This interview was conducted in December 2014
“My friends think I’m crazy because I live alone with six cats”, laughs Viviana as she scoots them from my feet. “What will they say when I tell them I just rescued two kittens, only days old, that were dumped in a box on the sidewalk? Am I just to step over them? Now I am their mama and that is the way it is.”
This is how Viviana Hinojosa is—direct, strong, convicted, clearly compassionate, and as evidenced by the room I am standing in, a very talented painter.
We are at her home/studio for an interview and she immediately apologizes for the mess. All I see are canvasses—propped on chairs, the floor, on an easel. Next to her easel in the dining room is a giant square high top table literally covered in drawings. Viviana has been busy.
What do you love about being an artist?
I love the freedom it gives me and the different perspectives I get of the world, of reality, of everything around me. When I am drawing and painting I have to examine things in a different light, try new things if they aren’t working. By looking at things differently I broaden my preconceived ideas. Art has helped me to become less rigid.
How long have you been an artist?
I have been painting seriously for about 15 years now. I started with oil paint, which is my favorite medium, but then I experimented with acrylics. I recently started exploring drawing with charcoal. I’ve always drawn within the context of the painting, but over the last year I have created a distinct body of work that is purely charcoal and pencil. I am missing the colour!
What music do you listen to when you make art?
I find it difficult to concentrate if there are lyrics. I like medieval music a lot and I especially like Mozart.
Do you have a routine when you work?
I try to be disciplined with my hours. I usually work through the morning for 4-5 hours, have lunch and then I sleep in the afternoon. I am religious about my siesta! I work again from 6 to 10 or 11 pm. Usually.
Where were you born and why do you live in Merida?
I was born in Mexico City and lived in Puebla. I was tired of living in central Mexico and wanted a smaller city, close to the sea. Some acquaintances invited me to spend a month in Merida and I liked it very much and decided to move here. To live well in most big cities you have to have a full time job and a full time job means no painting. Merida allows me to have the lifestyle I have and is a very supportive community for artists.
What do you hope people experience when seeing your work?
Joy. Somebody told me once, “you make me laugh”, and it was the best comment for me. It’s true some of my new drawings, because they are in black and white, are dark and a bit creepy because they relate back to the stories I am drawing. But many of them have a sense of humour, even if it’s dark. Not everything has to be whimsical and joyful but I do like a sense of humour and I hope people experience that when they look at my work.
When did you know you were an artist? Was it a person or event that inspired you to paint?
I was always very imaginative. Although I was raised with a twin sister, I loved playing on my own and creating my own worlds. Fortunately my parents were always supportive and encouraging. When I decided to study literature, which I majored in, they said ‘Go for it’! It was then I decided not to have a normal life and I became a painter. (laughs)
So literature led to painting and then painting led back to literature?
I think my painting has a lot of links to literature. My painting and drawing has a very of narrative quality and my paintings are always telling a story. I’ve never been far away from literature and working with writers has been an awesome experience for me.
Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
We are presenting the Ephemera Project in January at Galeria La Eskalera. I have been collaborating over the past few months with Mexican writer Mina Polen, illustrating short stories, originally published as tweets. We are publishing a book and Mina has designed jewellry, some based on my drawings. I will also be on the 2015 Merida English Library Artist Studio Tour.
Who is your favorite artist, living or dead, and why?
Hieronymous Bosch. His images are so strange and fantastical. When I discovered him I was fascinated, and now I see links back to his art in everything I do.
If you could say one thing to people when they look at art, in a museum or a gallery or a studio, what would it be?
Enjoy it. Kind of like poetry, you don’t necessarily have to understand it. Just enjoy it for what it is.