Since I was a child, I was always drawn to painting and making things because of the intensity I would feel once I got into the work. I would become so focused that I would lose track of everything around me and become enthralled in the process of creating. It would be difficult for me to know when to stop because I would be riding out feelings of elation- and when I would finally look up and become aware of my surroundings, I would feel cathartic. I don't always become sucked into a meditative state through the act of making but that is the true intent of my artmaking.
When I lived in Boulder Colorado I went to a Buddhist preschool, we were encouraged to create in correlation to the nature surrounding us. At the time my parents were living with a Chinese calligrapher by the name of Linda. She would write Buddhist sayings with sumi ink on panels. If I don't become involved in the work in this way I become frustrated and disenchanted. The process begins with searching. I try to rid my mind of expectations or specific intents, because often this will prevent me from getting involved in the work itself; although I may use references from books, photographs, personal experiences, stories. I develop the composition, letting the relationship of shape, size, and color be informed by the development of itself. When I feel the different components are in congruence, then I feel lighthearted and overwhelmed with the process and it sings. Composition is what ultimately dictates how I develop the piece, from an add and subtract method. I continuously modify, add, and cover up, the surface creating a variation of layers as I search for a harmony amongst the different components within the composition. Covering up, losing and finding, I try to discover a rhythmic sense to the piece.
At the age of four I began to play the violin and played every day for an hour up until the age of fourteen. This being such an important part of my childhood development I feel that it has inevitably seeped into my visual sensibilities. Music has always had a great impact on me, I love to dance and sing, listen to music and I am enamored by art that I feel expresses a rhythm compositionally. Two artists I admire, Gustav Klimt with his elaborate patterns and the way Hundertwasser works with different colored components intermingling and dispersing against the surface. The variation in size and shape are musical in both of these artists’ work. In Washington DC my parents would often take me to Brazilian or Greek festivals. I later became involved with a group of seven b-girls known as the Sirens, they took me under their wing and taught me how to up-rock and break-dance. Dancing became a weekly ritual in my life; I wanted to incorporate the vitality in the physical movement of dance in my art. The spontaneous and physical; a large sweep of movement created by my arm. . Physically, I sometimes get into small drawings but this speaks of the more intimate secret movements of my body. Working small feels more introverted-unlike my larger pieces that are more action oriented- the smaller pieces become more personally charged with my internal narratives and quandaries.
In all my drawings I seek immediate physical catharsis from the art of creating. This stems from a history of New York based painting influences of modernism, and abstract expressionism. Initially my main concerns when I begin a piece are the dimensions of the paper and the intensity of the initial strokes, usually sumi ink, acrylic or tempera paint. Paper is my preferred surface to work on. I find it attractive; the way ink is absorbed onto the surface, the malleability of its materiality, and the spontaneity that is associated with paper. I believe line has intensity and emotion and can speak of many things. I go into the piece adding more dimensions to the shapes that emerge. I then work in detail to mask out parts with swipes of paint. Often a figure or an object becomes embedded in the composition. While I work I think of the relations between shapes, the different transparencies and layers, thick to thin. I seek a rhythm amongst the different elements. The result often includes a figure lost amongst labyrinth like lines that morph curvaceously throughout the piece.
What is our identity composed of? Where do stereotypes come from? And what is the purpose of the social rituals we have created in our culture? I am curious to understand where these ideas originate from and how that relates to me personally. I am intrigued by the different ways in which various cultures deal with the same issues. Western society throughout its history has perceived representational painting as being a sincere portrayal of reality. I am fascinated by cultures which make art that embodies more than the materiality of something in our world. It is a little exaggerated to make broad classifications such as western vs. nonwestern art and disregard certain unifying qualities. An artist I have been exposed in my life through family ties to is Torres Garcia, a Spanish painter who studied under Gaudi at the beginning of the twentieth century. Garcia then moved to Uruguay and developed Constructivism. Constructivism is based partially on platonic ideas of the ideal. Torres Garcia and those who studied under him would use a compass while painting to develop a composition based on the golden rule. He would use symbols of, for example, a fish that would be the embodiment of all fish. Torres Garcia studied both western and ancient symbolism from Latin America and bridged them together in his work. He believed that an image had the potential to be magic.My work interests relate greatly to Garcia, however I am not as interested in portraying concrete eternal symbols. I am intrigued by archetypes and symbolism. I am also attracted to the imperfection of the individual and expressing that in my work. Torres Garcia uses determined calculated straight lines just as you would find in much of symbolic art. I am more inclined towards using jagged lines that are reminiscent of an individual imperfect moment in time. Tribal art objects, in relation to their culture, were used in rituals of a tribe and were essential to the cycles of life within that. These objects were inhabited by spirits and were considered real. They were often used in conjunction with dance and song. Symbolism and imagery are repeated time and again throughout generations, guiding and supporting their ways of life.
