Interview by Peter de Kuster
• What is the best thing that I love about my work?
Being vulnerable, brave and honest when creating art from the depth of my soul through a myriad of mediums. I love the discovery and journey. It is a treasured moment seeing someone view my work and feeling connected and moved. My cup runneth over!
• What is my idea of perfect happiness?
Feeling blessed that I had such an amazing, loving mother.
Witnessing and feeling love for humanity, acts of kindness.
Creating art using oil paints, photography, installations and writing.
Traveling with the love of my life and absorbing different cultures, traditions and great works of art. Living in the moment for it is a gift.
Visiting art studios and homes where artists once lived. Imagining their lives with enthusiastic curiosity.
• What is my greatest fear?
To lose more loved ones. My beautiful mother's passing has left me heartbroken. I was also blessed with some amazing friends who are greatly missed. But every day I wake up knowing there is a purpose still here for me and I do my best to be a good person and live my dreams. Life is precious. I strive to make some difference.
I also fear seeing our planet destroyed. The loss of compassion and humanity.
I worry about my country that I love.
Hate. Greed. War.
• What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?
I am disappointed that I did not believe in my talent earlier in life. Since I loved art so much, I indulged in being a curator for over 20 years. My great artist friends would always try to encourage me to paint; they said I had talent. I had so much admiration for their talent, I shied away. Today, with wisdom and experience, I am unstoppable! Now, I always encourage others to follow their dreams.
• Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?
Since I love a variety of mediums and types of art: Papo De Asis, Lauri Lipton, Jaume Plensa, Mark Ryden, Chiharu Shiota, Johnson Tsang, Luis Becerra, Ai Weiwei, Alex Gross, Kerry James Marshall, John Brothy, Leonora Carrington, Vivian Maier, Jerry Uelsmann, Steve Montiglio, Remedios Varo, Vladimir Kush, Tommy Inberg, Ruben Orozco Loza, Brooke Shaden, Fernando Botero, and of course Frida Kahlo - her spirit lives on! She has been my greatest inspiration.
• What are my greatest extravagances?
Collecting art, wine tasting, traveling and experiencing new cultures. Breaking bread with dear and new friends. Taking loving moments to simply breathe it all in with my fiancé.
• On what occasion would I lie?
To protect loved ones from harm. However, I prefer to have honest communication to solve any problem.
• What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?
I strive to become more technical so I can freely express myself completely. There are so many ideas in my mind that I sometimes get frustrated about the execution. I am full of curiosity, and therefore, feel excitement in learning new techniques I can use in my art. I believe that is why I am embrace so many types of mediums.
There is great joy in seeing my work evolve.
• When and where was I the happiest, in my work?
The moment a clear artistic inspiration presents itself! I fully indulge what becomes a fascinating voyage. It’s not important that everyone likes my art; I prefer it causes reflection and/or is thought provoking. When there is a connection, I couldn’t be happier. When there is healing....I am touched and utter awe!
• If I could, what would I change about myself?
If I could change something about myself… I guess it would be procrastination and having more time for myself. It’s easy to want to change all my pain and suffering, but that’s part of the human experience that has made me the woman I am today. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that you can’t help those who do not want to help themselves. I am happy with who I am: all the hurt and pain has given me wisdom and character. However, it makes the good times even better and those who appreciate me even sweeter!
• What is my greatest achievement in work?
I have specialized in Día De Los Muertos for over 25 years as a curator, artist and writer, and was proud to be the recipient of a grant award by the National Arts Council of Mexico. My “Día de Los Muertos: Across the Borders” exhibition was co-curated with the Mexico City Museum.
Also, it is heartwarming to see so many people begin to heal when they experience my annual installation of “The Mailbox To Heaven.” I wrote a story for the installation, and it has been translated into numerous languages. It has been very healing to thousands of people. It is dedicated to my loving grandmother and mother: who are part of the story. Recently, a literary agent has accepted my story. I am over the moon with excitement.
I know I will now have the opportunity to touch many lives.
• Where would I most like to live?
