This week I have chosen to start off with an interview with one my favorite artists, Nina Surel. I first met Nina many years ago when we did an artist residency down in the sunny and sultry city of Miami in the Design District. Her resin and mixed media/found object work influenced and inspired my work in a new direction at the time, as I began to experiment with such media. Nina is now a full time artist and Mama, who also exhibits internationally. She creates large-scale gorgeous paintings that are completely awe-inspiring and full of detail and texture. (Please note that English is not Nina’s first language, so I am impressed with the effort she made here to answer these questions).
Hi, my name is Nina Surel. I grew up in Argentina and my grandparents were the most important influence on my art-making since I was little. My grandmother Olga, (an immigrant from Italy), taught me to sew, embroider, and cook. I remember her like the perfect Martha Stewart in the wrong little town, hosting family and friends with delicious parties. She dressed my sister and I up with unique designs that she created and then would help me to recreate the same dress for my dolls. Her husband, Conrado, was very bohemian. He shared with me his unique world of pastels, puppets, birds, encyclopedias and models of his own inventions.
Clay was my first media and first love. When I was 13 years old I had arthritis affecting my hands and knees forced me to spend three years with no exercise, as I was in bed most of the time. I met a clay instructor at “Casa de Cultura” a few blocks from my home. That instructor became an influential mentor and clay became a huge part of my world.
Now, I use my paintings to talk about my sensuality, transformation, regeneration, the good and the bad, the dichotomy we all face, the multiple personalities that live inside me and how they coexist. I dive into my imagination and pour into each painting the complexity of being a woman, along with the irony, drama, and fun that comes with it.
What is your process when you begin a painting? What steps do you take to create it and how do you come up with the idea?
I start my painting with a picture of me that appears to emerge from a fantastic and disturbing story. More than a portrait it is an alter ego. I take pictures, and then I alter them in Photoshop. I like to play characters, always unexpressive, so you cannot determine if it’s a living person or a mystic figure stalking you from the past or if you are just facing your own image of fears and desires.
After printing the photo (always life size) I illuminate the face with natural make up (concealing, foundation, lipstick, pigments) then after the flesh tone is perfect I dress the body. I use old wedding dresses images to multicolored gemstones and porcelain (love Capodimonte from Italy, reminds me of my grandmother‘s house). That infuses a personality, a history and a life into the figure. Then I cover up the entire surface with many layers of resin giving the images that trapped sensation of being frozen in time.
Tell us your secret, as a lot of mothers want to know: how do you balance being so creatively prolific and abundant as well as being a dedicated mama?
I work as an artist from 9am to 2pm each day, and other than that I'm a full time mom. I pick up the kids from school at 2:30 then it’s all about them and the house. That’s the only thing that keeps me balanced. When I am in the studio they are in school so it’s all about my work in progress and me. Then I get back home and I get into homework/housekeeping dynamic and I forget about work until they fall sleep. I realized that once the house is under control everything works.
What is your current muse/inspiration? What colors or textures are you loving right now?
I’m nesting! On Friday I'm doing my first photo shoot pregnant (I'm 5 months already), even though I have two children already I have never used pictures with a belly before. I’m excited!!! I’m having a boy and I knew it from the very beginning! I’m connected with the green palette, from Forest to any Kelly Green I see around.
What is your dream?
I’m living a dream today.
How do you stay centered? What practices help you keep the creative juju flowing?
Mate’! I drink mate’ every morning!!!
Drinking the yerba mate’ is considered to be more than just good for the body; it's also considered to be good for the soul. Drinking it can be a form of meditation or reflection - allowing the goodness to infuse into the body while stimulating and resting the mind.
What ways of thinking do you feel got you where you are today in your art career?
One of my favorite and very inspiring stories about intuition is Vasalisa, found in Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Vasalisa is a story of handing down the blessings of women's power of intuition from mother to daughter, from one generation to the next. This great power of intuition is composed of lightning-fast inner seeing, inner hearing, inner sensing and inner knowing. In the story, completing certain life tasks develops intuition.
to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.”
- Madeleine L’Engle
“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.”
- Florence Scovel Shinn
What do you know? When you tap into your heart, your desire, what do you know to be true for you? What direction do you need to head and actions do you need to take to make those things more of a reality?
If you choose to work with bought or found objects in your art, what would call to you?
What routines help you to stay centered? What routines can you incorporate more into your daily life to keep centered and creative?
Go to a public library or bookstore and search through art books. Which artists speak to you and why? What is it about their work that you love? How could you incorporate those things into your art and make it your own?
comments powered by Disqus