Interview with Fefe Talavera : Primal Urges
July 12th, 2011 by Maria Anderson
Fefe Talavera is an internationally known muralist whose personality is sometimes misunderstood because of the monsters she creates. Her intensity of expression speaks to the irrepressible instincts and deepest urges of the creative process, and revels in the joy of this ferocity. Reworking pain, suffering, and ugliness she encounters is a positive, regenerative process for Fefe. She works to reach the true depths of emotion. The rigor of the search and the furia with which she conducts her life are not acts of an unquiet and pessimistic mind, but rather demonstrate her strength at coping with and making beautiful all that life serves her.
Fefe isn’t the only artist whose content often causes people to misunderstand her intentions and demeanor. The Jealous Curator takes her inspiration from that guttural twinge of envy she gets when she sees art she loves. Tinkebell is an Amsterdam-based artist whose work at times involves taxidermy. Her work is often perceived as a perverse exploitation of animals for art’s sake, when in fact Tink’s process is grounded in raising awareness of animal rights. Repressing nothing and opening themselves up to create free from any impositions, both overt and subconscious, that the outside world may impose on them, Fefe and those like her set the tone for a menagerie of free thinking and unrestrained expression that dares to graze the innermost levels of the human psyche.
Curbs and Stoops: Could you say a few things about your background and where you came from?
Fefe Talavera: I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I can tell you that Sao Paulo is a particularly chaotic city, with all its violence and ineffectual laws, the traffic and garbage, the ignorance, filth, and grandeur, the class consciousness and misery…all of this greatly influenced me, in how to create as well as how to live. An intense but incredible city if you know it to its depths. Sao Paulo has its own personality and character. You only have to see it once to understand what I mean.
Curbs and Stoops: What was your first experience with monsters? Did they have a significance for you as a child?
Fefe Talavera: The monsters are a way of exorcising my feelings, my angers, my sadness, my ignorance, my fear. It is the only method by which I succeed in expressing my rage at life, my fury. When I was a girl everything that drew my attention was dark or underground, the gloom, the terror, the magical, the occult.
Curbs and Stoops: You are known for your large, colorful, often tribal murals, letter-monsters, and the raw energy with which you render these figures. How has your style changed over the years? The color-monsters at the Mini Galería exhibit appear to call on a more reserved bank of emotion, when compared with your more feral, energetic monsters you’ve done in the past. What influenced those changes?
Fefe Talavera: Like I said before, my monsters are emotions which manifest themselves in my art. There was a period in which I was very happy and I was unable to make the monsters terrible, or ugly; I only wanted to make colorful animals, but I was not very happy with the result—I didn’t see myself in them.
Curbs and Stoops: You experiment with different forms of creating images. Vendo Almas involves cut and layered paper, for example. Could you talk about how the actions, such as scratching in your light work Libertad Perdida, in comparison to those of the feathered pen drawings, like Mama Quilla?
Fefe Talavera: Every work has its moment, the technique for me is the least important. What you hand me is what I will work with. Most important is not the material I work with, but the act of expelling, vomiting my feelings. I like to experiment with everything. What’s new for me is the discovery—it inspires me to continue creating new things.
Curbs and Stoops: Could you talk about the other imagery you use in your work, like the bleeding heart or the large hand, among other figures in Iluminación? What about the multiple eyes that many of your pieces contain, or the large hand? They seem to add another layer of meaning to the personalities of the monsters and to the piece as a whole.
Fefe Talavera: Always when I make eyes it is because the eyes are what express most in people. You can tell whether they are angry or sad or happy by their eyes. I also use the eye often as a third eye, or the inner eye, which allows you to see without seeing. The large hand in Iluminación means that this hand is illuminating the negative, the bad, and transforming it into life, creation, sun, light, and the positive.
Curbs and Stoops: The monsters express a range of emotions—they are whimsical yet fierce, playful yet solemn, angry yet joyful. They seem to invite interaction. How do the monsters see or interact with our world, or the people in it? How do they interact with our world, and with us? What has been your experience with others’ reactions to your work?
Fefe Talavera: The monsters are fairly rebellious—they don’t like to interact much with the real world. They don’t care about what people think or feel. Generally they don’t like the people who don’t understand them, or have a reaction to them. I believe that you have to know me beforehand in order to understand what I’m trying to do. Sometimes people who know my work and don’t know me think that I am a dark and negative person, but I’m the opposite. They are confused by my personality and my work.
Curbs and Stoops: How do your friends or those around you affect your work? You have done collaborations in the past with Hugo Debens and Remed Bilbao, for example. How was working with them?
Fefe Talavera: Collaborating with friends is always a pleasure. Exchanging ideas, moments, feelings is unique, and moreso when you change who you’re painting with. Working with Debens is like putting two kids with cans of paint in a giant space and letting them flow with it and see what comes out. With him I feel very free, but at the same time I learn a lot, the same for him. And with Remed, it’s different—well, he was my husband, for one, and we were always clashing whenever we painted together. I felt sort of pressured to satisfy his tastes, and in the end I would not feel very happy with the result. But now after two years I see what we did together and I like it.
Curbs and Stoops: Could you speak to the role of art as a coping mechanism? That is, how making drawings or paintings affects you on a psychological level, or a subconscious level?
Fefe Talavera: For me, painting is an escape valve. It leaves me in peace, in harmony with myself. I find my equilibrium afterward and feel good. It affects everything in both the subconscious and conscious mind.
Curbs and Stoops: What other new mediums or projects would you like to try, when you have a little more time? What projects are you currently working on?
Fefe Talavera: I have a lot of projects in mind, I just have to put them in paper. I’m thinking big. In five years I want to start exhibiting in big museums. At least I want to begin to organize myself better to succeed in what I intend to do. I want to make gigantic monsters in 3D with lights and sound.
Curbs andStoops: What rules or limits have you come to accept, or not, as you have entered the more formal international art world and started showing at galleries? Do you think there is an inevitable compromise there, in creating with the aim of showing in galleries?
Fefe Talavera: From what I have seen, I’ve sold more alone than in the galleries with whom I’ve worked. I think that if they impose rules and contracts, you can’t do this or that…I’m don’t really agree with the rules. Sometimes I feel very pressured to do what they want, but, from their point of view, they find important collectors who may end up being the person who helps you pay your rent, taxes, and to eat.
Translated from Spanish.