I am proud to be a native Angeleno! Los Angeles is a vibrant and cultural mecca where I can easily venture to see all types of art, music, theater, film, dance and dine at remarkable restaurants with scrumptious cuisines from all over the world. I can also be at the beach, desert or mountains within an hour’s time. But if I had a second home, I would love to live in Venice, Florence, Barcelona or Paris. I am captivated by the lifestyle of socializing, surrounded by great works of art, music and luscious food. And yes, the excitement of soccer too. Viva la vida!
• What is my most treasured possession?
Memories and photos of my loved ones that will forever be imprinted in my heart. My fiancé writes beautiful love poems on our anniversary that have detailed the journey of our lives together throughout the years. I am an everlasting romantic and touched by his genius and loving heart! I am a very lucky woman!
• What is my most marked characteristic?
I have a cheerful smile and I live life boldly and passionately. I am fascinated with different cultures and love to learn about their traditions. There is so much value to absorb and to embrace into my life. Strong and independent, I also stand up and fight the good fight. I am best known to be proudly my mother’s daughter, like her, dancing to my own song.
• What is my most inspirational location, in my city?
Our home is where our creativity flows. We are in the process of remodeling our 1920 Spanish house in Hollywood. It is comfy and I love displaying my art collection. Our interior design is full of precious and artistic souvenirs from our travels.
My fiancé is a great U.S. History professor and writer. He is currently writing a book about the history of team names. I paint, garden, enjoy cooking and love learning about different cuisines. I also enjoy homes of other artists, museums, galleries, antique swap meets and artsy restaurants, the Hollywood Bowl, Pantages and the Greek Theater.
I love the energy of life.
• What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?
My newest find: Tenno Sushi in Little Toyko. It is fresh, delicious and a work of art! Also, Cardamom for Indian on Beverly Boulevard is amazing! The freshness and home-made quality are divine!
• What books influenced my life and how?
Books about heroines: Jackie O when I was young. Initially, I remembered looking at how big the book was, but found it compelling. There was a sense of insight and accomplishment when I finished it. Even though Jackie led such a tumultuous and public life, she followed her intuition and re-created a life for her family. Like my mother, she did what she thought was right for her family.
I also recall browsing through the bookshelves in a library several years later and came across a book about Frida Kahlo. I opened it up to discover a small painting of a woman lying on a bed, full of blood with several knife wounds from a man standing idly next to her unemotional, “Unos Cuantos Piquetitos” (A Few Small Nips). I was completely stunned and thought “How powerful!” Frida was able to convey, through her painting, the horrendous pain inflicted on her, both physically and emotionally. That moment changed my life. No words could ever express those feelings in an instance. Art is such a powerful tool of expression. That moment I knew I would be an artist.
• Who are my favorite writers?
Richard Bach and Dan Millman for their spiritual journey. I love learning about wisdom.
For a heroine story: Isak Dinesen who wrote: “Out of Africa.” I love a story told well with texture and details where I can travel in my mind in a different place and time.
• You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?
I have always had eclectic taste in music, art, movies and cuisine.
“I Put a Spell On You” by Angelina Jordan. I am in total awe; she is young and spell-binding. She is living her dream courageously.“El Tango De Roxanne” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It reminds me of parents dancing passionately. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen where I can let loose and jam. If I get down or need a pick me up, I love watching the“66 (Old) Movie Dance Scenes Mashup” on YouTube. It floods my memories of all that was good and joyful. Sarah Brightman, Il Divo and “Romanza” by Andre Botticelli because it is simply beautiful. “Imagine” by John Lennon because I want to leave this earth still believing in the goodness of humanity even though we live in difficult and heartbreaking times.
• Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?
Under The Tuscan Sun – I loved Frances’ bravery right after she suddenly found herself utterly broken. She developed faith in herself and followed the journey of her new life that unveiled itself. It was greater than she could imagine for herself. Sometimes you just need to let go and trust the universe.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It's such a surprise.”
“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.”
• Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?
My beautiful mother. She was an innocent soul who believed in helping strangers. She was courageous, glamorous and nothing could stop her once she made up her mind. She had an innate ability to make people feel at home. At times, she was mischievous and funny. She was always my best friend through life. We would laugh, dance and sing. She taught me to believe in myself; anything was possible if I worked for it. I miss her greatly, more than words or paintings could ever express. She lives brightly, forever in my heart.
• Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?
“Under the Tuscan Sun,” “The English Patient” and “Eat Pray Love” for an unexpected beautiful journey.