Since a child I would draw isolated female figures representing what I desired, wanted to be, and was scared of being, disgusted by. As I got older the environment and the interactions of these isolated female figures changed. Mrs. Walsh, my high school art teacher, first pointed out to me that I had this tendency to draw Athenian figures. This figure is represented in my present work either metaphorically through line and shape or literally. The figure is then activated in a space that is engaged in possessing or exerting energy. I have always been interested in learning about female archetypes from all around the world. Living in New York City I have had the opportunity to see firsthand how these archetypes exist within these diverse cultures and have studied them through school and going to the Metropolitan Museum. I am acquainted with a group of Cuban Santeros.
A year ago they invited me to a celebration at the beginning of February to commemorate Yemaya, a female goddess who lives in the Atlantic. In Brazil and in Uruguay, on this date, people go to the beach and make little wooden boats with offerings for her. The people put white candles in the sand and give their offerings to her through the ocean. For them this is the beginning of carnival. The story of Yemaya as an archetype is beautiful. Originally she is Isis from Egypt; she was taken to the Yoruba people where she was named Yemaya. When Africans from that region were shipped to the Americas, Yemaya protected the people on the boats and came with them across the Atlantic. During slavery in Cuba she was praised as the Virgin Mary.
I have looked at the different ways in which women are perceived and like to explore this in my work. Trying to grasp the expectations of woman, how does this relate to me? I am a product of my environment and my personal experiences; how much is hereditary? What do we accept as truth that might not be so? What do we do out of conditioning? To what extent am I a product of mainstream consumerism or a product of being surrounded by liberal friends and family? A drawing I completed this winter was a self-portrait on 110 by 150 paper with ink and pen. The center of the page is an outlined female figure with long stringy hair and her legs spread. She is surrounded by linear patterns that curve and flow meticulously throughout the page. What is most apparent is the materiality of the ink on paper. There are pants hanging to the right of the figure. A flowerpot sits to the right of the pants with fern 1ike leaves that are echoed in the line work throughout the piece. At the bottom-right of the page is a New Balance sneaker and another one is lost in the center of the composition. There is no more weight to the figure in its execution in comparison to the other rendered objects. The figure then is no more important than the shoe. She is an object rendered in the same way.
Since I do not belong to one specific culture, I do not feel attached to one particular aesthetic, and am intrigued by looking at various art forms and acquiring certain elements from their perspective into my own work. I am now working on a piece that is highly influenced by both Lamaism and Indian art. I was intrigued by the physical presentation of the female figure in both Lamaism and Indian art. These idealized figures are voluptuous and fleshy; flawless, and their bodies curve as though in dance, they stand on one foot; beautiful elasticity is always felt amongst the figures. I am intrigued by Lamaist drawings because of the balance of composition and the amazing detail work. The variation in size of figures in relation to each other creates a sense of parallel worlds where different types of beings coexist in the same space with different dimensions.
I recently realized how impacting my studies of sexual ecology have been and I am still exploring these ideas in my work. The human body as a vehicle of life, the body and the way it is perceived by society, sexuality and how it is perceived by society, the way we identify ourselves as individuals and within community. When I was in high school I was involved with pro-choice activism and was a member of the AIDS club at my high school in Washington, DC. We worked towards creating awareness through education. Outside of these activities I read books pertaining to sexual-ecology. I read books pertaining to female circumcision and other forms of physical, mental, and sexual abuse woman have experienced in different cultures. I was also reading different anthropological books on multiracial living in different cities and communities and experiences in the projects of different cities.
My best friends from high school are all involved in politics and social justice. They now work in NY and Washington, DC in alternative programs for youths as opposed to incarceration, the board of education, and some are working for non-profit organizations for battered women. Last year I did a series of work pertaining to activism as opposed to passivity. I went to several antiwar protests in Washington and NYC photographing them and in turn doing a series of drawings with sumi ink, based on the photographs. I also created a series of photocopy prints on wood blocks. When this was completed I realized that, in the more abstract intuitive work I was doing on large sheets of paper, I was trying to capture the idea of activism in the physical intensity of the process and in creating the dynamic compositions.
