Tatiana Suarez: A Supersonic Electronic Interview
Tatiana Suarez, an extremely upbeat Brooklyn-based Miami native, creates with her paintbrushes magical evocations of absolute beauty. Her paintings call out to the viewer in a melody of exotic eroticism, heritage, and artistic spectacle combining into a chorus which is undeniably astounding.
Born in Miami in 1983, Tatiana grew up in a household truly rich in culture, raised by her father from El Salvador and her mother from Brazil. One only need a single glimpse of Tatiana’s paintings to sense an acute understanding and representation of the cultures of her heredity glowing from the female figures surrounded by peregrine animals and fauna. The walls of her home were filled to the brim with art by her father as well as various other relatives, strongly influencing the naturally gifted Tatiana in her own path as an artist.
Growing up she taught herself to draw by illustrating cartoons and from books such as “How to Draw the Little Mermaid.” As she made her way through high school she immersed herself in practicing sketches of the female form, fairies, flowers and animals, many of the themes that are now keystones to her paintings.
After high school, Tatiana attended the University of Miami focusing on graphic design and graduating in 2005. A class project during her senior year brought her back to painting. She has since emerged as one of the most talented young artists in the nation, her style easily recognizable and strongly independent in an art world immersed with bored and repetitive imagery.
Now with several successful solo openings tagged to her resume she looks forward to the future and completing work for several future showings. She took quite some time out of her busy schedule (she was currently trying to complete two paintings for a show which needed the paintings shipped as soon as possible) to sit and have a candid chat about life, art and the importance of a good meal:
SE - So, what are you up to?
Tati - Being lazy. But, I need to go to the art store and buy some brushes. My goal is to finish a piece today.
SE - What are some of your techniques against procrastination?
Tati - Um. I procrastinate a lot. I blame the Internet. It’s just a matter of getting up, turning on some music or a movie and getting to work.
SE - Ahh, cool. I like to watch movies while I work too.
Tati - Yeah, I prefer that.
SE - Documentaries, TV shows…
Tati - Well, listen to them.
SE - [Laughs] Yeah.
Tati - So it’s usually re-watching a lot. When it’s a new movie, I don’t work.
SE - Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Tati - Yes, I kinda always knew. My dad “used” to draw and paint a lot when he was younger and that rubbed off on me. I wanted to grow up to be either an artist or a vet! [Laughs]
SE - [Laughs] Did you wanting to be a vet, do you think it’s one of the reasons you incorporate animals into your work?
Tati - Yeah, probably. I love animals and always have. I’ve had lots of unusual pets growing up; from chameleons to sugar gliders. Moving to New York, this is the first time in my entire life not having a pet companion with me. It’s been kind of lonely.
SE - I was going to ask, do you have a pet? But that’s no good - are you going to be able to get one?
Tati - I have a son, a chihuahua, that I had to leave behind in Miami when I moved because my apartment is not dog friendly! It worked out fine for him, I guess, because my mom is his number one person. So they’re happy together. [Laughs] I’m working on getting him up next year! If not, I’ll be getting myself a new son.
SE - I bet you can hide him! What’s his name?
Tati - Lucas!
SE - Do you name the animals in your paintings?
“Piranhas,” “Sugarglider” and “Bruxa.”
Tati - No, I haven’t yet. I name the paintings after the animals. Sometimes in English, “Sugarglider” sometimes in Portuguese, “Bruxa.”
SE - “Piranhas.”
Tati - Yeah.
Tati - I painted Lucas for my first solo show and his was the first piece I sold. But they bought it thinking it was a cat. Whatever…
Lucas and his portrait.
SE - The people thought it was a cat? When was that show?
Tati - June 2008, I think… Yeah, 2008.
SE - What did you sketch when you were little? And how did you arrive at your current style?
Tati - Cartoons. When I was young I had a collection of “How to Draw Little Mermaid” and other Disney/Cartoonish books. When I got into High School, I started getting into drawing fairies, female forms, flowers, animals. I stopped painting when I got into college because I chose graphic design as a major. It wasn’t until I had to take a class during my senior year, where the teacher asked us all to bring in a piece of art that represents what we do, that I realized I didn’t have anything I was proud of. I didn’t want to take in a logo and I hadn’t painted anything in a long time. I went home, grabbed a small canvas I had and spent all night painting the first thing that came to my head. It ended up being a girl with a really thin long neck, big eyes, mouthless and a bleeding heart. I was happy. I slowly got into painting again.
SE - Oh, very interesting! I have to ask, some of the women in your paintings look like you… Are they self portraits?
Tati - [Laughs] No, I get that a lot. I use photo-references of different women when I paint. They’re not meant to be me.
SE - [Laughs] Well where do the ideas for each piece come from? What usually pops into your imagination first?
Tati - I get ideas from everywhere. I find so many photographs of animals, on Tumblr, that spark ideas for pieces. Photographs of women, from their poses to their make up or hair. Like I said before, I watch a lot of movies while I work. So lines from movies, lyrics from songs.
