Week 9 – Artist Conversation – Vanessa Olivarez

Artist: Vanessa Olivarez

Exhibition: Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle

Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery

Media: Acrylic, Film

Website: Tokioni.com

IG: @tokioni

Vanessa is a 23-year-old Long Beach native finishing up her senior year at CSULB School of Art to obtain her BFA in Sculpture. Aside from working in acrylic, she enjoys painting, drawing, sewing,and DIY projects. She tries to learn a little bit of everything. Because she came from what she calls an “artsy” family, the idea of art and creating it intrigued her for as long as she can remember. She says her family admired a lot of handmade art, clothing, and all things woven so she grew interest in the arts quite quickly growing up. She often adds pieces of herself in a lot of her creations which she says helps her also poetically express herself. She loves playing around with words.

There were two main films played on opposite sitting walls through a projector. In between the films on both walls was a plastic (acrylic) seesaw she had made from a DIY video she found. However, it was meant for a wooden seesaw, but she decided to make it out of acrylic instead. She also had to make the dimensions much smaller. She says she then had to download a specific software that involved extensive coding in order to make the seesaw switch up and down electrically. She uses a vintage see-through mini television in the corner which displays random images portraying her interpretation of her own loneliness. The enire exhibit was also lit up in a sort of nostalgic, vibrant pink lighting.

What Vanessa meant to portray in Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle is the idea of being blocked in between two things completely opposite of each other yet desiring to not be either one or the other but instead both things (up or down–like a seesaw). Vanessa states that the left side film represents metaphors for loneliness while the right side film is posed to represent contentment with being alone–things she finds herself constantly shifting from one to the other. The idea of loneliness based off both her fear and admiration was the main component of the entire exhibition. Her use of the color pink was used to embody her idea of femme to counter the ideas of living in a patriarchal society. Exposing her vulnerability through her fears of loneliness yet desiring to be content with being alone portray her desires to both be both hot and cold, seen and unseen–two things at once and not being content with having to choose just one side of two extremes.

I really enjoyed Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle because off first impression, it gave me a very melancholic vibe–both sad but beautiful. The dim lighting in all pink was an affect that I think plays into emotions. Pink is a “pretty” color, but when mixed with darks concepts like abandonment and loneliness, seems quite “blue.” I related to her concept of loneliness as someone in her mid 20s seems to conflict with all the time when we are pressured by society to constantly seek out a partner to be happy, to be content. Her wanting to be at the end of both extremes and not just one is something I also admired. Her use of words and images within the exhibition to represent this concept was pretty emotional and something I appreciated.

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