International artist and grant winner, Natalia Villanueva Linares was born in the south of France to Peruvian parents. A graduate of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris, Linares’ work has been featured in galleries, art fairs, and exhibitions in Paris, Peru, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ecuador, and the United States. She is also the founder of the magazine Ukayzine, created to promote international cultural exchanges through the visual arts.
“Art is something that completes me. It's a place where I feel very safe and protected. It's the little place where no one else exists.”
“The language that I was using for my art wasn't there yet.”
Lunares says it took a while to see her own creativity and that others seemed to discover her artistic talents before she did. “I would make drawings and people liked them and would say, ‘Wow. I want that drawing,’ but it wasn't fulfilling for me. The language that I was using for my art just wasn't there yet.”
It wasn’t until Linares was accepted to a preparatory school in France that it all started to click. “I had this idea of art – that it was painting and drawing or being like Michelangelo or Picasso. Most of them were sculptors or painters.” Linares says the artists she was studying didn’t resonate with her until she was told she could “use anything I wanted! Then it was like ‘Wow!’ I was about 24 and I knew – I’m going to be an artist.”
The concept of using any materials she had access to as a means to make her art opened up an entirely new world for Linares who began collecting newspapers, tissues, paper bags, envelopes, confetti, construction paper – even dirt, hair, ashes, threads and needles as a medium for her art. Whatever materials she could find were fair game.
Kill Me Honey
“In my last exhibition, I made a work named Kill Me Honey. It is well known that if someone was to have a bunch of your hair, it's because you're in love with them. Or you're giving them a piece of you. But they could also hurt you because there is the belief that if I have a piece of your body, I could do something with it…Our ability to give ourselves away to something, abandoning ourselves; we give them the power over life. It’s a big column structure made of 4,065 jars with 4,065 hair bunches of many different people. That is Kill Me Honey. The project is still open on my website. If someone wants to participate, they have to send me hair bunches.”
Linares describes the beginning of her artistic process as “First, I’m falling in love with objects. I feel a very emotional connection with certain objects that to me, are covered with history or something mysterious. Sometimes it can be the material that is so generous. How am I going to distribute or share this generosity? What does it speak to me?”
Her website further describes her process as “My work has been impacted by the notion of distance. Living in constant separation from a culture or another, crossing oceans, moving from a home to another, my art completes me, it is the place where everything meets; where excessive amounts of gestures speak in entireties, they transmit a sensible mathematics, to calculate a total, an entire feel. I have a dual approach to multiplication and division, resulting in ‘poematical’ formula.”
When asked to share her thoughts about the materials left behind after a natural disaster or in the case of the Surfside Condo collapse in Florida and the connection to humanity through what’s left behind, Linares shares, “That's something that is very important. For me, there are certain things that happen that can speak to my senses because as part of humanity, it could be us, it could be someone we know, it could be anybody. It's a part of us. As humans that disappear, get destroyed by mistakes – mostly human mistakes, I feel that with the type of work that I do, I can support an artist who is connected to the space, who has a story with the material that has lived there. It can be something that affects me, but I can only speak about the stories if I was there.
“In 2015, during the terror attacks, I wasn't able to travel to France. I lost one of my dearest friends during that attack. So several of my works are related – not to that very moment, but to what it is to lose and [how] my history has been impacted by that moment. I am eager to see who's going to use art and creativity to heal.”
Art – the perfect amount of togetherness.
When asked what message she sees through her art, Linares says, “Togetherness. When you are in front of a work – that can be monumental. I'm just going to talk about what it is to be inside of an installation. Take three people: a person who knows a lot of art, and one who doesn't know much, and one who doesn't care. These three persons, at the same time, are experiencing a form of sensibility, colors, and a moment together. And that's something that is important to me. How every stage of connection to art, from any person, can be connected to a world, can create a togetherness between a person and the art, between the maker of the materials, and communicate something with people…For me, it's a perfect amount of togetherness. It's not the artist who has more. It's 50/50. The audience is there, too.”
Linares recalls a teacher who discussed the legacy and importance of art and how without artists, our sensibilities would die out. “I decided from that [moment] to see what it was to do art and participate in a way that can be as powerful to others. How do I remind others of the sensibility of the colors, the luminosity, and our ability to make great use of materials that are so simple?”
“Someone might look at my work and say, ‘Oh, a four-year-old child could do that.’ But no, I don't think so.”
“Like, how do you elevate something that is so simple and so good, that it blows your mind? So that's our job.”
Linares says that the best thing about being an artist is, “Art is something that completes me. It's a place where I feel very safe and yeah, very protected. It's the little place where no one else exists.”
The origin of things…
“I think that it is very important to take into consideration the origin of things, of people, of the objects that surround us, and the conversations that we have. Sometimes we don't take into consideration what we find enigmatic, what we find mysterious, what we find beautiful, or what we find terrible – and that it has an origin. If it's art, or even if it's a person and an encounter with someone – it has a beginning, a previous story. That should be of interest at all times, the origin of what we have in front of us. The person in front of us who might not think like we do and why.”
Please follow Natalia on IG: @nati.work