New York-based artist Firelei Baez visited the Paper Project on Friday, February 19, as a part of our interactive arts demonstration to create a one-of-a-kind live installation for the shop in partnership with visitors to the event. Throughout the evening, Baez worked to create cutout portraits of the visitor participants inspired by her continued studio arts practice. We caught up with her prior to the event to hear a bit about her work and goals for the project.
The installation will remain on view at the Paper Project until April 1, 2016. We invite you to come and visit us.
Can you tell me a bit about your artistic process?
I make large-scale, intricate works on paper that are intrinsically indebted to a rigorous studio practice. I am interested in the ethics of art, and enjoy being part of the entire creative process: from the prepping of surfaces and mixing colors, to the actual painting. I’m interested in women’s work, in the handmade, in labor and craft, in introducing my body through the tactility of painting, through the process of looking at the movement/rhythm of the hand, which is different from mechanically produced marks.
What is your inspiration for this project?
Inspired by Vejigante masks, a Caribbean melding of West African and European visual traditions. For this project I wanted to create a space where participants could create whimsical self-portraits that, when paired with others, would create a powerful image of protection for the New Year.
My art usually explores the humor and fantasy involved in self-making within diasporic societies—which have an ability to live with cultural ambiguities and use them to build psychological and even metaphysical defenses against cultural invasions—through a convergence of interest in anthropology, science fiction, black female subjectivity, and women’s work.
Can you give us some brief thoughts about what you think it will look like visually?
When installed together all the portraits will evoke celebratory paper cutouts from Latin America and China as well as psychedelic interpretations of nineteenth-century cameos.
Is there anything you want participants or viewers of the work to take away from their experience?
Visiting The Met can be such a source of wonder, both inspiring and intimidating when thinking of making one’s own work. By creating this installation along with Museum visitors I get to share in the creative process with them. While immersed in the incredible encyclopedic collections of The Met we will get to make intimate, personally meaningful works. Hopefully inspiring visitors to continue creating, finding beauty in their everyday experiences.