Artist Spotlight: Inverna Lockpez September 12 2020
Above: Inverna Lockpez, watercolor by Celia Clark
When did you realize you first had an interest in art?
When I was twelve, I was interested in writers and poets. I read Camus, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Neruda, Borges… the list is too long. I didn’t always understand their thoughts, but I was fascinated by the pattern of the words on the page. I would look at their pictures first. I wanted to look like the authors. Later came an obsession with French and Italian cinema, Fellini and Truffaut. The movies introduced me to images that provoked emotions I had never felt before.
When did you become an artist?
I developed a vision of the world that was different from what I was taught at school. Having never been a quiet one, I had to express it. A pencil and paper were the instruments of my catharsis. At that time, my father was a physician and Cuba became a communist country that needed more doctors than artists. I decided to become a surgeon and anatomy class was my favorite course. I would spend weeks in the morgue doing crude anatomical drawings, then go home late and paint on a canvas the outlines of bodies and the scissors I used in the morgue. Later, I left the school of medicine and, to the chagrin of my parents and my government, registered at an art school.
How has your style and subject matter changed over time?
Painting, sculpture, and printmaking were my chosen mediums at first. My pictorial vocabulary of shapes, colors, compositions, and textures developed over a long period of time. Abstraction was my first love but representational subjects helped me to organize and express my world. Every artist has a unique path and as they learn and make mistakes, these experiences eventually emerge in their art.
Left: SOHO studio, NYC, late 1970s
Right: 55 Mercer Street Gallery, NYC, late 1980s
What artists have inspired you?
When I was younger, it was Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Kazimir Malevich and Marcel Duchamp. In Cuba, I was attracted to the expressionistic work of Antonia Eiriz. Living in New York, the international Off-off-Broadway theater and the poetry of Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Bishop affected my train of thought. Later I became attracted to the textures of painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, the visual drama of William Turner’s paintings, and the imagination of Kiki Smith, Lee Bontecou and Renee Stout. I also admire children’s drawings and outsider art, which I have at my studio to learn from.
How has living in Florida influenced your work?
The Sunshine State gives immediate access to the immensity of the Florida sky without any obstruction, to the eternal movement of the ocean and the abundance of flora and fauna. But it is the brightness of the light that makes the contrast in nature more effective. The pink afternoons, the yellows at dusk, the deep peaceful green of the foliage, and the turquoise waters each emphasize the splendor of nature and affect my palette in a myriad of ways.
Can you elaborate on your process and technique?
We artists have access to a world that exists parallel to the lives we live. I reach to that world constantly and my imagination is enriched in that process.
My techniques are a vehicle to express emotions. Before I start a piece, everything is preconceived and planned. I start by applying five to ten layers of different colors to a canvas. There is a figuration that, when it is finished, has been scratched with a stone to discover unintended colors and shapes beneath the surface. As the work develops, these inadvertent colors and shapes appear on segments of the canvas as a way of letting me know that perfection is full of flaws.
What is your favorite piece from your solo exhibition that is now on view at Arts on Douglas?
A solo show is a great challenge. In my studio, one piece sits next to another. It’s easy to repeat yourself when something works. In the gallery, each piece has to be carefully situated between other pieces that reinforce each other. Trying to solve this problem, I went for a long walk at the beach… what will complement the boat imagery? I sat quietly for hours and experienced the sound and movements of waves. When I was ready to leave, I turned and saw red coral bean flowers on the dunes. The red flowers and the bluish water would make a good contrast with the golden sand. The surging and uneven waves would give movement to the canvas. I have a new piece!
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Open your soul to the different arts and enrich your life with adventures and discipline. At the beginning of your career you are a thief of ideas and techniques. Everything you are doing has been done before, and better. After enduring long hours and years of work, your unique voice will emerge. You must learn to recognize and accept your differences. It is that uniqueness that will differentiate your art from that of others.