It’s been said that in slumber our brains solve the puzzles that plague our waking lives. For artist Tatiana Velázquez – or TeeVee Art, as she commonly creates by – that breadth of perplexity is immense. Velázquez dreams in surreal sleep-scapes, subconsciously forming her own artistic informants for the larger frames of life. No two pieces alike, no two dreams alike.
Fittingly, Velázquez depicts such large-scale notions in physical layers, combining materials, decades and colors to create each new message. We had the opportunity to talk to the LA artist and hear about prompting issues and where they fit into her life and her art.
Who are all of the cool chicks in your pieces? Are they representative of people in your life or are they people that you feel a connection to in some way?
I started out years ago making vinyl record, drumheads, and canvas arts showcasing subjects of my photography. It then led to using old photos of my great grandparents and other family. My favorites are of my grandmother dancing in a ballerina dress in Cuba 1939 (Mina Ballerina), and one I took of my grandfather’s hands that has gold leaf shooting out (Manos Poderosas) – it was the first of this style I still use today.
It wasn’t until early this year that I started using the females consistently. Having had a crazy 2013, I was looking for strength and something new. I dedicated myself to completing one piece per day for all of January. I looked for strong images that also sparked curiosity. Most of the time I don’t know who these women are, which opens up an avenue of imagination. I just recognize that they have something special about them. Sometimes I’ll make works of my favorite strong female artists (Nina Simone, Betty Davis, Celia Cruz, Grace Jones). I admire their badassness.
What draws and intrigues you about the female form?
It naturally feeds aesthetic pleasure. I’m convinced everyone is appreciative of the female figure. What it represents is much more grand than visual stimulation. For me, it represents the universe/god. Not in a religious sense whatsoever, simply spiritual and prominently magical.
Another thing is the taboo behind nudity here in the States. It’s unnecessary and breeds this unfamiliarity with what is natural and should be very familiar. They put tits on the side of buses in Europe for goodness sake!
A lot of posed and statuesque imagery in your pieces. What draws you to this style?
There is a strength and powerful vibe behind this type of imagery, sometimes regal. It spews confidence and security – I think everyone seeks those things for themselves.
You use a range of materials: different types of papers, paint, drumheads, vinyl records. What is the most interesting material you’ve made art with?
I once pasted on a TV and found out weeks later that a homeless man was hauling it around in his cart. I thought that was fantastic.
I gladly use whatever materials I have available to me, accumulating random art supplies for when the moment is right. That’s what is awesome about expression – there are no limits and you don’t have to be rich to buy fancy materials. Think outside of the box and make with what you got. My good friends and family members will bring me random objects and scraps knowing that it’s like gold for me. That’s the main reason I started with vinyl records and drumheads. My best friend worked at a music distribution label and they were getting rid of a ton of vinyls. Also, I used to play drums and have lots of drummer friends that give me their old drum heads to recycle for art.
What materials have you been working with lately?
Lately I’ve been working with spraypaint. It is completely out of my comfort zone and that’s why I want to push myself with it. I haven’t been able to find the urge to paint with brushes for almost a year, so this is my segue back to it. When I’m not painting I’m collaging or writing.
What are some reoccurring themes in your pieces?
Dreams and surreality. That’s what this all is – a surreal dream. I want to invoke wonder and inspire people to open their eyes to what is real/surreal in life, if anything.
How did you originally get introduced to wheat paste? When did you first get up with one of your mixed media pieces?
I dropped a freebie vinyl record in downtown LA, posted it on Instagram and a friend of mine, SideshowBrand, who I hadn’t seen in over ten years “liked” it not knowing it was my piece. We got connected again and it turned out he was wheat pasting and convinced me to start putting my paintings up. The first one I did was of the Astronauta Anciana in the LA Art District, my version of the ancient Mayan astronaut. Since that painting was a few years old, I felt I needed to be putting up what I was doing in the moment which were collages.
A beast has definitely been unleashed. I even took my wheat pasting around Europe last month getting up as much as possible including the Berlin Wall and Paris canals. I dig the concept of street art because the impermanence adds to the beauty of it. It’s also like having a public art show. I especially love when strangers photograph the works and share with their friends. It shows that they are genuinely interested. Sometimes gallery shows don’t get that much love and exposure.
There are some girls in LA that are seriously rockin’ it in terms of street art, but the amount of women to men is strikingly uneven. What’s it like going into and creating in a male-dominated space?
I guess I don’t think about it much. I just want to make art and express myself in whatever form necessary. I have two older brothers, so am used to that dynamic of being around men, perhaps it caters to my tomboy side. I get a kick out of it when people assume I’m a guy, then they meet me and say, “oh you’re a girrrrrrllll?!” Overall, the competition naturally motivates, whether male or female.
You use a lot of colors in your pieces. Where do you get inspiration for your color palette?
These color choices are strictly in the moment. Just depends on the mood and which way the wind blows.
So what’s currently inspiring you?
Music-wise, other artists, anything you’ve seen in magazines.
Right now with music I have Nina Simone on constant rotation. She’s oozes this cool hypnotic forcefield. I’m trying to learn some of her tunes on piano even though I know I’d never do them justice. “In the Dark” & “Buck” are two of my favorites.
To be honest, I am so overly inspired by my street art peers, and artists I’m constantly discovering on Instagram. It’s overwhelming how much talent exists. Expression is so beautiful and such a necessary component to life. It can be scary to put yourself out there – we are vulnerable as artists and sharing your work is a risky/scary thing to do. The great thing is that there is no right or wrong. I absolutely love to see the differences in everyones art – it gives insight about where they are in life and how their brain works.
For more from Tatiana check out her site.