Artwork by Pilita Garcia

In our age of digital hyper connectivity, we often feel isolated – our smartphones a barrier rather than a bridge to “the real thing.” Our viewing experience of art is distorted by online renditions of works, too – after all they are physical objects meant to be seen in person.

Similarly, in a world of mass consumerism that leaves our closets filled with “stuff” we feel empty – even paralyzed by our belongings with no connection to what these items mean, if they have meaning at all. Can an appreciation for artwork undo this affliction? Or is art just more stuff?

The portraits of Williamsburg artist Pilita Garcia, whose faces are perhaps turned away from, but lit by, artificial lights from digital devices – seem to call back to a time before social media, selfies and online advertising. Perhaps they long for “the real world” – but a different world where the value of objects – how they are made and where they come from – is important, a reflection of the artist’s own world view.

Pilita’s painting exhibition titled Rowan’s Sphere will open at Picture Farm (338 Wythe Ave) this Friday March 7th, from 6-9pm.

Watch the below video, produced by the show’s curator Todd Stewart and read our interview with Pilita – then put your computer to sleep (don’t worry it can be alone for a little while) and go see some artwork in real life.


We chatted with Pilita about her work and why making artwork is more important than making “stuff.”

Artwork by Pilita Garcia

GP: Who are these people in your portraits and why are they important in your work?

Pilita: The people in my portraits are extremely important to me. They actually sat across from me and let me stare at them, old-school style, more than once – kind of like in “the artist is present” piece, except there was a third metric, that now hangs in the show. They represent trust, reality, and stand strong for painting. A popular concept that is both alive and well. Many of them are artists.

GP: Can you speak about your use of color in the portraits?

Pilita: The colors are coming from both the monitor and the cromosaturaciones de cruz-diez.

GP: You are making a commentary on the “digital age” in your work, how has it informed or affected your work or your process?

Pilita: It is a commentary yes, because [the work] is not [digital]. As long as it is a reminder of the rest of the world, that is not connected in order to connect for the sake of connecting, and then realize it lost the connection while at it. I am referring to the art that the 3rd world planet experiences when they paint their shaft, their favela, their face, their belly, or a piece of wall, a tree, the stuff that people are making and that is art but sort of no longer counts. In the sense that, we see very little institutional support for painting outside the school system.

GP: Has does technology impact artwork and the way artwork is viewed?

Pilita: Technology is about to get embedded inside the body. There is no point resisting it. However, I can remember what life was like before social media. I clipped a TIME article from 1992 where it explained what would happen. It seemed unimportant and ridiculous. It was important though. We, who live in the first world are getting desensitized. Art or the direct experience of art sort of works against that, because it nurtures, it appeals to feelings and renders vivid the faculty of intuition.

GP: Can you elaborate on your point in the video about there being “enough stuff” and your desire to make artwork as something “worthwhile”?

Pilita: I take the creation of an object very seriously. I see a lot of things and I don’t see a lot of things that transmit spirituality. We have an over-saturation of photo and non-fiction. If I am going to bring in yet another object – it better be fiction. I hope I have injected these objects with care. I am not going to forward the machine, I don’t need that.

GP: What are you specifically reacting to? 

Pilita: I just just see a lot of stuff in art. People kind of went crazy writing long pieces about a couple of plastic bags and a ruler, or a plastic shoe collection, or a pile of clothes. Don’t get me wrong I love loads of artist who use things and the display in the gallery is basically a 3d poem, like Joelle Tuerlinckxs or David Altmejd, but they make straight up magic, not Duchamp misinterpretations.

Personally I can’t stand excess. We invented a reality for ourselves that is largely dependent upon acquiring stuff. The economy gets activated that way, but the cycle is not civil: behind your new collection of pricy rags, there is an ocean of people working around the clock to make $1 a day, because they where born on the wrong side of this machine. Anything that promotes that mentality is embarrassing.

GP: What else do you do in your personal life to combat “enough stuff”?

Pilita: Instead of shopping, I get rid of stuff, give it away, throw it out. I think it would be great to just have art and books around, and not much else. When I buy clothes I make sure I buy things that are timeless, a must have example is a nice black dress. I am not doing the veggie share thing yet; I have been eating a lot of arepas. 

GP: You are from Chile/Venezuela. How does that impact your work?

Pilita: Maybe because it’s so intertwined with nature, I am just like, ok lets be crafty. It’s cool there. In Venezuela, you get to hang with all races and social backgrounds. People are happy and joke a lot and eat oversized mangos and climb the mountain; it’s the jungle there. It was violent. It is even more violent now. Everyone has a gun. Anyone might kill you. You need to have a separate set of eyes. In Chile, they are the opposite: they are very quiet and very careful to not to say too much. The judicial system in both places seems to be corrupt. There is a dictatorship in Venezuela and it’s the students who are putting up a fight. I am so grateful to have peace in order to think here.

GP: Can you elaborate on how NYC’s “survivalist” mentality impacts your work?
Pilita: Resilience. You just end up hanging with the most hardworking people you ever saw, and with the most steady prolific working ethics and you are just like WOW. That can be done? Then you realize it’s not legal for you to work so you take a side road and then that leads to all kinds of weird funny things and all, except you realize you are wasting a lot of valuable time just to make it legal to work and then you do and then you continue to make art all through that time somehow anyway and then you have a show that shows that.

GP: Is making artwork your survival?
Pilita: I can’t think in terms of anything that is not art. Everywhere I look I see beauty.

GP: What do you get from the process of painting?

Pilita: The pleasure of the surprise. It’s interesting to me to abstract from an overtly intellectualized decision making process. It is very challenging, like kicking a vice, like bumping into anticipations, like stopping at a crazy color combination, like having your friend appear on a piece of wood…

GP: Why is making art worthwhile to you?

Pilita: It is what I need. I make what I need to see, what I believe is needed. I look at the void and I say okay, dang, we need to slow that down for the next generations to pick up on some of that before it’s all gone. 

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