“The Cesar A. Cruz’ quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” speaks to me.”
New-York based artist Lena Viddo carries a sensual passion for life that shines through her provocative oil paintings. Equally beautiful and disturbing, her work explores the light and dark sides of our modern society. We caught up Lena for an insight into her creative life.
Describe your work to someone who has never seen it before.
My canvasses are where animal and human realms collide among surrealist landscapes. My work depicts a focused reality not tethered to realism, and it evokes a life on the edge of the incarnate. I like to disturb and entertain all in the same show.
What do you hope to affect within the viewer with your paintings?
My allegorical portraits celebrate the beauty and the horror of modern life. I attempt to represent the ambivalence I feel about mainstream popular culture and its focus on narcissism, self interest, body image and the tyranny of beauty.
My concerns span huge territory and include things such as materialism, lust for power, fascination with celebrity, technology’s impact on love, mental health, and relationships in this virtual age where children no longer run and play, but sit passively entertained by screens.
The Cesar A. Cruz’ quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” speaks to me.
Where did you grow up?
With a Colombian father and a Swedish mother I had strong connections to the coastal land in Colombia, and the rolling hills of Dalarna, Sweden. These opposite worlds speak to me and are reflected in my work.
How is creativity celebrated in your culture compared to other places you have lived and worked?
Creatively speaking I lean towards Colombia, where creativity and individuality are highly revered. Expressive and bold Colombians are making statements everywhere they go. Sweden on the other hand is very conservative and reserved where creativity and individuality are concerned. Swedes are reserved emotionally and this I must say was never easy for me.
How do you feel studying at art college affected your practice?
I don’t like rules where art is concerned and college was full of them. They were too limiting and studio hours were never long enough as I like to put in many hours of work a day. I found working with my Italian mentors a thousand times more rewarding for me than school ever had been.
What has been your greatest challenge and how has it affected your practice?
My greatest challenge has been the balancing act of remaining committed to my work and managing other parts of my life. I certainly would not be able to handle it all if it weren’t for husband, my assistant and family coordinator. Even with all of the support, it is a difficult challenge to do it all well 100% of the time.
I am extremely disciplined, hence I am one of the least spontaneous people I know. Perhaps the down side of getting a great deal accomplished is that I miss chance moments and happenings. I often envy my free spirited friends.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Oil paint has a sensuality and flexibility that no other paint has. It can even be sculptural. When I look at great works in oil, I know they are good when I experience the visceral reaction of my mouth actually watering. I feel the impulse to want to eat the paint. Also, for me, translating three dimensions onto a two-dimensional surface is more effective with oils.
The medium of light has been calling to me for some time now. I have an upcoming project installation for an arts festival, Bonjuk Burn in the Middle East. I am excited to be visiting Turkey for the first time where I will be exploring the new medium of light installation for the first time.
Who inspires you?
Children inspire me with their free, perfect and uninhibited approach and view of the world. Through them I transport myself to a time when I was more complete and whole, unaffected by social conditioning and all of the societal impositions impressed upon us to conform to rules and our parents standards. I also use them for feedback and critique sessions with regard to my work. They always teach me new ways to see it.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received is to invest long hard hours into my endeavors. From Lance Armstrong to my martial arts master, Sabunim, this has been a recurring theme and personal mantra of mine.
The message is that with time, hours, perseverance and service, one can achieve true mastery.
If you could offer a piece of advice to the ‘you’ at the beginning of your career, what would you say?
The Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Also, get rid of the people and things that don’t serve you and your vision in life. Cut out television, too much social media, talk to people and look into their eyes.
Be present and always be yourself. It is your greatest asset. Never betray yourself by trying to be someone you are not.
Follow Lena’s work via her website www.lenaviddo.com