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Studio Visit: Grace Villamil
Grace Villamil is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her installations have lived at AThinPlace Gallery in Berlin, Mission Chinese Food and Coming Soon in New York, and at the Glossier offices in SoHo.
Q / Hi Grace! How do you usually start your day? Any routine that gets you up?
A / Coffee in the kitchen, NPR or music + a banana while it’s brewing…
Q / Do you have a daily uniform or is there anything you carry with you every day?
A / At my old studio in Greenpoint, my uniform was a pair of white overalls and I loved seeing the colors smear together by the end of the day.
Q / Is there a time of day that you feel most productive? Anything specific that helps keep you focused?
A / In the early morning around 7 or 8am, or very late (like 2am if I’m awake), is a great time. Bass-y electronic music keeps me inspired, happy & focused.
Q / What is your favorite place to work?
A / My studio + outside in a field.
Q / How do you try to balance your time?
A / Not forgetting what is important to me on an emotional level, like family + friends. I always set time for inspirations like long walks and visits to see some art or a live show.
Q / How do you keep yourself organized with all the projects you have going on?
A / Organized is a big word.
Q / What is something you are good at?
A / Sensing love.
Q / Something you struggle with?
A / Seeing reality for what it is.
Q / What do you enjoy most about your career?
A / Making something meaningful, the freedom of expressing what I feel, the fascinating people I meet + the worlds they take me into with their work…
Q / What are the most challenging things about it?
A / Being brave and open 24-7 with yourself & being able to translate that into your work.
Q / Is there anything you will never take seriously in terms of your work?
A / Staying with one medium.
Q / Something that’s very important to you?
A / A cozy factor, some humor, some perfect imperfect sculpting of material; But mainly at this moment in particular, it’s hard not to think about things I’m making not in the context of what is happening: the exodus of Syrians, our problem in the US with immigration, the guns, the racism…it’s where my head is at, and what I mean by expressing something with meaning.
Q / Where do you go to be quiet and think?
A / Long walks in a field + being amongst trees when I can. It has the same function of quiet for me: into my headphones to think.
Q / How does your home and environment influence the kind and quality of work you produce?
A / We are constantly listening to sounds + different types of music that are instrumental to my creation of work. We have a bunch of books on maps, artists, scientists, composers…thinkers who challenged themselves in their lifetime, so in a way, I wake and sleep to this sentiment.
Q / Where did you grow up and what led you to your current home. How would you say these places shaped your perception of work?
A / I grew up south of Los Angeles in California and came to New York City in 2000. Curiosity and wanting a change led me here. At the time, I wanted to get out of the sun. Growing up 30 minutes south of Hollywood in LA can be a trip. Everything is pumped with hype, so seeing the greats like Yayoi Kusama when I was 18 at the old LACMA (I think it was her Love Forever show) and reading David Hockney’s bio in a café down the hill from where his pool strokes existed leaves you with a funny + lasting impression of what art is…the loud + quiet of that.
Q / Do you keep any collections? If so, how do they influence you creatively?
A / Rock collections, artist bios and music keep me grounded and inspired.
Q / How would you define beauty?
A / Simplicity.
Q / Do you use the internet on vacation or do you prefer to completely disconnect?
A / Both. I kind of schedule the time to be completely disconnected.
Q / Is there anything in particular that you do to take care of yourself and relax?
A / I like to go for runs or swim when I can. Again, listening to music really helps.
Q / Was there any particular person who led you to change direction and helped shape your career in formative way?
A / My husband, Tyondai. We’ve been shaping each other for the positive for ten years. 😉
Q / How did your parents feel about your career path?
A / They really weren’t into it. I’d say they have come to understand that it’s who I am. My parents immigrated from the Philippines in the late 60’s to California. They of course wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or something that “made sense” and made money. Although, along with those desires they always said, “nothing is impossible under the heat of the sun,” so I just interpreted that in my own way, I guess.
Q / Did their perceptions about your career change over time?
A / It took a bit of time, but yes. I remember the last time I showed pictures of my mylar environments to my mom she said she “wanted to go inside it” without even knowing that you could. I was overjoyed and it never leaves my mind.
Q / What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? The funniest?
A / It was the worst and funniest: I answered a Craigslist ad a million years ago for a “server” and ended up in a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn at a very very old temple. It was a traditional Hasidic Jewish wedding. I was to serve cold, purple-red beef on styrofoam plates to the women upstairs behind a floor-to-ceiling, wooden latticed screen. The women were staring down between the holes of the lattice at the men dancing with each other and drinking below…there was little light, and I kept bumping into little girls running around and young women nursing babies in the low light. It was weird, cinematic and very much a part of Brooklyn. I was also badly hung over which was the funny part.
Q / How does your work affect the rest of your life?
A / My work is my life so it affects everything I do. I wish they weren’t so reliant on each other, but it seems to be the way I’ve sculpted everything so far…
Q / What has been your proudest career moment thus far?
A / When people (having been inside one of my installations for a period of time), came out and took a moment to tell me about a profound thought or dream they had that was important to them.
Q / What are you looking forward to this year?
A / Sun, family and California.
Q / Lastly, ten of your favorite people, places, and things that we should discover too?
A / In no particular order:
1. The Red Notebook by Paul Auster.
2. I Ching.
3. The magic of the Utah desert near Capitol Reef.
4. Swimming in the Philippines.
5. Atom TM.
6. Swimming alone in a lake under the sun.
7. Demdike Stare.
9. SUNN O))) live.
10. Gaudi’s colored glass in Sagrada Familia at 1pm.
Photography & Interview