This is a discourse on how I view art in my life.
Many (educated in art) are conditioned to view a body of work having the same exact ‘style’ or it is not deemed worthy of ‘serious art”. This bias is supported by the way art historians have presented art over time and also from the view of an artist as a ‘product’ that has to be ‘consistent’. But why take this as a truth, when it is grounded on the principle of selling a product for ease of marketing. The dominance of style as a definer of art history is obsolete. It is the individual artist who creates art history, whether or not the art historian wants to decide how art is looked at by the general public. Whether or not the art is a mass ‘movement’ instead of an overall singularity is not important in the realm of human existence. It is the body of work of an artist that constitutes the history and relevance to the time they live in.
Summarizing a timeline of my work.
I was influenced by my paternal grandmother Balbina Lagos Ledo de Villamia. My abuelita Balbina would take me regularly to visit a Curandera in Cuba. Curanderas are spiritual healers, science combined with philosophical religious beliefs. Thus the cornerstone of how I became a physician and an artist was created. Creating work has always been a spiritual experience in my life.
I painted for the first time at age 10 when I was given some oil paints and a few panels as a Christmas present. I am and already was an avid reader at that time, for reading was the way I was able to adventure outside the NYC apartment that we lived in. I combined my reading and the imagination of the places in the books that were pictures in my mind and created a number of paintings. I have had no formal training for most of my life.
In college I was a biology science major with a minor in art history. From 1969 to late 1994 I was involved in self-learning how to draw and paint from life rather than only my imagination.
Initially I painted my children because they are the most important aspect of my life. Then I segued to photographs of models in magazines (coupled with my imagination) as I had no access to live models. I was interested in the beauty of forms and abstraction that surrounded me – both in nature and in human created structures. I was attracted to objects and patterns with interesting lines or light so I started painting still life from objects. This was in order to teach myself how to draw/paint directly alla prima. I would do a painting within 3 hours. These works were very naive and primitive. I had been married to another artist early in life and had critiqued his work, so knew art history and formalist terms and principles (composition, figure/ground, movement, etc). During this early time (1970’s) I drew from life and painted, as well as made clothing as an art object (I have none of these objects currently). I had learned photography at this time and was influenced by one of the photographers that my husband knew at that time (Jerry Uelsmann).
I took art for granted as a normal part of my everyday life despite not choosing it as a career in my early 20’s. I worked as a professional photographer in Berlin Germany in the early 1970’s. I would photograph myself in imaginary roles and situations. I was fascinated with capturing movement in a singular still frame. As of this writing I have not digitized any of my negatives or slides from that time. The photographs that I hand developed and hand printed in the photography teaching lab (I was employed by the German government) are predominantly destroyed. I still have all the negatives/slides and plan to digitize them and place on this website eventually.
Medical training and its absolute domination of time created a hiatus in my art. However, I still walked through the world with the eyes of an artist. In late 1989 the floodgates exploded open and I have never closed them again. I realized that the world of medicine/science and art combined enriched my creative vocabulary. My interests in biology, physics, and complexity science/emergence widened the scope of my wisdom for creating a spiritual visual poem. My awareness of the fractal nature of the universe (the similarity of the micro and macro that exists), the emergence of systems and ideas from disruptive forces such as chaos has strengthened my creative process (I view chaos as the ultimate creator of the new).
It was not until late 1995 that I sought formal instruction. I was perturbed that I was not reaching the level of optical experiential realism I wanted when I drew or painted from life.
Thus in the fall of 1995 I joined the Ingbretson Atelier in Massachusetts to learn what I was missing from my own self-teaching. I worked full time as an emergency physician. I had arranged to work in the ED nights and weekends allowing me to attend the atelier Monday through Friday 8 am until I had to leave to pick up my children from school. It was a very valuable experience in learning how to see the light. I stayed two years instead of five since I did not want to do a specific type of composition nor a specific palette which is also part of the Paul Ingbretson perspective. I just wanted to know how to see what was actually there but still choose different ways of painting. Paul Ingbretson’s teaching on how to see the light was for me a very valuable experience. Unfortunately, I did not believe that the composition of a painting had to be in an arabesque format to be successful. I do not believe that I can’t invent or change what color something should be. So that aspect alone was problematic for me and I decided not to continue in the Ingbretson Studio.
