Interview with Constanza Vallese

Currently living and working out of New York City and Portugal, the Argentinian native Constanza Vallese developed an early interest in art from observing the projects of her family. She was encouraged by her grandmother’s oil paintings, her father’s experiments in sculpture, and her mother’s affinity for interior design. After studying film at UBA (University of Buenos Aires) she moved to New York. We caught up with Constanza to talk about creativity, the inspirations behind her work and living and working in the city.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Argentinian with Italian background. My parents named me Constanza, it means to be constant. 

At a young age I was obsessed with films that led me to study film at University, but a few years into the career it all resumed that I  just loved watching movies and that I wanted to do something else. My present is fulfilled  with making  things  and experimenting with materials colors and textures. A search for contentment in the making, understanding myself more and seeking for beauty. Personal beauty. 

I'm enthusiastic about a few projects I have been working on for a bit, in addition to allow for other things to have space in my life. Place and time for gardening, friends, ocean, quality time for reading and family. I'm paying a lot of attention to be more balanced these days. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Buenos Aires between the city and what we call  “el campo” . 

I recall growing up surrounded by my grandmother's roses and Jasmines in her garden, a long sunday afternoon in the pool waiting for the “asado” to be ready. Long hours of sobremesa with the numerous Italian family that came to visit us each summer, and devouring dulce de leche directly from the jar hidden behind the clothesline in the patio. 

Buenos Aires is engraved in my memory with these interminable memories of summer nostalgia. 

Why and when did you move to New York?

NY happened. It wasn’t a fully convinced decision or a plan. I did a solo trip there in a winter break from school, I was 23, and while I was there I met someone and had a “23 years old” love story, he showed me NY and we lived NY like in the movies for 10 days. Eventually I moved there. I still like to think about my move to NY as a love story. 

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in art?

I think initially I was inspired by how my family were involved in art in their way.  My grandmother Esther painted with oils, and I spent numerous afternoon with her while she was painting, I was very close to her. My dad experimented with wood sculpture and my Nonna Maria curated her garden and created flower arrangements like masterpieces. My grandfather was a metalsmith and my mother studied interior design and collected many antiques pieces, she always took me with her a to markets.  

I feel that a part of me was visually very stimulated by seeing that around, and also they all did that for pure pleasure, nothing else behind it. 

For me is impossible to label myself and I think that is because I am always open for change, but it's in the world of creativity where I find myself.

How would you describe your creative process? 

It's a whirlwind of many stages. A creative challenge motivated by the pleasure of making and experimenting. 

I am an observer of the small things, the details, the tiny gestures. I'm embracing slow processes more and more.

How much does the city and surroundings affect your creative output? 

So much, Specially in a city like NY, highly stimulating, but also can be an overwhelm feeling too.  But I've learnt to be very selective . 

 I have been also spending time in Lisbon for the past two years. It has a completely different dynamic, days feels longer, everything moves slowly, places are closed for some hours in the afternoon and people sit for coffee to contemplate the sky. Creativity happens more for me there in a state of contemplation. Priority is to feel good, less things happen in a day, it is also a place where consumption at least for me doesn’t have a place, I only buy fresh fish in the morning, where in NY I always feel there isn’t enough time, and that I have to run from one thing to another, and I wouldn’t say that the way of working there goes along with my values precisely. 

Do you think working in different cities has shaped your style and approach? 

Perhaps the places I have been, informed a lot of my style and approach. I am positive about that but not sure how direct.  It is with eyes of wonder that I like to move around. 

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like New York? 

At this moment any city tires me, I have been more connected into spending time in nature, more tranquil environments. Nature is my relief, and we should all be done in taking it for granted, If you are aware, eyes open, a city like NY can be treacherous.

For me the beauty of what makes this city amazing is the multicultural aspect of it, the expression that breaths in the air, I particularly don’t believe that struggling is all negative, what helps shapes and direct yourself better is questioning yourself. I think NY can be a little circus at times. It's like at moments is constantly entertaining ideas to distract us for all that is present in our very eyes, and the displacement and inequality is very present, yet we celebrate the absurd. 

Maybe I am a little fish against the current, but I want less these days and NY hardly gives you that option. 

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that still evident in New York? 

I think so. 

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

It is the responsibility of everyone, each of us (humans) to improve and participate in the quality of peoples lives in a city, even the tiniest of gestures counts, but our attentions might be/seems to be a bit out of focus right now. I personally would love to see more recognition to people and fields that are fundamental for our existence, not to be a pessimist but I think we are getting further from each other with the illusion of becoming closer. 

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

I'm working on a beautiful collection of jewelry and other objects with a friend, and a woman I admire ELHANATI.

If you could add or change something about New York, what would that be?

 I just simply can’t forget that NY is part of a greater issue that is the country. 

What would be your dream project? 

I think my dream project is personal, and I wouldn’t like to spoil it, for now, as long as I can continue to do the things that gives me pleasure is all well directed.  

If you could choose any artist/creative to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

 I would love to work with Jonathan Anderson, I just love his eye and how he incorporates crafts into his world all the time, giving artists the opportunity to expand and be seen. To value craftsmanship for me is a pure celebration.  

What do you do to switch off?

I am easily able to switch off mostly because for me that means selfcare and wellbeing, and these are not only trend words It's what we have to do more. I have a 7pm ritual of a bath everyday, I over do it on purpose with the bubbles, and I take the book I am reading and nothing else matters, that’s my way to breath, or I can go and spend 4 hours in the ocean letting that to heal me, it truly does it for me.

What does home mean to you?

Home is who I am, lesson learnt! like a turtle and it’s shell.  

Describe the perfect day for you in New York.

A perfect day, will be a snow day, walking around Central Park. Sometimes I am ok with a cliche ; ) I enjoy getting together with people, walking in and out of galleries, a bike ride to the farmers market. Cooking for friends at home. NY always keeps you busy. 

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does New York or Buenos Aires evoke a personal smell to you?

Buenos Aires smells like churros de dulce de leche, choripan, fresh cut grass and Jasmines.  

If you could choose any city to live in, where would that be, and why?

I would live in Roma or Milan. 

constanza vallese - mixtape

new york & lisbon by constanza vallese

A selection of places in New York and Lisbon recommended by artist Constanza Vallese. See Constanza's citylikeyou profile page here

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