Mi Gente! Welcome to another episode of Trailblazers: Meet The Creatives.
Vanessa Peters is a visual artist of Puerto Rican descent who was one of the attendees of the Business of Art workshop. Before the workshop, we’ve met while attending a Proud to be Latina back in September. We connected immediately not just as art lovers but also as Buddhist practitioners and members of the SGI. I shared with her about the workshop which was in the developmental stages and she followed through. When she came in she shared with us her desire of showcasing her work and developing her first solo show as well as overcoming procrastination and fear.
Last Friday some of her paintings were part of an exhibit in Harlem and I am proud and excited to share that she is relentlessly working on her first solo show and I can not wait!
Tell us about yourself, who are you and what do you do.
What I do is paint and write. Who I am is a Latina, a wife, a mother, and a practicing Nichiren Buddhist. For my 9-5, I work in corporate America in Human Resources. All of those things are the parts that make up me. I am a woman seeking enlightenment and to reach her highest potential. A woman seeking to evolve into the person I was born to be. I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth.
What’s your background?
I am of Puerto Rican descent, born and raised in Brooklyn. And anyone that knows me knows my Boricua pride runs as deep as my Borough pride.
Define your artistry.
I primarily work with oils and acrylics on canvas. A large portion of my pieces include self-portraits and my animal totems of the Red-winged Blackbird and the Octopus.
I started painting self-portraits as a means to stop hating what I saw in the mirror. I was recreating my own image to find the beauty in myself. When I started painting again after not touching a canvas for 7 years, it was a process. I resolved to find a way to love my body in the hopes that it would be the way to discovering me. I asked my husband to take a few pictures of me with which I could work to paint my self-portrait. Looking at myself that intently was harder than I thought it would be. In the first painting, I couldn’t paint my face, just my body. But it was the first step towards loving what I saw in the mirror and once it was complete it made me happier than words could ever explain.
Both of the animals I use in my paintings are symbolic of different experiences or emotions I am having along my journey to love and understand myself. They serve as visual talismans of my inner feelings at a particular moment time.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the life and by the people that touch my life. Regardless of whether it is good and bad, those interactions have and do continue to shape who I am and how I see the world. I am inspired by color and vibrations and the ceaseless beauty that springs from nature.
What does your work aim to say? What themes do you pursue?
In my paintings, I work to create pieces about self-acceptance and self-discovery. My passion fuels me but it also keeps me up at night thinking about whether I’ve half-heartedly accomplished something. Self-doubt can cripple in the wee hours of the night while everyone else is sleeping. But for all my uncertainty, I am still confident that those feelings will pass as long as I keep pushing myself. If I’m consistent the ideas and inspiration will come. I will not lose faith because I know in my core this is the path I was meant to follow. I believe that every single person was divinely created by the universe for a purpose. I also know I’m not the only one feeling this way. There is a Dreamer, a Believer, a Hustler, a Grinder, all out there struggling. I am striving to connect with my fellow warriors through the images of my own journey. The path towards your own greatness will test your resolve. It may even break you wide open. But it can only defeat you if you let it.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
As I mentioned before, I had a long 7-year stretch where I did not paint. In 2013 I started this journey of self-discovery and reconnecting to who I was as a woman and an artist. 2013 was the year I started to paint again. Once I started it was like a flame was lit within me and I was off and running. Halfway through the summer of that year, I met up with a friend who I’d not seen in a couple of years. As we sat at dinner I told her about the journey I was embarking on. I spoke about wanting to rediscover and fall in love with myself through my painting and writing. I showed her pictures of the paintings I’d completed. I told her about the feeling of once again exhibiting my artwork and she sat quietly listening. When I was done my friend of over ten years looked me in the eye and simply said, “It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Who are your biggest influences?
My two biggest artistic influences have been Frida Kahlo and my father. My favorite quote by Frida is “Me pinto a mí misma, porque soy a quien mejor conozco.” Which translates to “I paint myself because that’s who I know best.” The beauty of her self portraits and her ability to show the full spectrum of her personality, heartache and her emotions through has spurred me to do the same. My father is my inspiration because he is the reason I became an artist. He pursues art as a young man in college and had to hold off on his artistic dreams to raise a family. I learned how to draw from his old art books. He has always supported me and help fuel my artistic pursuits. His path as an artist and his love of art was integral to shaping the artist I have become.
Should art be funded? Why?
The arts should be funded to make it accessible to all and so that it can stop being seen as a luxury. Art is life and it lends depth to every day that should be shared. It should not be only for those that make over a certain income. It should be for everyone and funding for the artist is an avenue to make that happens. Arts funding helps bring art to public schools, to the elderly and to help support artists as they work to build their craft and share it within their communities.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“The universe responds in greater measure when you pursue the happiness of others just as much as your own.” I was told this by another Buddhist and it is has shaped a lot of the decisions I have made since. I have given of my time and energy to others and I have found that that positive energy always comes back to me in wonderful and unexpected ways.
What is your dream project?
My dream art project is to have a solo show of my work. I am currently working on my first collection of paintings that focuses on my ever-evolving spiritual and personal experiences towards becoming the woman the universe divinely created me to be.
What’s next for Vanessa?
I was just part of an exhibit this past Friday: Hidden – Group Art Show in Harlem. It was a total success and I received a lot of great feedback and support. Thank you to all who attended.
One of the pieces I presented in this exhibit, is actually the first in the collection I’m working on. It is entitled “Becoming – The Light Within” It is a 24×36 self-portrait oil painting.
As always, I encourage you all to share these inspiring stories and support these talented Creatives!
Vanessa Peters is a Latina artist and writer based out of Brooklyn, New York. Her passion for art came from learning to draw and sketch by copying the images she found in her father’s old art books. Vanessa studied English and art at The City College of New York. She paints out of her apartment in Crown Heights. Through her paintings and sketches, she strives to capture her vision of life and her place within it.