indigenous art

I’ve been mesmerized by Vanessa Rosa‘s distinctly beautiful and engaging aesthetic since I first came upon the Brazilian artist’s mural painting several years ago — as part of the Faces on the Blue Wall project — outside Lisbon’s Julio de Matos Psychiatric Hospital. We initially met up as she was beginning her residency at Red Hook’s Pioneer Works in 2017 and reconnected last week.

You are quite nomadic! Can you tell us a bit about your recent travels and adventures? Where have you been in the past year?

Yes! I visited Thailand for the Dinacon, the Digital Naturalism Conference, an experimental conference about exploring new ways of interacting with nature. I then traveled to China, where I visited the Shanghai K11 Art Mall, the first art mall in Mainland China. While in China, I also visited fiber optics fabric factories in Shenzhen, because I am interested in creating crazy patterns with this material. Following a brief visit to NYC and Boston, I spent time in a music producer’s space in Sao Paulo, where I painted and got to know rappers — especially Nego Bala — from the favelas. I spent the month of September in the Amazon beginning an artistic partnerhsip with the extraordinary shaman and artisan, Same Putumi.

In October, I traveled to Frankfurt to represent my family’s publishing company, Viajante do Tempo, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. From Frankfurt I went to Berlin and then London. Finally back in Brazil, I produced a show at the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and also worked with Same Putumi and with my friend, the architect Veronica Natividade.

Wow! You are amazing! What brought you back to the US?

I’d been invited to participate in next year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual exposition of living cultural heritage on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It  is DC’s largest cultural event. In 2020, the festival will explore how diverse domains of cultural knowledge—from religion to design to science—shape the ways we understand, experience and respond to ever-changing natural, social and built environments.

And why New York City? Why did you choose to work in New York City?

I want to make things happen. And for someone who wants to have access and impact, no other city is as important as this one. I am, in fact, in the process of applying for an artist’s visa.

Your studio space here at the NYC Resistor in Downtown Brooklyn is extraordinary in terms of its equipment and resources.

Yes. My residency here at the NYC Resistor is ideal. We meet regularly to share knowledge, hack on projects together and build community. It is the perfect match as it is so rich in technology. And interacting with its other members advances my research and the projects that I’d started earlier with Same Putumi.

Can  you tell us something more about your mission — particularly regarding your collaborative work with Same Putumi?

My mission is to save the Amazon through the recognition of knowledge systems possesssed by indigenous groups. The Amazon’s genetic diversity is more important than gold. We must recognize and strengthen indigenous people’s knowledge systems. It is a knowledge they have attained from a high level of observation that no scientist can reach.

And what about your new drawings?

I’m combining 16th century drawings — by the Italian artist Serlio — on how to use linear perspective with Islamic patterns and 17th century crazy character drawings by Braccelli. And I’m doing this with a drawing machine!

What about public art? Mural Art? Will you be doing anything here in NYC? Can we expect to see anything soon?

Yes! I will keep you posted!

That sounds great! I’m looking forward!

Note: On Saturday, July 13, 1-4pm, Vanessa will be presenting a workshop on watercolor at the NYC Resistor, 87  3rd Avenue, 4th Floor in Brooklyn. Information and tickets are available here.

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist; interview conducted by Lois Stavsky

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While visiting PS9’s STEAM Mural Project in Prospect Heights last month, I came upon a delightfully playful mural gracing the outside of the school building. STEAM Mural Project curator Jeff Beler told me a bit about the intriguing visionary artist behind it — Cuban native Myztico Campo. I was delighted to, soon afterwards, have the opportunity to interview the Brooklyn-based, self-taught shamanic artist.

When did you first begin to make art?

My earliest memory is of melting crayons on the radiator, so that I could watch the colors drip. When I was about five or six, I started to draw.

What inspired you at the time?

I used to watch my father draw caricatures. I was fascinated.

Are there any other early art-related memories that stand out?

Growing up in Hells Kitchen, I attended Catholic school for twelve years. When I was 7 years old, I drew an image of Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs eating nuns. My classmates loved it. But the nuns didn’t; they were horrified. They responded to it by slapping me across my knuckles.

How did your family respond to your early art-making?

Both my parents were encouraging. They loved what I did.

What about your particular visionary aesthetic? When and how did that evolve?

When I was sixteen, I started to explore psychedelics — such as mescaline and peyote — and I began to have visions. I started then to create art that reflected an alternate consciousness. I felt as though I was connecting to the Godhead of infinite love.

Are there any specific cultures that have inspired or influenced your visionary aesthetic?

Among those that have influenced me are indigenous cultures… aboriginal, prehistoric and African.

Are there artists out there who particularly inspire you? Who impact your visionary aesthetic — or whose aesthetic you relate to?

Yes! Among them are: Alex Grey, Amanda Sage, Olga Klimova, Android Jones and Juan Carlos Taminichi

What about other artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

They include: the visionary artist and poet William Blake; the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch; the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali and the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Do you have a formal art education?

No. I never went to art school.

Your artwork can be amazingly detailed. Approximately how long does it take you to complete a piece?

Anywhere between 40-60 hours.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

There is always room for improvement; I sometimes go back to a “finished” piece and tweak it.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I’d say somewhere between 5-7 hours a day are devoted to visual art.

How has your art evolved through the years? 

Originally creating art was a hobby; I didn’t take it seriously. But as I grew, I began to see myself as a vessel for the art to express itself. And it became very important to me. I’ve, also,  expanded my range of media to include sculpture, 3-D art and digital art.

Have you shown your work in galleries?

Mostly in alternative venues. My work has been exhibited abroad in England, Spain, Peru, and here in the US in New Orleans and in New York.

You do quite a bit of live painting. What is that like?

I see it as sacred form of communication with the people who are around me.

I discovered your particular aesthetic while visiting the STEAM Mural Project  at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. When did you first paint in a public space?

The first public mural that I painted was in 2005 in East Yorkshire, England.

And since then?

Among the places I’ve painted outdoor murals are North Bergen, New Jersey and Tarapoto, Peru. And last year, I painted New York’s first black light street art at Underhill Walls here in Brooklyn.

What are some of your other interests?

I also produce films, direct music videos, compose and play music and write poetry.

That’s quite impressive! What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To heal and to raise consciousness. I see myself as a conduit to a higher consciousness.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of Myztico Campo‘s artwork — as seen in his Brooklyn studio/living space — and of his PS 9 mural by Lois Stavsky 

Directed by Myztico Campo, the featured video stars Dakota Day, co-founder and lead vocalist for the psychedelic soul band Brooklyn Bonez, performing Buddy Guy’s “Skin Deep.”

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