We visited Minori in her big, sunny, shared flat in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. Between working as a bike mechanic and writing poetry, Minori creates geometrically composed paintings that incorporate elements from landscape and nature.
Her work is methodic and theoretical, a struggle to find exactly how much or how little is needed to convey the idea of a composition or landscape, using lines and big brush strokes. She works on large compositions made up of panels, partly because of size restrictions, and partly because this allows her to move back and forth when building the composition.
NNNY: What is your story about moving to the US?
Minori: I moved here when I was 10 with my immediate family. My parents were working as foreign-exchange teachers. The deal was that we were supposed to be here three years, and then go back to Venezuela, but my parents got jobs that allowed them to stay longer. I grew up in North Carolina; it was a big shock because I grew up in Caracas, which is huge, then suddenly there was this slow-down of motion when we moved to North Carolina; there were a lot of trees and squirrels. I was raised there, then moved out on my own to Raleigh, which is a big college town. I outgrew it and moved here, and have lived here for two years.
NNNY: Describe your studio practice.
Minori: I usually paint big right now because I need the scale to find the geometry in the compositions I’m trying to make. I generally work in a cumulative way, it’s a slow progression, because I paint based on lines. That build up takes a long time, to see the compositions show up and work together. I work in panels partly because of space constraints. It’s funny how the amount of space you have determines the project.
I’m struggle with how much realism do I need to include, to convey the concept of a landscape. I’m trying to give it enough structure without it sucking up the energy behind why I paint. Sometimes it’s dangerous to be a theory painter, and feeling like you’re just serving that part of it. I’m very mathematical at heart; I tend to discover things very logically.
When I initially started painting I wanted to give the space of a painting a structure, so that I could have a subject-object relationship with the canvas, and not just express myself. I gravitate towards exploration of space, exploration of color, in the way that I would approach something out of which I would expect a discovery.
In the beginning I was painting all lines; I was working towards a composition and color working in such a way that it makes a skin. If I could perfect these forms, it wouldn’t necessarily look like straight lines, it would imply motion and spontaneity. Everything you see in an abstract expressionist painting I think can be totally planned if you have the fluidity with the paint. I moved on towards big paintings, with big brush strokes, and bringing it all together into one form. And now I’m exploring painting with as few lines as possible that do what I want them to do, to create space and form.
NNNY: What was the evolution of you becoming an artist?
Minori: I never actually intended to be painting; I went to school for chemical engineering, until I realize that it would kind of suck to be a chemical engineer. Then I transitioned to comparative literature, and I was going towards creative writing. And at the time, I needed another project, so I started painting because a great friend of mine was a painter. The fuel is the development of my theory about it, particularly because I haven’t gone to school for it. I guess I’m interested in my own narrative about it, partly because I’m a writer, and partly because I love being highly concentrated on something. It’s a battle every day, what am I going to work on – between my manuscript and this. Resource-wise, time-wise, it’s hard not being a full-time artist.
When I started out painting, I painted all the time, and a lot of it is garbage. Thankfully I feel I can make mistakes once in a while, so I try to forgive myself. For me, seeing is like language, it’s not recreating the world. It’s hard to decide how much of the world actually has to be on the canvas in order for it to be real.
I’m trying to develop certain skills when no one is teaching them, so it takes a lot of self-motivation. It’s tough, because there is no one confirming it, there’s no community to experience it. So right now I’m trying to show a lot and get published.
NNNY: What successes and difficulties have you had as a foreign–born artist in New York?
Minori: It’s a lot of both. I feel profoundly American, this is my environment, this is what I know, English is more my language. I’m familiar with everything here, I just don’t particularly belong to it; so the advantage has been that place of other-ness. The disadvantage is that I don’t have any history here, I don’t have any back-up. I know a lot of artists, and a lot are extremely connected and some are extremely talented, so it’s hard not to feel like you got to know the people, you got to work the system, and I’m not particularly social. So I do what I do and don’t worry about it. I don’t feel a lack of opportunity, I just feel that I have to play it a lot differently than people who are coming through the institutions and networks. If I can be free of the money-making aspect of this, I don’t have to please anybody. Either way it’s not going to stop.
NNNY: How has moving to the United States influenced your art?
Minori: You come here and realize that you have to step it up; it’s hard not to be intimidated. But it’s also hard not to feel like you must have a chance. I guess it’s the difference between going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and going to Chelsea to see art: if you look at Titian, you’re going to feel like shit, but sometimes every once in a while I see things in galleries that don’t cut it, and that’s when I feel the hunger. So I’m here, until it’s uninteresting to be here….and then I’ll be somewhere else.
|© 2010 Non-Native New York