SE - What about living in New York, has that influenced your recent work?
Tati - Time has gone by so fast in New York. I really can’t believe it’s going to be two years in March that I’ve lived here. I haven’t even had a chance to get out there, really, and try to get my work into galleries. I’ve been occupied by participating in shows back in Florida and out West. So, right now, I feel there hasn’t been a difference living/working in New York. Like I said, though, I’m inspired by so many things around me. I live in Brooklyn, in a very Puerto Rican neighborhood. Part of me feels like I’m still in Miami. [Laughs] I like the botanical stores, the food.
“Sweet,” “Sour,” and “Salty.”
SE - Are you a good cook?
Tati - I’m learning! My mom’s amazing - Yeah, I know everyone says that about their moms - But my mom’s amazing and she’s teaching me from Miami! [Laughs]
SE - Speaking of stuff out West, how does it feel to be such a part of that art scene yet be situated in New York?
Tati - I guess it’s cool! I love the West. I want to live out there.
SE - Where would you situate yourself?
Tati - I love San Francisco. But I love Los Angeles. I don’t know. Whatever, I don’t care. I’d be in the state.
SE - True.
Tati - There are so many shows out West I’d love to be attending in person. I’m slowly getting out there.
SE - When you visited El Salvador and Brazil [as a child], do you think those places had an effect on you? Were there visual influences you can recall from visiting those places, from your upbringing is what I suppose I’m trying to ask.
Tati - I don’t really remember much about traveling to Central America. I remember Brazil and being young. I didn’t take advantage of it. My work now is very inspired by my culture and heritage, it’s important to me to try to take a trip to Brazil this year and take in whatever I can. I am thankful for my supportive parents. Growing up my dad was still often dabbling in his art. Our house has always been decorated with paintings belonging to him and to other family members that also painted. My parents have had collections of art from both their cultures and lots of books. My dad still has some sketch books from when he was eighteen! I got really into that stuff when I was young. It inspired me a lot.
SE - Heritage really comes through, magically even, through your work and I love it!
Tati - Thanks!
SE - What places would you go if you could travel anywhere?
Tati - Man, I want to go to Europe! [Laughs] I’ve never been.
SE - Me neither! Where in Europe? All over?
Tati - Yeah, all over.
SE - We should gather up several awesome artists and take a trip to Europe, film it and win Oscars.
Tati - Seriously.
SE - How was Malagueta?
[Malagueta - Tatiana’s second solo show held at the Art Whino Gallery in Maryland. (Malagueta is a type of chili pepper.)]
Tati - It was good! The work is still up there, I think. That show was an experience, my boyfriend built all my frames. That was a first.
SE - He hand made them?
Tati - Yeah!
SE - Wow! How long did you have to prepare for it?
Tati - I had three months, I think. I was working until the last minute! I never want to do that again.
SE - Three months! How many pieces?
Tati - Twelve… I think he asked me at three months. I don’t remember exactly but when he did I was still working on finishing some other projects. So I started really late. I’m freaking out now, I have a show in January and I haven’t really started yet.
SE - Uh oh… Where is it at?
Tati - Orlando, Florida at Neon Forest.
SE - How many pieces are you thinking of doing for it?
Tati - Eight to ten. I can do it, I just… Gotta start like now. I’m working on finishing two pieces for a group show in San Francisco this week so I can focus on this show in Orlando. [Details.]
Margot in progress by Suarez for the tribute show to Wes Anderson.
SE - Alright just a few more questions - fun ones! You like watching movies while you paint, what are your favorite movies?
Tati - Favorite movies I watch over and over while painting are: Pulp Fiction. Jaws. Death Proof. Moulin Rouge. The Fall. Man, I have a lot. Pretty much my DVD collection. Oh yeah! Leon the Professional and Creepshow! [Laughs]
SE - I always wanted to be a film maker growing up, I understand! What about music, who’s your favorite there?
Tati - Man, I’ve actually been really bad with music for the past four years.
SE - Is it ABBA? I can edit it out if it is…
Tati - No! [Laughs] I usually just play a Pandora station… My stations are: the pharcyde, Radiohead, Otis Redding, Lykke Li…
SE - Otis, nice.
Tati - My iTunes library is weak. The boyfriend’s is great, so when he’s at home I just go through his.
SE - Do you still paint in your kitchen?
Tati - No, that was at my mom’s house. I’m in the living room now. I still sometimes take over the dinner table.
SE - That’s what I was thinking - I remember you telling me about working at the dinner table once.
Tati - Yeah.
SE - So, last question: What’s your favorite food?
Tati - [Laughs] I love food. I guess the one food I can eat forever is rice and beans.
SE - I’m starving is the reason I ask.
Tati - Yeah, I don’t know what to eat for lunch. I might get Sushi since it’s by the art store. Oh my god! Wait.
SE - Yes?
Tati - Refried black beans with cream. I can eat that for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Everyday.
SE - Ah, it sounds so good!
Tati - Nom.
SE - Noms and art for life.
Tati - Yes.
Tatiana’s Website and Store.