This interview was conducted in January 2015.
The light intersects the studio much like the studio intersects the lives of artists Emilio Said and Samia Farah. Perhaps lesser known than Frida and Diego, Picasso and Dora Marr, John and Yoko, their desire to share love and art appears no less passionate. At first glance she seems the young gun, eager to learn from the maestro, but after spending time together, I came to see Samia as the old soul and Emilio as the one ready to take on the world.
Samia, where did you study to be an artist?
I studied architecture in Campeche, which is my hometown. When I finished my schooling I had an opportunity to attend some artist workshops, drawing and painting with many great Mexican artists. This is where I fell in love with painting.
How has studying architecture affected your work as an artist?
In the study of architecture, we worked a lot with mental mapping which is a type of spatial thinking. When I am painting or drawing I use this cognitive mapping to uncover what is important in my work, and to help me find my story.
This is a question many people ask of artists…how do you know when you’re done?
That is a difficult question! I have to let the painting live for a while before I decide. It is more of a feeling than a knowing—the painting is done when I look at it and I assume it wants to live that way.
What do you love most about being an artist?
I feel lucky to wake up and do what I love, to feel every morning I have endless opportunities. I think creativity can be found in many activities as long as you are doing them with passion and conviction.
You share a studio with your partner in life. Tell me about that.
Emilio is a very great artist and because of this, it can be challenging for me (smiles). He has more experience, he has lived more life, but at the same time, he lets me find my own way. Our way of working is very fluid and although we share a studio, we have our own space. I think we learn from each other and overall it’s a very rich experience.
Recently, Samia exhibited at Festival A-PART: Festival International d art contemporain in Provence, France.
Emilio, you grew up in Mexico City, lived and studied in Europe and have exhibited in over 30 cities around the world. What brought you back to the Yucatan?
I was born in Mexico City (DF) and launched my career there, but all my family is from the Yucatan. I came back in March of this year to live because I have an important relationship with the Yucatan—for me it has always been a laboratory for experimentation. When I was starting out as an artist I needed to be at the epicenter of the art world but at this point in my career, I can live and work where I want.
Teaching and making art seem to go hand in hand for you.
Teaching is a sort of retribution for me, and a way to give back as an artist. Many years ago I founded an etching workshop and invited diverse artists from all over Mexico. It was a powerful way to get to know some great artists and to apply the learnings to my own work. Since then I have given workshops in Mexico and abroad, and soon I hope to open an etching laboratory right here in Merida.
What advice would you give to a young artist starting out?
Some years ago I would have said “work, work, work”. But now I would say it is more important to reflect on your work. Don’t be too precious but do become your own toughest critic because it is the quality, not the quantity, that is important.
Do you have a muse?
Samia is my muse, of course, but I sometimes feel a double espresso is also my muse (laughs).
What is rewarding about sharing space with a talented artist who is also your life partner?
We have a complicity, Samia and I. There is an understanding of what each other is trying to achieve, and a mutual respect that influences the dialog we have. You could say our lives have many intersections—she came to art through architecture and I have explored some of the principles of architecture through my art. And we both love to garden and cook!
Meet Emilio and Samia on the Merida Artist Studio Tour February 20, 2016.