For me style has always been an element with many choices even in the same painting. I love mixing abstraction/distortion with notes of perceptual recording of the actual light experience. I love color and form, the wildness of the line, and trying to let actual chaos coupled with my intuition live in my creative process.
Eventually I sought an MFA in studio art in order to be part of the discourse in art of the time we live in. I wanted to learn conceptually what I needed that I could not get by self-teaching alone. I loved science, philosophy, complexity science (emergence and construction-deconstruction-reconstruction as a process of creativity). Since my father had been a Cuban Revolutionary with Fidel Castro I was very aware of political and socioeconomic systems in life and that greatly impacted what I know about life (but that is another story). Since both my parents were intelligent people yet not formally educated that also gave me great insight into the human condition in society.
I understand how the eye and brain functions, how light functions, the frozen ‘reality’ of photograph vs. the actual light experience in life interacting with the viewer. I understand how we must learn how to control how we see an object (which in a sense constantly changes) in order to really see what is there without the brain stereotypical interpretation which comes into play after age 10. We as artists should be aware of this principle.
I call artists who only paint from a photograph ‘sign painters’ and a few are quite masterful in this reproduction. I have no belief that this is wrong. I view it as being another acceptable approach yet am aware of how limiting it is, as there are so many ways to create, and this should not be the only one used. Copying a photograph is a skill that can appear masterful to the untrained eye of the public. In truth, there are very few who can do it well and turn it into an art form, the majority who do it generally do it poorly.
Artists who only reproduce a photograph are copying what light effect and perspective has been designated by a camera. A camera is not only a distortion of the actual experience, it can only capture an infinitesimally small part of the light values in life. There is nothing wrong with using a photograph as a structure for an idea, but it can’t replace the actual light values and perspective of reality.
In a sense our optical perception of real life is a form of simultaneous order and chaos juxtaposed on each other. If we train this experience, it will give us greater creative fluidity. The resulting work will have energy to it and will be ‘alive’ and not static or rather artistically ‘dead’. That is the problem with many artists who merely painstakingly reproduce a photograph trying to be ‘realistic’. The untrained eye can’t discern this distinction unfortunately. There is another aspect of creating a work of art which has nothing to do with the optical experience alone. Art objects include the metaphysical, the spiritual, the invisible, the emotional and other intangible essences of the human experience. This is why merely reproducing a photograph has such severe limitations. This is why for me even copying a light effect alone does not suffice in creating an expressive visual poem.
I love the Human face. I only paint people I care about, or that I want to give something of myself as a gift. I paint faces of models from life to keep myself honest. I have never been into the hegemonic and popular painting of celebrities that is currently so common, painting celebrities goes hand in hand with merely reproducing photographs. My paintings of people are spiritually personal.
Today, I will finish with one last statement. For me the hand is the mind and the mind is the hand. None exists without the other for an artist.
I will add more ideas and thoughts to this page from time to time. Thanks for reading and please contact me anytime.
Links to some solo or special exhibitions:
MFA Thesis Aidekman Gallery Tufts University Boston, MA
MFA thesis video
SugiPOP! Portsmouth Museum of Art Snowboard
NeuroMorphic – Beland Gallery Essex Art Center Lawrence MA
NeuroMorphic – NKG Boston MA
Between Presence and Absence: Making Roots -The Carrack Modern Gallery Durham NC
Retablos – Waterworks Visual Arts Center Salisbury NC
Making Roots – CMAC Gallery Raleigh NC
Litmus Gallery Group exhibition interview
In the meantime here is a link to a pdf with my exhibition history: Natacha Sochat exhibition history
May – August 2019 Solo exhibition: Retablos Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Salisbury NC. Unedited video which shows each Retablo.