Italo-Brazilian artist Laura Pretto Vargas makes abstract and figural paintings that explore feelings of vulnerability, happiness, energy and sexuality.
Using mostly acrylic and sometimes oil, Vargas builds the surface of her large-scale canvases with densely textured brush marks and bursts of bold color. Informed by her background in fashion and international travel, Vargas weaves together different forms of creative expression in a variety of styles. As a result, each painting pulses with universal human emotions, providing a shared space for connection and reflection.
Vargas lives and works in Milan and Miami. This month at Agora Gallery, Vargas will be part of a group exhibition called Engaging the Full Spectrum, a survey which will present alternative modes of seeing and experiencing everyday life. Featuring the work of the photographers, painters and sculptors, the show blends familiar and recognizable imagery with the abstract and supernatural.
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
I’ve always loved art, but it was during fashion school where I began my art career. When I started school, I assumed my love of fashion would translate my thoughts and feelings into designing a fashion line, but that was not the case. Instead, I constantly felt misunderstood and unfulfilled. The fleeting nature of fashion really bothered me in the sense that every season must be expressed differently, and that was never an appealing idea to me. I think of art as a constant entity, where forms of self-expression adapt and change as you grow and learn, but on your terms. Art is forever! A work of art is a permanent statement your soul makes, one that you desire to share with the rest of the world. Ultimately, that is why I choose to make art…not because it is trendy but because it is a reflection of who you are, what you feel and how you see the world. So I dropped out of fashion school and joined a public art school in Italy.
Who has been an influence to you in your career?
I have had several influences throughout my career, but my foundation has always been my mother. She inspires me to be a better business woman, like her, she also plays a part in every major marketing and image decision on my career, I respect and appreciate her experience, opinion and work ethic a lot. She was the first to believe in me as an artist, and she helped make it possible for me. That said, I dream of a world more densely populated by women in the field. There are many painters who have impacted me and have been an inspiration and influence on my career. In particular, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Kazuo Shiraga and Jackson Pollock for their action painting. Additionally, Mark Rothko because I love to lose myself in his infinite silence of colors and Claude Monet for the immenseness of his Water Lilies series.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
When I’m feeling blocked I like to completely disengage myself from the canvas and watch a documentary, read a book or magazine or listen to some music that I love. When I’m in my studio I need to be feeling connected and have a clear vision of the work I’m about to do. If I’m feeling blocked, I prefer that energy doesn’t merge onto the canvas. The ideas and inspiration will come at the right moment, but they cannot be forced out. Be patient with yourself.
How do you define success?
For me it’s two things. One is being proud of myself as living my true purpose doing something I love. The second is having a positive impact on the lives of people I touch with my artworks by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before.
What message do you hope your work communicates?
I’m interested in the basic human emotions that impact people. In my artworks I hope to communicate my emotions, vulnerability, sometimes pain, happiness, movement, sadness, energy flow, hope, etc. I like to think that when someone looks at one of my paintings they will recognize their own struggles and feelings in it. I think paint has power to play with our emotions and make us lose ourselves in it. My work aims to open your mind and make the viewer feel differently.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
I’ve learned that in my art I am always evolving and finding new ways and approaches to captivate the viewer’s attention and curiosity without losing my own sense of style and identity.
Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
Always believe in yourself and your skill, in the right time you’ll find your place.