What is the art of what you do?
My art comes from helping other artists make their vision a reality. Whenever someone comes to me with the desire to make their photographs or their paintings or their personal project a reality, I'm the one who helps them choose the best paper and achieve the best colors. What results is not just a print, it's their dream.
So you help people realize their dreams.
You could say I'm a dream facilitator. When artists work with me they do so because I really put love into their work. Their work is a piece of me. I look after all the details - as if the project were my own. Some of them call me their lucky charm, because I help make their project or show happen the way they envision. But when I draw for myself, or when I paint or write it comes from my darker moments, not a place of happiness.
Why is that?
I think sometimes I don't understand myself fully. It's as if there are two parts of me; one is very grounded and real and then there is this other part of me that is a little bit crazy and all over the place. I think sometimes I tend to put my happiness in other people. For example, when I'm in love I think my happiness depends on another person. I'm discovering the more I live that my happiness comes from inside. Once I understand myself or I know what I love or what makes me happy I just do it for me. I don't do it for anyone else. I become a little bit selfish. Good-selfiish. We all should be good-selfish.
The project that I'm building in Colombia is my real art. I bought a piece of land and it's the biggest canvas that I'll ever have in my life. I'm building a vision, I'm building something that I can be proud of. It's more like a legacy that I hope to leave behind.
What is the project?
It's a project focusing on indigenous Colombian groups to create consciousness about how indigenous people live, why we don't care about them and why we don't take care of them. I grew up in Putomayo, in the Amazon, and my roots come from there. My project is focusing on making people happier and healthier, through meditation, yoga and natural medicine to heal in a natural organic way, instead of using antidepressants or pharmaceuticals. I'd also like to do workshops where artists can come and make their vision a reality. This is a new concept for Colombia. My place is going to be called Makú, which refers to the last nomadic tribes in South America. They are disappearing because they don't have food and have had to assimilate into cities to survive. I feel that indigenous people have this knowledge and respect for nature that we - the westerners - forgot about and it's important to be connected to Mother Earth -- Pachamama - That's how indigenous people call Mother Earth - Pachamama. I feel like that's my canvas. That's my art.
Being connected to nature is so important to you - how does that work, living in NY?
It's really hard. That's where I'm balancing my earthy side and my crazy side, because NY tends to bring out the crazy side of me. It's easy to meet many people but it can be so empty. Going back and forth to Colombia, being with my family keeps me grounded. My parents have been married for 36 years and they have instilled strong values in us. We pray before we eat, we are thankful for what Pachamama gives us every day. So while going to Colombia keeps me grounded, I would never be who I am now if I didn't have the duality of between one of the most fast-paced cities in the world, and the peace I feel in Colombia. I think it's necessary for me to have those two opposites. It's like the Yin Yang.... I'm learning that everything is balance.
Do you feel as if you're finding balance in your life?
I do. My heart is broken right now, and like my art, I feel like my balance and clear vision comes when I am in the dark spot. When my heart is broken I feel like I find that clarity and that focus that I need. When I'm in love or when I'm happy I take it for granted and I don't pay attention to little things. I've been studying energy healing for myself, but eventually I would love to help kids with trauma - to help them balance their energies. Especially kids that have been sexually abused or have witnessed violence. I grew up in Bogota, in the 80's - during the time of Pablo Escobar. It was traumatic and no one was around to help me understand my anger. It was normal to hear gunshots and people screaming. You're a kid and you think 'this is what the world is?' and 'oh my god is it going to happen to my parents or to me?' So I want to help indigenous kids. They suffer so much and nobody really pays attention to them. They are my focus.
Is the war over?
Yes, and Colombia is a beautiful country. It's full of mountains and trees and land and it has so much to give. Now that Pablo Escobar is gone and the narco traffic is almost zero - it's never going to be ended, but it's not what it was. It's a safe place to go. There's a lot of tourism now. People enjoy it. It's cheap. It's only 5 hours away. There's a beauty to leaving your own culture. Suddenly you can see and value things more.
You have helped a lot of artists achieve their dreams. Is there a common thread that you see in dealing with artists?
They tend to be very insecure about their work. Most artists feel that someone is going to judge them when in reality it shouldn't matter. But when their show is up and everybody is paying attention, that spirit of confidence and happiness comes to them. Usually, they don't know very much about different kinds of paper, printing or about the machines we use. So for them, it's almost like going to school. That's why I think I have that bond with them, because I listen to them I know exactly what they're looking for, and I can read their vision. It's through that connection that I make sure they get what they want.
How do you do make that connection?
It's easy for me to connect with people - I feel like I can connect to anyone. My heart is open and if you come to me and you need something I'm going to be there to back you up. I work with artists that are in Sweden, London or Cape Town and they still print in New York because they know when there is a deadline, the print is going to be there. They feel safe because they know I'm here to back them up. I think it's good to have that in life - to feel safe. Especially because your art is your baby. You can't trust someone who doesn't care about it, and I care as much as they care. It's a beautiful process to work with artists - I find them very eccentric. Most of them are crazy and all over the place. They're not organized. They don't even ask me for invoices. They don't have a business head. None of them. And it's crazy -- I have one artist that I work with who's from Sweden. We've done shows all over, big galleries - and he has no business sense at all, but he is so so good at taking photographs --he creates magic. When it comes to money, though, he has no idea how to ask the client for money. He's just an artist.
