Based in New York, Conie Vallese is an Argentinian artist who explores the dualities and ambiguities inherent in the personal and shared lived experience. Working with a range of mediums, Conie’s paintings, sculptures and other objects are composed with distinct graphic forms and abstracted shapes. Rejina talks to Conie about the role of nostalgia, heritage and place in shaping her identity, self expression and creative process.
Rejina: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Conie: Growing up I was taught that different paths you take throughout your life will put you in different places, and you will do your work accordingly. I have held onto the belief that it is important to be flexible at times, or when put in different environments, to pursue work in relation to my wants and needs at that given time. Those wants, and needs are subject to both chance and change.I tend to reject the idea of being classified by any title, including artist. I rather not be put in a box for being just one thing. I am not a simple person, I do many different things.
Rejina: There is such diversity in your work, it seems to continuously evolve and yet both your sculptures and paintings have a very distinct hand. What is the thought process behind your work?
Conie: My practice constantly moves within ambiguities, oppositions and resolutions that I embrace, relocate and push further... what I am familiar with or nostalgic for. My work is a record or the containment of my lived visual literacy, I am often thinking of my childhood and then the feeling of leaving it behind, abandoning it and the detachment from situations. Within my process I desire to make feelings and emotions tangible, looking into my visual memory, for spaces lived. Although it is a nostalgic process, I am not hanging onto the past, it’s more about feeling old memories again, recuperating them and relating them to what is currently happening in my life. Searching for a detail of joy. Time is not linear, and things from the past resurface both consciously and subconsciously in my process and connect to my present.
Conie: It’s not quite that material or direct.I have been very influenced by flowers in the latest series I am working on. I think there is such strong symbolism to the flower. You go get these beautiful fresh flowers, or you cut them from your garden, they start off open and happy and full of life, and then after a short period of time, they almost disintegrate. You cannot have them at the same state all the time...not to mention the color, shape, form, smell, the feel of them, they stir so many emotions. Finding those little things that bring me joy is how I have been coping the past year.
Conie: There is a permanent nostalgia that lives in me since I left Buenos Aires. Now when I visit, I appreciate every detail of the city I am from, more than ever before. My attachment to it, my dreamy thinking and romanticizing of it, is so consistently present in my every day. I love New York and there is nothing like it, but Buenos Aires is a poem of a city, the passion and the very strong feeling of the place and the people... that passionate feeling I haven’t found anywhere else in the world so far.
Painting by Conie Vallese
Conie: Argentina directly influences my art and my values. Where I am from is the physical embodiment of everything I relate to and everything that helped shape me. Growing up in Argentina, my grandmother was always painting with oil and had a very creative mind, from an early age she was a big influence. The architecture and design in Argentina is both strong and eclectic, and also helped mold me and form aspects of my aesthetic sensibilities.
Conie: I have always felt strongly in regard to rejection of thinking too much about my appearance. At an early age I realized I was, and still am, more about my thoughts and words as a form of self-expression, rather than the way I look or how I present myself physically. My grandmother took very good care of herself and enjoyed being very polished in her appearance, she was what we call in Spanish a “coqueta”. Both her and my mother were, and are, very strong women. I do dress with a bit of uniformity and practicality. I really don’t like the idea of collecting or accumulating garments or too much stuff in general, the simpler the better..
Sculpture by Conie Vallese
Conie: They are both forms of self-expression or perhaps visual communication....
Conie: It always feels good to move on from a specific body of work, it’s exciting to think about what is next and new possibilities, I am also very repetitive which is something that I embrace but curiosity motivates me to continue pushing my practice forward and further.
Conie: Read books! It helps broaden your own knowledge on subjects and people you naturally or intuitively gravitate toward...
Conie: I have been working with a friend and goldsmith, a designer, Orit Elhanati. We are both in love with the project we are working on together and are really pouring ourselves into it. In these times of mechanical production, I absolutely admire and value the work of people embracing craft and hard work with their hands.
Painting by Conie Vallese