This week I visited the studio of Brazilian artist Mariana Soares. Here is what we talked about, in case you are interested:
1) How did you get to this residency program Mothership in NYC, and what brought you here?
I studied Graphic Design and Fine Arts in Curitiba, where I’m from in Brazil. I worked as an Art Director in an advertisement agency in São Paulo but always kept doing my art on the side. I came to New York in 2009 to take some classes at SVA and was lucky enough to get to work temporarily as an intern at a printing poster facility in Long Island City.
In 2013 I was admitted to the painting program at the National Academy School where I took as many classes as I could – and had my studio there for 3 years. It was a real privilege to be part of that artistic community, which was a great learning experience and gave me lots of opportunities as an artist. I currently am the artist in residency at MothershipNYC in Greenpoint. Ii is a living-working space, where I’m being lucky to be able to produce my art this Summer.
2) How is your painting process?
To me what matters most is the energy brought from each canvas, I try not to get too attached to one idea — but to mostly enjoy the plasticity of the material. In this specific series, Series Unknown, I am referencing Art History, but also fashion magazine imagery. And since my paintings are so small they have this very intimate, introspective vibe to them. I came here to study a more academic style and ended up focusing a lot on the portrait.
I think that gave me the freedom to explore the paintings in a more authentic way. In my paintings, entirely composed of women, the figure’s identity is unknown — they are very mysterious. As Picasso says: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”.
3) You’ve participated in a few exhibitions since you’ve been here…
Yes. I was one of the selected artists from the National Academy who were chosen to participate in the auction, organized by Paddle 8, to make an homage to Eric Fischl. It was a real honor! There are even photos of him in front of my work!
At Brooklyn Central I recently had a solo show, and I also have exhibited at the National Museum multiple times, where they have a huge traffic of visitors — more than 3,000 people came to check out these shows. The venue is very close to the Guggenheim and attracts an art-aficionado public who are visiting the other cultural institutions on Museum Mile on Upper Fifth Ave.
Here at MothershipNYC, I had the opportunity to give a salon talk for a very receptive audience. To be part of an art collective is very exciting and there is always a great exchange of ideas with other artists. Right now, we are collaborating with Art for Progress in a interdisciplinary production for the Mothership’s event – a great opportunity to start new connections in this city I love.
I am now starting to prepare for another solo, in Tribeca but I can’t tell much about it yet…! Stay tuned.
4) How do you enjoy New York as an artist?
I am constantly visiting galleries, museums and art fairs – which are very overwhelming!
But I love to absorb visual information. I go to MoMA a lot, to the Whitney, to the Met… I go to the Met to draw. While doing my figurative paintings, I went there very often and used artworks as models. It is an encyclopedic museum. In the end, the Met is the most remarkable one to me. To know all the history it carries and to be able to allow my work to be in sync with all of what has happened before. You have to find your voice, because so much has been done. At the same time, it is not about being innovative, its more about how you relate to the world you live in – and how you tell that story.
But I don’t use only the NYC museums as reference, I am not only interested in art stuff. The city itself is a reference, I walk around the streets, pay attention to the different textures, buildings and people – sometimes a billboard will call my attention. I also like to go listen to music, take the ferry – there are endless stimuli.
5) Who are some of your favorite artists and references?
William de Kooning, Cecily Brown, Egon Schiele, all of the Old Masters, of course, and so many others.
6) What advice would you give young Brazilian artists who want to move to NYC?
You have to be strong and use your instincts, its a constant challenge and you need to be persistent and trust yourself. Be conscious that just talent is not going to be enough. To be an artist in New York is not just to paint, but also talk to people, exchange. See what is going on, meet people from the art world, be patient… Nothing happens by accident here. You have to go and do stuff – be open to all possibilities. Definitely, don’t get stuck with your pre-conceived ideas. Be open to what comes your way. After all, process is what matters!