Monsters at the Zack
Claudia Segovia’s creations are colorful, whimsical monsters. (photo from Claudia Segovia)
It took Claudia Segovia a long time to find her niche. “I always liked art,” she said in an interview with the Jewish Independent, “but I’ve been primarily a dancer, drawing on the sideline. When I got pregnant 17 years ago, I couldn’t dance, so I started drawing much more. I also always liked sewing, so I experimented with textile art, tried different techniques: finger puppets, smaller pictures, drawings, collages, sewn little monsters. Nothing seemed to fit, until I began painting. I have only been painting for a few years but I know that’s my direction, that’s what I want to do.”
Segovia’s solo show, Intuitive Mythology, opened at the Zack Gallery on Aug. 17. It is awash with colorful, whimsical monsters. Painted as large pictures or crafted as fabric dolls, the artist’s monsters are full of contradictions. They are childish and philosophical, ugly and charming, spout big ideas or cavort like spoiled brats.
“I don’t decide what I paint,” Segovia said. “First, I let my intuition flow and play with colors and figures on canvas for the background. Then, when it’s done, I try to see what shapes are there, what creature emerges from within. Once the creature is realized, I work to fulfil its life. Only then, I try to understand its meaning. For me, it is the most important part. Sometimes I see my siblings there, sometimes a timepiece, sometimes a totem pole. It is as amazing to me as it is to the viewers. Each piece is a surprise. What does this creature mean? What words come up? What questions does it answer?”
For this show, Segovia doubled each of her painted monsters as a hand-made fabric doll. “After I finished the painting, I worked on a 3D textile sculpture. I try to match the fabrics to the texture and colors of the painting. I display my sewn creatures in front of the paintings, as if they are coming out of the canvases, into life.”
Each of her monsters has a story to tell, if only the viewers would listen. All of them are unique, sweet and tart fruits of Segovia’s imagination.
“I have a passion for little monsters, the ones that are funny and different. I don’t like realistic art,” she admitted. “Sometimes, I write words on my monsters. My intuition guides me.… I’m inspired by the Mexican folk art, especially Alebrije – painted wooden sculpture from Oaxaca. I visited the town once, when I was younger, and talked to the artists. I do similar things with my monsters. It’s not on purpose, it just happened.”
Segovia started selling her little sewn beasties long before she started painting them. “My son was about five,” she recalled. “I wasn’t painting yet but I was making the fabric creatures. I emailed all my friends and they emailed their friends and, eventually, a couple of gift shops expressed interest. Now, three stores in B.C. carry my monsters and my smaller pictures and collages. One is on Granville Island, one on Main and one in Victoria.”
She feels excited when someone buys her art – and it’s not about the money. “People buy it because they love my piece so much they want to take it home,” she explained. “It feels wonderful.”
Unfortunately, like many artists, Segovia can’t make a living with her art. “It helps,” she said, laughing, “but to pay the bills, I teach. I teach art and I teach dancing. I love teaching.”
“I don’t teach computers anymore. Now, I only teach what I love: dancing and art. And I concentrate on my painting.”
Before she immigrated to Canada from Mexico, Segovia taught computers. Her educational background includes training in computers, as well as in art and dancing. “I did it in Canada, too, for a few years,” she noted, “before the high-tech crash in 2001. Then, when no job in the computer industry was available, I started teaching dance and art, choreographed a few pieces. I don’t teach computers anymore. Now, I only teach what I love: dancing and art. And I concentrate on my painting.”
As with her own work, in her art lessons, Segovia lets intuition take the reins. “I’m interested in the creative process, not the technique,” she said. “When I come to a school to teach, my lessons depend on the supplies. Scraps of fabrics? We’ll make aprons. Snippets of paper and old magazines? We’ll make collages. I look at what they have and think, What can we make of it?… My favorite art student’s age is from 6 to 9. Such kids engage easily. I think that must be my real age inside, too, about 8 years old.”
Segovia is a respected teacher in Vancouver, teaching art and dancing at Arts Umbrella, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. For more information about her, visit claudiasegoviaart.blogspot.com. Intuitive Mythology runs until Aug 31.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected]