In a world where the value of a person has been reduced to its ability to produce and consume—to serve a system that sees us as data to analyze consumerism trends— the act of caring for the other and for oneself becomes an act of resistance. Our own conversations became a way to move around this system, a way to establish an economy that was not related to a monetary exchange of resources, but instead, was based on the desire to help each other and being able to provide some kind of assistance—emotional, practical, theoretical—to establish our own economy of friendship. Labovitz’s “122 Conversations” is an exploration of how a political, social and cultural platform can be turned into a personal act of care.” – Omayra Alvarado, Artist and Curator, 2017
Employing painting, drawing, printmaking, experimental film, and performative participatory art, my practice explores many themes, often returning to a central notion—an enduring interest in people. My work is about the human spirit, its emotional resonance, and the way it manifests in relationships. This investigation into contemporary portraiture, the human connection, and activation of the space that connects us reflects new directions in my practice. Over the past five years, I have incorporated text, audience engagement, and public interventions as vital elements of my praxis.
Empathy & Dialogue as Process
This process-driven transition is empathetically embodied in my recent solo exhibition. The artist-lead project and an international touring solo exhibition is entitled 122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders. This large-scale work explores cross-cultural connections through Skype interviews, paintings, and performative participatory art as a catalyst for positive social change. Through text, color, and mark making artworks are created using Tyvek® and contained layered, purposeful marks.
This period of time also reflects ongoing conversations about generosity, friendship, reciprocity, community building, emotional exchange, and how these ideas are experienced through art. I document human connection, dialogue, and relationships—always considering the notion of temporality. I am fascinated by the development of an individual and their relation to and dependence upon others. By utilizing text as an intuitive interpretation of human connection, I archive my experiences, visually chronicling them to find a universal language. The viewer finds that at times the imagery consists of the human form or at times the content contains the written word, visible at varying degrees. The pieces draw the viewer inward to experience an encounter with the subject and the collective consciousness.
Markmaking as Metaphor
The painting process is a focused act of mark making and record keeping. The process of creating the paintings is my form of note-taking. I approach the creation of the paintings with the same rigor, intent, focus, and mindfulness that I employed while conducting the interviews themselves. As I revisit my experiences with each participant, I focused on embedding the painting with the essence of the subject’s beauty, resilience, and spirit as well as their connection to the other interviewees through overlapping layers. This practice grew out of my earlier work of placing multiple woodblocks on top of each other. Each mark is made with intent and clarity as a record, a form of memory that portrays the life force within and between people.
My use of the overlapping text and color is a metaphor that attempts to unite us through a common experience that humanizes each of us, including myself, through the process. I feel more human when I hear the stories of others, and it is my hope that this project evokes a similar experience from its participants and the public. As an artist, painting is my vocabulary. Painting is my way of sharing my story, my exigence, and my vision with the world. The creation of the paintings is my way to give back to the world, my interviewees, and my gallery visitors for the intimacy, trust, and time they have shared with me.
Upon first glance, most visitors will immediately notice that my paintings are vivid. Painting on Tyvek® necessitates a clear understanding of and vocabulary with the materiality in relationship with the paint. The level of saturation of pigment will reveal different results. Color is a central tool for creating my work; washes of light and transparent color skate across the Tyvek®, adhering in locations they have been allowed to rest longest. This both blends and contrasts with more intensive pigments. The sense of fluidity is further enhanced by the dripping. I chose colors and methods of application intending to visually portray the connection and abundance of the interview moments. My use of color is driven both by process and intuition. Some colors are chosen as a result of my emotional or intuitive response to relistening of the interview. Other colors are chosen with consideration of more formal elements of composition and contrasting tone. In this way, each piece acquires its uniqueness and reflects my experience of the conversation.
122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders is an artist-led project based on the art of engagement and derived from interconnection and cross-cultural dialogue. This project celebrates humanity, human connection, and the radical and political act of caring. The project is about connecting. This project is about connecting in a world where we are inundated with differences. Often times, in our haste, we focus on how these differences divide us. Through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation it is the act of making a genuine connection that is essential. My goal is to interpret and express these interpersonal communications. I desire to help each person see one another, one person at a time. The work chronicles the essence of human interaction through relational listening into palimpsest paintings and video. In addition to viewing the works and thereby bearing witness to the conversations, attendees receive a public invitation to contribute, using the materials provided, to an anthology.