Why do you think artists have that disconnect with money and their art?
It's hard to explain because I'm the same. With my art, I have two realities. Someone wanted to purchase one of my paintings and I felt bad charging money for it. For the professional printing I do it's different because it's not my art directly. But if someone wants one of my own pictures to purchase, I want to give it away. I am thankful that they like my work and I want to give it to them. I think artists are more grounded and don't care much about money -- they care about their art. Artists get in the zone and that's what they think about - nothing else. I think artists are very lucky to find that, because it's a blessing to have those moments of total focus - it's like meditation. You're not thinking about anything else. It's a meditation space. It's joy.
For Makú do you have a business partner?
I have a manager there that is watching over the construction. My youngest brother and other people are working there for me. I'm going to go next month and they're going to call me La Patrona - The BOSS. And that's going to be weird. I'm not good at being El Jefe. I don't want anyone to see me that way. Actually, I told my manager that I want him to fall in love with this as if it was his home. I don't think he had ever heard that from anyone before. He's a bit older than me, and I've never seen anyone more excited about a project. He sends me pictures, asks the government for stuff. I think once you give people a piece of you without asking anything back, they take it in and make it their own. It's become a Love Project. That's important to me. I need to work with people who believe. I want to work with people who invest themselves as much as I do.
Do you ever feel your ancient cultural heritage?
This is going to sound weird, but I think that I was most connected to my roots when i did the Ayahuasca Ceremony. I felt for the first time that I knew my place was in my country with my people. I have a very very strong connection with my dad and my dad's family, even though I never met my Grandparents. But I can see part of me being more like them than my mom's side. From my mom I get generosity and a giving spirit. From my dad, I get that force of nature, of being connected to earth, of being healthy, eating healthy, taking care of my body.
What's your biggest joy?
When I'm in love. That's my biggest joy. When I can look at someone's eyes and have that connection that I can't explain with words. That's my joy. To be in love, not only with one person but with friends, to be in love with my parents. Sounds weird, but to love them so much -- it's joyful. To sit down and have a good meal with friends, family, that's my joy. And Makú, thats my joy. It's going to be my baby - the only baby I'm going to have. With a lot of sisters and brothers around me.
If you could go back in time and whisper in your own ear from where you are now to the younger you - a 12 year old you. What would you tell yourself? What advice would you give yourself?
Love yourself more. Don't be so hard on yourself. Forget and forgive anyone and everyone who may have hurt you. Love and embrace yourself. Sometimes I'm not aware of how much I need to love myself. Even the layers of me, when I was a child, when I was a teenager -- love those layers. I would say to myself, don't be so hard. Stop, relax. Embrace who you are and seek real experiences.
What does wisdom feel like?
It feels peaceful. It feels easy. It feels calm. Like light. Many women think it's necessary to get surgeries to avoid aging, to keep themselves young and looking beautiful. So I am tempted to maybe one day do those things. But what I really want to be is a graceful woman. I want to be older with gray hair, sitting at a table surrounded by people and to have the wisdom where people can look at me and think that I'm beautiful even though I'm old. For my inner beauty to shine through. That's the place that I want to be. I want to be a person you feel good to be around. That's the beauty I want to have. Seriously, to master this when I'm older. To help other young women and not worry about what I look like. I refuse to be part of the insanity that society tells us we are not enough as we are, and if I can make just a little bit of difference in my country, I will do it. I mean someone has to do something -- why not me?
The more you spread positivity the more it comes back to you. I want to be part of positivity. Small things spread outward and grow. Even for a day or half a day - to have a positive experience, it can change your life.
You need to be a lucky charm for your own projects.
I create art because I want to. I don't want to have a show. I don't see myself being the center of attention. It's not me, doesn't drive me. I create art so I can let go. As I said, my canvas is my project in Colombia. That's my art. That's what I have to put my intention and belief in.
Makú is my passion and what I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life doing. I picture myself helping others and helping myself to grow and be a better person. Hopefully I'll make money so I can keep it going. We all need money. I'm not doing it for free, but if I can have a good life and help others then that's all I want. I don't want to have kids. If love comes then that's perfect. If it doesn't come then... I don't know. Love always comes, if you're open to it.
Love never really goes away - even if it temporarily leaves. It's still there. I'm looking for a soul connection. Sex gets old. Looks change. What's inside? Maybe that's what I'm looking for. A soul connection. I just found out just now! I Want a Soul Connection.
You can have the physical. But the soul. Those relationships last forever. A lifetime and beyond.
To see Andrea's personal work visit www.1againstthegrain.com