Monday, January 01, 2007

Art Space Talk: Mina Bellavia

I recently interview artist Mina Bellavia. Mina is an artist who has explored the meaning of feminism, self-identity, and sexuality with her work. She believes that people must discover a new definition of 'self' through personal modes of perception. In her view, this primordial search into the body leads to self-identity.

Mina works with a variety of mediums. I'm greatly impressed by her sculptures, performance art, and the viewpoints behind her work. Sculptures of shattered female forms, breasts, and submissive photography/performances reveal her inner strength. The strength to endure the obstacles of life.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I never saw it as something that wouldn’t be. It was there from the beginning and it will be there till the end. One cannot decide breathing is an important part of one’s adult life – same thing really."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Society influences everything whether we like it or not. Since I do not live in a cave far from outside influences, I would have to say it is in my work also. I tend to have a feminist bend to all of my work. I have addressed inequality, Female Genital Mutilation, rape/molestation, depression and self-identity/confidence issues."

Q. On average, how long does it take you create†one sculpture?

A. "Honestly that depends on the sculpture. A small one can be done in a day or a week, whereas the larger ones usually take about 4 months plus – if we start counting at the time of physical creation of it. If we get into counting sketches, planning and conceptsÉyears."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "This is heavily dependant upon what is going on in my life at the time. The only ritual I would say happens “ritually” is that I need to sit alone with the piece when it is finished. I need to address it as an entity of it’s own, a child separate from me, a stranger that tells me what it is an it’s message."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "People that are able to think “outside the box”"

Q. Discuss your art. What are you thinking when you create?
A. "This is hard to do for any of them. I try actually to not be thinking of anything when creating the work. I am starting from a feeling, an emotion or maybe even a nightmare. I let the feeling find a focus and it carries me from there. One of my biggest struggles has been when someone has wanted me to tell them what I am making, what my intent for the piece is. Often I will not know that till the piece is finished. I feel that the work is coming through me from the spirit world. If I try to constrain it with what my personal ideas are and not let it flow in the form it needs, the work either does not work at all or is a much weaker piece for that reason."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I have my MFA in Three Dimensional Studies (fancy word for Sculpture) from Alfred University in Alfred NY. My time there was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life up to date. I had the goal of getting my MFA in order to push myself as an artist further than I even knew possible. I did not go to ultimately teach, unlike the majority of MFA students. The art department was great for technical knowledge, but I actually received more applicable conceptual knowledge from an art history professor and a religious studies professor."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?
A. "Sheer necessity and the love for the materials."

Q. Can you explain†your sculpting process. How do you create these works?

A. "I have what another sculptor mentor of mine refers to as Sculptors Disease or PackRatism. One never knows when one might need a cow’s hoof, bottle or piece of rubber. Many times a piece will start with something I have horded or made years ago and now it is finally ready to talk. I also end up at destroying the majority of it and re doing it at some point of the process. I love to work with happy mistakes."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "A gallery does not currently represent me. I recently took part in the annual Postcards From The Edge: Visual AIDS Benefit show in NYC."
Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I try not to look at trends. Work from the gut at what’s important not what’s in fashion or matches the couch."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Know what your goals are and keep your priorities in order."

Q. Sculpting can be expensive. Any tips on keeping the costs down?

A. "There are many places that get rid of surplus items, scrap yards, old barns, garage sales, and nature. Be creative – you’re an artist remember?"

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "The closest it came to censorship was during a critique when a prof. asked for more light because the piece made her uncomfortable with the “creepy” lighting it had. I refused, stating that this was one of the goals of my work."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "That point may be right now. After grad school I was doing better with residencies and shows. Now the day-to-day grind has infringed, I lost my studio."
Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Some questions are impossible to answerÉbecause I do."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "Only in the emotional/spiritual sense."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "I do touch on things that can be perceived as such. I was raised a born again Christian and now (if I must use labels) am an agnostic freethinking pagan. So my work includes a little of everything."

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Mina Bellavia. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


r m dicecco said...

nice interview. i really liked mina's replies/comments.
very no-bullshit.

r m dicecco

r m dicecco said...

nice interview. i liked mina's replies/comments/philosophy.
very no-bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I wish as a culture we could find more public funding for artists. Life would be as grim without art as it would without science; without the insights that Mina's work leads us to confront. We all lose when artists lose their studio space.

Jack Norton said...

Bellavia is a friend and mentor of mine. She has taught me much about art and her work is powerful and deserves wider recognition. Thanks for the interview.

Anonymous said...

Love the work – even the nightmarish visions of loss do not trump the artist’s honesty, vulnerability, and quest for beauty. Wonderful responses! May a phenomenal new studio come to you very very soon!
Christian Bernard Singer

Anonymous said...

nice job Bella
Z in Latvia

Anonymous said...

I've observed and absorbed Bellavia's work for almost a decade and am amazed at her progression and evolution as an artist and a human being. May she continue to be recognized and appreciated for her soul, and subsequently, her work.

-Erika in WNY

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Artist & interview.......

Nice work , very different & Willingly Open minded person..........

I shall Fall into shareing some " artistic ideas " with her , very soon , I hope she is able to except !

LV upstate N.Y.

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview. Nice compilation of your work, Bella. Always look forward to seeing more, keep the inspiration coming!

Unknown said...

Hey Mina,

Keep Keepin On ...


Richard K said...

Up until this interview I had only seen a few photos of her work, which I did not with this interview and more pictures of her work I understand it and appreciate it on a better level. Now I have a lot more questions for her.

Richard K said...

Up until this interview I had only seen a few photos of her work, which I did not with this interview and more pictures of her work I understand it and appreciate it on a better level. Now I have a lot more questions for her.