My mother was always building things with me, and encouraging me to draw and build with my hands. These were the moments in which I began to feel enthralled with drawing and building. My father and I always had science projects to work on; we would do things like build transistor radios. I was born in Boulder Colorado and shortly thereafter moved to Barcelona for a couple of years where I lived with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. There I became fluent in Spanish and lived in a house where there was a lot of movement of art and artists. It did not faze me much at the time but that was when I was first introduced to the art world. My cousin and I would have exhibits of our drawings where we would hang our work up in our bedroom, invite people and serve them wine. By the age of four, I returned to Boulder Colorado and went to a Buddhist preschool. When I turned six, my parents and I moved to Washington, DC. I went to a predominantly white middle-class, preppy elementary school, in the suburbs, in Maryland. The other children did not accept me; probably because I didn't look like them and I spoke another language. Initially I resorted to spending time to myself, playing my violin and drawing. Up until going to that school, the idea of identity in society had not really impacted me as much as it began to. I felt alienated and culture shock. Middle school I finally started to accept that I was not the same as the majority of my peers. My English had caught up at this point and I began to spend a lot of time with a group of people that were engaged in the arts. We would run around together, going to car lots to take a car door or whatever odd mechanism we could get our hands on. We would build funny little structures and walk into stores with public signs to get reactions out of waiters. In high school, my art teacher Miss Walsh was very supportive of my work. I became very involved in my art classes. During that time, I was fortunate to get acquainted with a diverse group of people from all around the Washington area. They came from rich or poor families and we were a very eclectic group of people. We came together in our interests, as opposed to many people in our different neighborhoods who had tendencies to segregate themselves. At the age of fourteen I went to Barcelona to visit family and came across an Ernesto Drangosch painting in my aunt and uncles house. I became mesmerized by this piece and felt like it spoke to me. I stood in front of it for a long time. I had never felt that way in front of a piece of work before. The painting is of a woman in a cobalt blue space with an opening to the left of her where a light ochre seeps in. The power of this image inspired me and made me more aware of the communicative possibilities of painting. I, at this moment, decided I wanted to dedicate my life to making art.
Having family and friends scattered around the world has given me the opportunity to spend time traveling. I feel that I have been able to get glimpses of parts of Latin America and Europe mostly. I regularly visit my immediate family in Spain, Uruguay, and England, although I have also had the opportunity to visit family friends in Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, France, Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia. In my work I explore my identity. Am I Washington DC? Am I New York? A girl is I a product of my environment, do I ever have a choice in my decisions or are they inevitably my conditioning?
Recently I took a trip by bus with my cousin and his girlfriend from Uruguay through Argentina to Bolivia. We would sleep in tents and walk with our lives all packed in our bags. We went pretty high up into the Andes. I remember mud houses painted vibrant colors surrounded by mountainous terrain. Small artesian markets shaded by trees in the central plaza. Musicians and storytellers sharing with whomever under an endless night sky. I met incredible bohemian artisans who create and sell out of their houses art objects and jewelry. I met a group of people that threw a festival outside on the streets. I became enchanted by the organic freedom one finds in these countries that is lost in a griddled and controlled environment such as in the United States. I sat with an older lady who sold her clothing at fairs. She has lived her life mostly on the road. We spoke, and I knew she felt that I had more opportunities living in the United States, which is true. She on the other hand has the ability to live her life as she pleases in a society that has less material expectations of its people. This is liberating in ways that people with credit cards, health insurance bills, and mortgage would never fathom. During this trip we visited many small pueblos and cities; saw caves filled with mummified cadavers and their pottery remains; saw beautiful colored mountains and salinas; visited their museums and met people from all over the world. I was reading “Women Who run with Wolves,” an account of female archetypes throughout the world. My work during this trip was small sketches of dreams, mummies, landscapes, and illustrations of the folklore. This time of reflection and absorption has further aided the development of my personal.
I have been fortunate to surround myself by many artists coming from different experiences of life, since I from have been in NYC. I have close collaborative projects with dear friends. I live with a musician and a performance artist and feel that our loft is conducive to productivity. When I get out of school I am interested in working under a craftsman where I can learn and work with my hands and learn a trade. I intend to continue drawing and am interested in making videos showing the transition of people morphing into different painted entities in the course of a day in different environments like the beach, in a forest, in an urban setting. I think it is important to show work so I will try to get a body of drawings together and exhibit them somewhere. That’s all folks.
Ariane Hafizi - Spring 2004