, and suddenly the kitchen would be scarlet.
Is anyone else in your family an artist, or are you the black sheep in that sense?
When I was growing up, my father’s appreciation for beauty left an impression on me. He used to love drawing the plants in his yard with a very careful delicate outline. He would draw in pencil first, then once the illustration was up to his standards, he would go over it in pen. He would be so still and focused while working. Although my approach is much more spontaneous and impatient (I hate pencils with a passion), I can still respect his reverence for the objects he copied. My mom also has a creative streak. She would change the colors in our house the same way leaves change with the season. She’d get into a fiery mood, and suddenly the kitchen would be scarlet. Or a desire to be by the sea would strike her, and I’d come home to see all the dining room furniture had been spray-painted turquoise.
That’s a lot of color. Do you have a favorite color to work with?
Red. The funny thing is it used to be my least favorite color. I hated it.
I was very into cool colors for a long time, especially when I was younger. But I started to feel like something was unbalanced. I was repelled by strong, warm colors like orange and red. I decided instead of avoiding them all my life, I would force myself to incorporate them in my art, wardrobe, and life. After spending a lot of time trying to like red, it finally stuck, then ended up consuming all the other colors like fire. To this day, I still use it in excess. Red has a powerful voice. It commands attention. In nature, it is a sign of warning, poison, threat, or potency. It’s in our blood, in our expression of love, and on a bullfighter’s cape. It has a lot to say. I’m not very talkative, a bit introverted, so maybe I use the color red to say everything for me.
What is your current color palette inspired by?
My palette is flooded with color right now. I’ve been travelling through Mexico for the past three months, and I’ve been surrounded by an ever-changing rainbow since I arrived here. From the native flowers (African Tulip Tree is my favorite—the orange blossoms are like beams of sun), to the endless carts of fruit and spices, everywhere you look there’s a new color to be found. After walking around town for a full afternoon, I’ll come back to my sketchbook and just unload all the colors of the day.
Sounds beautiful. Are you travelling for your art?
Indirectly. My environment always seeps into my art. But originally, I wanted to visit Tepoztlan for the Day of the Dead, then follow my intuition to continue exploring. Tepoztlan is a small town about an hour bus ride South from Mexico City. It’s tucked into the mountains which are supposedly the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl. The entire place is shrouded in myth and mysticism. On the night of November second, a friend and I went out into the streets to get lost in a crowd of ghouls, candles, and the cacophony of ominously ringing church bells. A storm slowly started to roll in, and at one point the winds were so high that we had to lean forwards to not blow backwards. Then, just like that, all the power went off in the city. So there we were, shuddering in the wind, surrounded by ghosts in the dark. It was just the kind of experience I had been looking for. The juxtaposition of vibrancy and death is a theme I like to explore in my art, so witnessing the Day of the Dead for the first time was like walking into one of my own paintings.
Do you have any favorite past times, besides travel and painting?
I love dance. I started Tango three years ago, and those lessons quickly avalanched into a passion for every kind of Latin dance there is. The history behind each dance is also intriguing to me. Whenever I have an interest, I always try to trace it back to its roots. Everything you see that has a physical form also has an invisible, infinite form, that stretches back forever. Like a ghost, maybe. When I dance in a room full of strangers, I try to also be aware of the intangible presences that guide the dance—the mutually understood patterns that were passed down to the present moment from a very dark time in history.
After I dance, I go home, take off my shoes, pick up a brush, and continue the movement on paper.