Interview with Artist Vivian Zapata

Poetry has the ability to unleash profound insights about ordinary experience and my painting investigates the mystical inner life of metaphorical language as it arises in everyday life.Vivian Zapata

Divine Dreaming | 46

Kicking off our first artist profile of 2012 is visual artist Vivian Zapata. She describes herself as a “color contortionist and a creator of symbols unmasking reality with every step.” Vivian grew up in Skokie, IL and a few years ago won first place in the 23rd Annual Congressional Arts Competition for District 16 in Illinois and she was the 1st place winner in the National Latin Grammy Poster Contest. She even caught the attention of Latino Art Beat, a non-profit organization that awards college scholarships and was awarded a full year college tuition scholarship. Vivian currently has a B.F.A from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is working on her masters. She is part of the next generation of Latina artists that need to be cultivated and supported. Vivian is one to watch as she continues  her creative journey in the arts.

Pink Candy Butterfly | 29

What drives your creativity?

Stories, poetry, and nature inspire my creativity. For my latest project, I allowed the changing of leaf colors in the fall to form the basis of my inspiration. The treetops glittered with deep yellows, warm oranges, vivid greens, and corral reds. I responded to this spectacle by trying to imitate the phenomenon I was observing. I devised organic-looking structures that allowed me to represent the trees’ leafy textures and vivid colors.
In the process of making these orb-like structures by hand, they took on anthropomorphic qualities. Like the painter who can charge a line with emotion and meaning, I somehow imbued a degree of emotion in my sculptures. To show my work, I thought it might be interesting to take my models outside to see the many ways they could interact with their environment. My experiment to alter the location of my structures produced interesting results. In some locations, my work took on overt anthropomorphic qualities and functioned like people on a trip. In a different context (the forest), my sculptures functioned like anomalous entities that created psychological space. In a final context, my works acted like props that extended the commercial function of a space.

How can art impact communities?

Art can bring people together for a common purpose. Judy Baca, a feminist artist from California, brought rival teenagers together to create historically inspired murals. The effort was positive and constructive. It allowed the troubled youth to get in touch with their Latin-American heritage while forming positive relations with fellow students.

I feel like I am still growing as an artist but I hope that my art can inspire audiences by making them look at nature in different way. The beauty of art is that it can present altered perspectives, (new ways of seeing the world that would not have existed without artistic intervention). I am currently interested in associating nature (plant life) with the female corporeal body. I want my art to celebrate the beauty and power of the female force.

Maldita | 21

What is the opportunity of being a woman / Latina artist?

My background as a woman/Latina artist gives me the opportunity to share a rich and unique perspective that filters in my work. It might be cliché to say but I do think that Latin Americans are soulful people. Our food, our music, and our colors reflect the passion that we have for life. Two Latina artists that have influenced my work are Frida Kahlo and Ana Mendieta. They projected a distinctive female voice in different ways. Kahlo did this through visual and surreal personal narratives and Mendieta did this through her performance works that brought forth ideas of ancient female powers and nature.

What mediums do you like to work with and why?

I like working with photography, digital media, and acrylic paint but I have recently dabbled with sculpture. As a grad student it is important to explore materials that can best express an idea.

Where do you see your art in the next five years?

I hope that in five years my interests as an artist will be clearly reflected in my works. I definitely have an interest in color, in nature, and in psychological space. One can never predict the future but I certainly see myself tenaciously pursuing my career as a visual artist.

Do you have three tips for women artists going to grad school? What do they need to know to?

Grad school can be fast-paced and one needs to know how to produce work quickly so the professors can see your ideas. I think the first semester may be hard for a student because it takes time to adjust to a new environment. A student should know that new methods of working will be discovered in grad school. Before applying, try to get many professional opinions on your application materials. I think its better to go to school with some experience under your belt. If possible, try to be a working artist for some years and try to talk to mentors or people you admire in the process.

Skokie Boulevard | 31.1

What kinds of projects are you working on in the new year?

As I mentioned, next semester I would like to continue investigating aspects of nature, and I would like to draw parallels between nature and the female corporeal body. The associations between a feminine power and nature have been long withstanding in the history of art. Even the most ancient archeological finds such as the Venus of Willendorf, drew associations between the generative powers of the female body and the generative powers found in nature. This semester I have looked at the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and also the work of women surrealists. I found a great website that organized flower usage in art into thematic categories such as life, death, fertility etc. I have also come across many contemporary artists whose work I admire and will continue to research. These artists include Jennifer Steinkamp, Yuyoi Kusama, and Sandy Skoglund. Their works investigate color, infinity, and or psychological space that could provide adequate inspiration for new projects that dually celebrate nature and the female body.

For more information on Vivian Zapata’s art work go to http://www.vivianzapata.com

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