Artist and muse: meet Conie Vallese

Conie Vallese, PHOTOGRAPHY Josh Olins.

Like a film freeze framed there’s something about artist Conie Vallese that had us at first glance, suspended instantaneously. The works like the creator possess bold grace, perhaps born of a childhood in Buenos Aires amid creative minds; perhaps predestined. 

Mirror, 2019, Plaster, photography Josh Olins.

"It’s all one and the same. There is no work without life and no life without work."

Conie Vallese got her start in moving pictures – and, somehow, you can tell. It took another beginning in New York City for her to embrace the title of artist, along with sculpture and painting – the latter of which she first witnessed in her abuela’s studio. A creator in motion, she’s bound tighter to the act than any one discipline. The work, she tells us, “is a direct product of living. In a sense artworks are the souvenirs of a life well lived or the ephemeral fleeting moments preserved, in the form of a tangible object.”

What do you look to explore via your art?
A considered appreciation of form and simplicity. 

 How has growing up in an artistic family influenced your creative path?
I did grow up around creative mindsets and they all had their artistic practices, however they all chose an academic path; art was just a playful hobby. My father experimented with sculpture for many years, carving wood, but he is a doctor. My mother studied interior design and influenced me with her very particular aesthetics. My grandmother’s oil paintings, and my grandfather’s metalwork. All in all, my family helped to bestow upon me an eye for detail and an appreciation for form. 

What is your earliest memory of making, or observing, art?
As a child I spent a lot of time interacting with my grandmother and her oil paintings. She had a nice corner set up in a small room full of light amid art books, sketches and notes; we kept each other company for many years in moments that I can see now were very rich and poetic. Those early moments have influenced a lot of what I do today. 

What part did growing up in Buenos Aires play?
I am very rooted to Buenos Aires and after so many years of living in New York, I am even more so attached to the things that keep me connected as a person to growing up there. Buenos Aires is very rich culturally and architecturally, but for the most part I see it as a place with people who express a lot of courage and passion. 

Do you remember the first artist you admired?
... Leonor Fini. She was an Argentinian surrealist painter of the 20th century. 

 You studied film. How and when did drawing, painting and sculpture become means of creative expression?
While I was studying film I also took a few courses in drawing ... I worked designing fabrics for a little bit in Buenos Aires shortly after school, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I further explored art fully. It came along with a whole personal change. It was then in New York that I truly submerged myself into courses on painting and sculpture. My first foray into sculpture happened the first year I moved to New York. I was drawn to working with direct plaster as a material. What sculpture has is that involvement and relation with your body, that for me is so important. The physicality of it draws me to it completely.

What inspires you most?
Reading is a huge source of inspiration for me, as well as films and travelling. For the most inspiration happens within my thoughts through my own internal monologue. Inspiration for me often stems from a recollection of moments and visual memories. As we suffer from an overwhelming amount of visual stimulus and constant influx of imagery due to the modern convenience of technology, the excess of all this information is exhausting. I look for inspiration in my own recluse and the context of libraries where less circulated imagery may be found.

Big Head, 2018, Bronze.
Big Head, 2018, Plaster.

"I need solitude, silence and a clear almost empty space to work; every time I start something new, I clear my visual spectrum."

Mirror, 2019, Plaster, photography Josh Olins.

Who is your favourite director?
Agnès Varda. She is a celebration of a woman and her work. Her films examined women in all their complexity in a very empowering and unique manner. Films like Cléo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur and Vagabond are precious relics to me. 

Could you tell us about your creative space?
I have one small studio that I have created at home; there I work on specific projects and ideas and sculpture in clay. Outside of my home I have an additional studio space in a more industrial building where I make a mess with plaster, rubber moulds and work on my painting.

Does sculpting require you to get into a different headspace than drawing or painting?
I think it does. I usually work more in sculpture when I feel more energetic or frenetic.

How has living in New York influenced your creative journey?
It’s a street-based city and the connectivity and lively energy of a city like New York and its people, even in tense or turbulent time, is both energising and chaotic ...

When are you at your happiest?
Spending time in the ocean.

What are you nostalgic for?
Days beside the pool at my grandmother’s house and the smell of the geraniums, Buenos Aires cafes and late-night milongas, dancing with big bows as a child and it goes on …