“Frida,” “Cabaret” “Braveheart” and “Moulin Rouge” for their cultural and gorgeous artistic execution.
“Oliver,” My Fair Lady,” “Sound of Music,” “The King and I,” Beaches,” “Funny Girl,” “Westside Story” “Camille Claudel,” “Firelight” “Hillary and Jackie,” “Damage,” “Lion,” “Shirley Valentine,” “What Dreams May Come,” “Benjamin Button,” “Summertime,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Gone with The Wind,” that I treasure.
“A Star is Born,” “Dan in Real Life,” and “Love Actually!” Complicated love stories that brings a smile.
“Don't Stop Believing: Everyman's Journey” documentary and “The Blindside.” Dreams do come true!
And of course, the “Wizard of Oz,” “Gigi,” “Willow” and “Mary Poppins” – childhood favorites!
Yeah, I know I’m a sap and I fully own it. After all, I was brought up in Hollywood with an abundance of love stories and musicals. Movies have always been a big part of my life.
• What role plays art in my life and work?
Nature, food, wine, design, living and everything that surrounds me. It is part of my being.
• Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?
From Day One, it was my mother. Her love and belief in me was always unwavering. She was mischievous and curious about life. We could indulge in great laughter together. She always knew how to bring my spirits up when I felt down. She gave me the gift of compassion, joy and divine unconditional love. She was my greatest fan in all my projects and activities. We had a very deep and special bond that I will always cherish. Our love was unmeasurable and I am very blessed.
After looking long for that someone very special to share my life with, I finally met my fiancé. He is brilliant, handsome and has a great heart. He also can enjoy being silly with me which I just adore. Throughout the years, he has been solid in supporting me in my art and projects. When I feel driven to help others, he also supports my heart. When you feel deeply loved it feels anything is possible! He is my hero.
• Whom would I like to work with in 2019?
I would like to find an organization that does good for those in need. Perhaps to raise funds for foster children here in Los Angeles. In regard to art, I have dear artists friends who are very talented. I would like to create an installation with Julianne Backmann and collaborate with Robyn Alatorre on an art project. There is so much to do and explore. I am open and excited to different possibilities that may cross my path.
• Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2019?
I would love to meet Jaume Plensa and create a sculpture together in honor of my beautiful mother. That would be a dream come true! As they say “Shoot for the stars!”
• What project, in 2019, am I looking forward to work on?
Currently, I have obtained a literary agent for my “Mailbox to Heaven.” It will be a children's book with beautiful and whimsical artwork. I first created the installation in 1990 and have thousands of people write letters. My hope it will help heal broken hearts and create loving conversations about the departed. It is an exciting adventure!
I am also looking forward to working with John Trausch, my fiancé. Since he is a historian and writer and I am an artist, we want to publish a book together: “Día De Los Muertos – A Celebration of our Beloved Ones.”
I curated Día De Los Muertos (aka Day of the Dead) for over 25 years and was constantly amazed by the healing powers of this wonderful tradition. It will be a stunning book filled with history, imagery, stories, recipes and creativity. For some, it will be a road map for healing and showing tribute to their loved ones.
• Where can you see me or my work in 2019?
After my mother passed away I couldn’t seem to paint. I recently started with a small jewel painting that has me in a tail spin. I decided to create a series of my Treasures of the Heart. It has been therapeutic and now my feelings and creativity are flowing. Who knows what the universe has planned for me... It feels good and I am excited!
• What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?
Both my grandmother and mother lived their life passionately. My grandmother with her cooking, love for family and tradition. My mother lived life to the fullest, never complained and danced to her own song for 85 years. Nothing ever got in the way of her dreams—she even took a painting class in her late seventies even though she needed a walker. Today I take their gifts and live passionately with by fiancé through art, writing and exploring cultures in our travels. I proudly inherited, their curiosity and passion for life.
• Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?
Lauri Lipton’s work is spell binding. She is an amazing talent. It is difficult to imagine how many thousands of works of art I have seen in my lifetime but her work leaves imprints into my mind.
I went to NYC several years ago and discovered her work in Soho that still touches my core to this day. She creates huge drawings that are luminous and very detailed of which I am in awe. Lauri’s work opens up a flood of imagination. They are refreshing journeys into her world.