French writer Jean Cocteau once famously said that “Art is a marriage of the conscious and unconscious,” a matrimony that has driven the work of Vancouver multimedia artist Claudia Segovia from the day she first picked up a paintbrush.
“When I'm finished a painting … I back up, I look at it for a long time and then I know what it means to me,” said Segovia, who never sketches or plans out her pieces beforehand. “That's the only way for me that I find honest. I don't like committing to something. I used to do that before when I started painting … but it didn't feel like that was my true honest calling. I can paint the way I'm doing now forever. It keeps me interested, it keeps me surprised and every time it's different.”
The subjects that spring out of Segovia's subconscious and onto her canvas are heavily influenced by her childhood in Mexico: playful, child-like images of monsters, what she calls “intuitive mythology,” brightened by flourishes of scintillating colour.
“I grew up surrounded by colours. I always loved the craft that all the native Mexicans would make. Our house was always full of these beautiful, colourful things,” she said. “I didn't realize how much it influenced me, because I've been (in Canada) for 16 years … Then when people started to see my work, they would say 'Wow, I can see the colours of Mexico.' I wasn't even aware of it, it just comes naturally.”
Segovia couldn't put her finger on why she's so drawn to creating “fun little creatures” in her work, but thinks it may have something to do with how death is portrayed in traditional Mexican culture, clearly evident during Día de los Muertos, a national holiday that honours the dead with colourful imagery of the macabre.
“Some people think my stuff is a little creepy,” she said. “But something that's creepy in other cultures can come out as playful and fun in my own work.”
Segovia doesn't limit herself to any particular medium, but rather challenges herself to use whatever's on hand, whether its her daughter's crayons, a piece of wood or an old can of paint. The works that result often combine different mediums and textures, giving her art a tactile, three-dimensional quality.
“I'm very resourceful. I'm not very picky with (materials), like 'I need this type of canvas, I need this type of wood,' or 'I need this type of paint,'” she said. “I can't just use one medium, I get really bored really easily … so I'm not afraid to play; I'm constantly playing.”
The East Vancouver artist has sold her “soft sculptures” — plush dolls inspired by the creatures in her work — at Whistler's Bizzarre Bazaar in years past, but Tuesday (March 12) will mark the opening of her first solo exhibit in the resort. Segovia will be bringing 20 paintings on canvas and wood, a selection of drawings and some of her soft sculptures to Scotia Creek Gallery in Millennium Place until March 26. All of the pieces will be available for purchase.