Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Interview with Conchita V. Amata

I recently sat down with Conchita Amata in the beautiful garden of her Todos Santos home/studio. Our conversation ranged from Greek mythology to the neighborhood dogs that killed her rooster. Here is a sample...

M.W. What would you call the source of inspiration for your work?

C.A. L’Anima. The psyche.

M.W. L’Anima?

C.A. The soul. Plus myself. Together. The mystery of the soul, of nature, of this vision, of womanhood in particular in connection with the divine feminine, like the goddess. Because a lot of women they don’t know by experience, they have never experienced a goddess. A lot of women. There are many books written but the experience…that’s the thing that stamps for life your knowledge.

M.W. You work primarily on canvas?

C.A. Canvas can receive my colors and visions and forms. An artist has to have some place to work. I also work on metal. I once did a series of paintings on metal. And the metal was like a mirror; it was very shiny and I used transparent oil color and you can see all the shine behind the transparent paint. I did about six or seven. I sold them all. They were beautiful.

M.W. On metal?

C.A. Sheets of aluminum. The colors of the paint were the image. I used the transparent paint so the shine of the metal, the silver, comes through the colors. It was really interesting. I would like to do more. I couldn’t find the metal. I don’t know where I can find it…And glass I did painting on glass. I did it in reverse, you know.

M.W. Reverse? How?

C.A. You think reverse. You paint behind it. Not a looking glass or mirror….just regular glass. For instance, I can not paint the flesh first and then the eye on top because it will not show in this glass. So I have to paint first what is most prominent…first the eye and then…do you understand?

M.W. Yeah, I do…but that seems very difficult. (Laughs)

C.A. It is. It was. It was a mess. I did a few pieces that were nice.

M.W. You have to start from…what normally would be the very last…touch…

C.A. Yes, the contrary…

M.W. You have to start there and work backwards to the background. So you end with the background?

C.A. Yes. It’s sometimes like a similar situation in life. (laughs)

M.W. So that must have been quite a challenge. Reversing the process?

C.A. And all the time you have to go and see…to check on the opposite side of the painting to make sure it is correct.

M.W. And it has to be reversed. Because you’re painting it here. So what’s on the left…if you’re writing…

C.A. It has to be on the other side. See?

M.W. You would have to write backwards. Flipped.

C.A. I have an etching I did. Kind of strange, beautiful angel. And I wrote a poem. This was really kind of a sensual angel with hair going all over the place and breasts and big wings that wrapped around her. It was a real nice drawing. And I wrote this poem behind her. When it came out of the press it was all reversed. Sometimes in life…let’s take an analogy…that is what the story, the technique is about. That is why my work is very important to me. Some of the work, not all of it, has in there the key to certain initiations into a certain way of living…in a symbolic way that reflects, like mythology, life itself. With me, the only way I can go there is to let it come from my complete genuine being so that I can see it. Although I can be very receptive to other experiences and learn from it but that is learning…information…not an experience...unless it becomes an experience. Experience first, and then all the rest, as far as living is concerned. Because I have to live in a world of mental analysis but you don’t experience this terrestrial, spiritual, sensual, especially soul-like life that is here and is sometimes dramatic, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it is funny. (laughs)

M.W. You also have many masks. Are they paper mache?

C.A. Some are paper mache and some are porcelain. Most are paper mache. It’s a kind of technique I learned in Florence from my master. He makes masks and sculptures. He has a beautiful little shop in Florence.

M.W. What’s his name?

C.A. Augustino Dessi. He comes from Sardena, Italy. It’s a fabulous place. If you want to go to Europe then you have to visit Sardena.

M.W. What’s your opinion of Todos Santos as an artistic community? How has it affected your work?

C.A. At first it affected me fantastically. It still does….especially the earth. The way nature is. The sea is absolutely gorgeous. There is still a touch of primeval…natural. Sometimes I forget I’m in Mexico. I hear people talking, oh yeah, I’m in Mexico. Then I get into the atmosphere. The only thing I’m a little disappointed. The Indios and the Mexican people seem to be two separate parties. The foreigners mix all around. I want to know more in depth about the Mexican people. That is what I’m aiming to do. I know two or three, but I want to see how they…what is their life, what do they think? I know they are very Catholic and a lot of other things, but I want to get into their realm to see how I feel about it. I like it here. This is where the artist comes on. I am weaving a great tapestry with some of my paintings where I see through images the resurgence of women. I wanted to know what my life is, what is my sense. Maybe you follow what it is to be a woman…especially the most important thing, to believe in the gods. Since I was always a little bit inclined to mystical wandering or magic wandering it was important to me to find a location with all the elements since I put all the elements in my paintings. They take a form because not all the elements are invisible. The element of water is true reality. That is water. Water. Think of the liquid things all over the world including the ocean and it is a vital element that belongs to the earth. And then there is fire…that is also movement unless you put the fire into bombs or something that doesn’t move. Can you think of anything that is the fire that doesn’t move. I know…it is when you take an iron and put it in the fire and take it out and it is white.

M.W. Tell me about your career.

C.A. I don’t even think about my career. The fact is this, I was an artist from the time I was small. I did a lot of exhibitions in the United States. Some of my work was so controversial that they made me take it down.

M.W. Tell me about that.

C.A. First, there were some nudes in a big gallery. But I don’t know why they took them down. Maybe the guy was a Puritan or maybe didn’t understand art. There was a big exhibition a year and a half ago in a museum of art and I was invited to participate because I belong to the San Diego Visual Artists Net. The director of the museum said these paintings must go. It was the painting with the tiger. He thought it was too controversial. Some of those people are so Puritan they don’t understand a damn thing. That was what I told them. They don’t understand. They are so blind. That made me real mad.

M.W. How do you finish your work? How do you stay focused? It’s so easy to find excuses.

C.A. Sometimes I take a break. A day or two. I concentrate. And then it will pull me back. The life of an artist is a lonely life in certain ways, unless you belong to the theater. It is work but there is joy when the work comes out exactly as you had imagined you would express it. Sometimes I don’t work. I take time off and do other things. I paint on clothes. Gardening also inspires me with my work. For instance I could do…in a surrealistic sense, the image has just come to me, a man in the desert with a naked body, sitting there. He has a head but his head looks just like that cactus because he has been in the desert so long that is all he can see.

M.W. Plans for the future?

C.A. I have a lot of things in mind for the future. What I call Magic Art…more than Sacred Art. I was thinking about using mirrors in my work. Also to do things that can be opened and closed. A triptych and the painting is inside and when you open it then the painting would be really magic in the sense that I would call the spirit to inhabit that image and then you invite it out.

Conchita V. Amata was trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Venice, Italy. She teaches art as a spiritual way to meet the power of the Psyche that connects human creativity with the creative energies of nature. Conchita Amata consults with individuals and small groups, guiding her students to discover mythologies of the world as a creative potential in the individual life. She is available for commissions in Painting, Murals, Gold Leaf, Restoration Antiques and design. She also gives intuitive (Tarot) readings and can make delicious pesto sauce from scratch!
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