VICKY BARRANGUET: BROAD STROKES AND VIBRANT COLORS
(Interviewers: Katherine and Angela Sloan, CS Editors for SPACES)
Vicky Barranguet, a Uruguay-born artist who is now based in New York City, recently had an exhibition (entitled Listen New York) of her incredible paintings at the Dejavu Fashion Group’s art gallery, formerly known as Bodley Gallery, which was also once a temporary home to the works of Andy Warhol. Vicky’s work is sensual, colorful, energetic and full of soul. Music is one of her biggest inspirations, especially the sounds of the tango, as well as jazz. The movement of the tango, as well as its sensuality and passion can be seen in the strokes of paint on her canvases. She paints live in front of an audience from time to time, while also working in the solitude of a studio. Vicky is also the mother of two young daughters, as well as the wife of composer, Gustavo Casenave; she has been painting for twenty years: one half of her life.
We sat down together in the beautiful sun-filled gallery space at Dejavu in late October to chat about her work, as well as her process. Our conversation went a little bit like this: “that is the only thing we cannot know, when we are going to die, so enjoy.” Vicky says this as we sit on brightly upholstered chairs and begin our interview. This makes us feel a bit better as we fill our espresso cups with Splenda (the artificial sugar substitute that comes in the lemon-yellow paper packets) and munch on sugary wafer cookies that have been set out for us. We’re here to enjoy our conversation, and not to take anything too seriously.
“Your paintings are so vibrant and the colors, especially all of the reds, are really incredible,” says Katherine as she sips from her tiny espresso cup. The titles of Vicky’s paintings sound like poetry; some include: “Inner Abstractions,” “Landscape Within,” “Projections of the Soul,” and “Somewhere Between my Heart and Ear.”
Katherine and Angela: How has your upbringing in Uruguay influenced your art? Do you feel as if you still have roots there?
Vicky: Uruguay is a country that does not have an indigenous people; we are very European. The tango is a big part of our culture that deeply influences me. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t really matter where I am; I paint from emotions, and from what’s going on in the present in my life. Of course I have my roots with me: I can’t take them away. New York influences my painting a lot: I go out into the street and I get inspired by all of the different nationalities of people, and the whole culture of New York.
K and A: When you’re creating a live music painting in front of a live musician and an audience, do you feel self-conscious at all, or is the process invigorating?
Vicky: Invigorating! I like it because you cannot wander around. You have to be present; there is no choice. You have to be completely pure. The live music is incredible. It’s like meditation, but it’s also a conversation between the musicians and the painting.
Something that Vicky talks about in a lot of detail is the movement of a painting that is done in front of a live audience: the end result is very different than if it was painted while she was alone in a studio. She likes both ways of working. She doesn’t retouch the paintings she does during a live show; once the show is over, the painting is done.
Vicky: My painting is completely emotional, and about what’s going on in the soul. My surroundings and what’s going on in the world and in my life is all channeled into my work. My painting is pure expression.
K and A: Do you try to paint every single day?
Vicky: If I am not painting I am thinking about painting; I am painting in my mind, always.
K and A: What do you do to make sure that your work remains so vibrant, painting after painting?
Vicky: I don’t try to make my work vibrant; if I am not inspired, I continue to work because I still believe that it’s coming. I wait for the inspiration to come. People say that my paintings are vibrant because of the colors. I try to paint the magic of life: the magic of life is based on the contrasting factors that we have in our daily lives. I try to let that show in the paintings; if I am angry, I try to let that show, but I always try to find a positive balance in the composition. Bad things happen in life, as well as chaotic and unfair things, but, in the end, life is beautiful. It’s magic. Life balances itself into something that is very positive. My paintings are always changing. When art is vibrant, it is because it reaches somebody’s heart and soul, and it touches that person somewhere; that can only happen when the artist is very honest. If an artist tries to cover up their feelings, or try to do something inauthentic, it will completely show in the painting. The best thing is to show what you’re feeling, because that is what creates vibrancy in works of art: honesty is the maximum vibration.
K and A: If you could raid anybody’s wardrobe, whose would you choose?
Vicky: I would love to see Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe; she was so herself, and she was beautiful, even though she had a very hard life.
K and A: If you could throw red paint on anyone, who would it be?
Vicky: I would throw red paint on Jackson Pollock. I love Jackson Pollock. If throwing red paint on someone is actually seen as a protest (like protests against people who wear fur) I wouldn’t like to throw red paint on anyone; I don’t believe that by doing something aggressive to someone, you will fix another aggression. I don’t think it is the way. I think we can raise awareness, yes, but not through aggression. I don’t agree with the killing of animals of course, and of course, I like Pollock, and I wouldn’t throw paint on him as an aggression; I would do it for fun. I think he would have fun, too.