Inspired by Bianca: on womanhood, painting and buddhism
Hi friends! How are you and how is your summer going? I hope you're enjoying it to the fullest since August is already here! Take in the long days, embrace the early mornings and spend as much time as you can outdoors, playing and creating! Speaking of creating.. as I am part of this fall season's Nike Project Moonshot, I got to hang out with some of the people from the running crew We Run Uptown who just celebrated their 5 year anniversary (congrats again!) and went through a full redesign of their logo and website! Thanks to Bianca and Victor from Buenastudio! So, when I found out about their Instagrams months ago, I have been meaning to meet.. and guess what, it really didn't happen 'till a couple weeks ago at our orientation camp in Upstate New York!
Long story short, we became in-real-life friends instantly and found out that we work a block away from each other - this interview was taken while we enjoyed some Dominican food for lunch a week ago :) AND I had the opportunity to visit Bianca - artist and runner - at her home, in Uptown Manhattan this past weekend. If you ever get to meet her in person, DO IT, don't wait! You will love her! She's full of joy and has such an adventurous, kind and loving spirit, it's contagious! And I just love the fact that she made me dream big again. Yes, like Let's climb Mount Everest big!
Thank YOU Bianca for being such a positive inspiration, cannot wait to see more of your work and art. Now, to you friends, please continue reading and learn more about her here :)
How are you today Bianca?
I am good, I am chill, it's rainy and I am enjoying some really delicious Dominican food right now.
What made you smile today?
The first thing that made me smile today was waking up in the morning because it's the most peaceful time to me. That's when I paint, when I stretch, when I meditate.
What time do you wake up?
Six in the morning, but more by default, not by choice because of work every day so now, even on a Saturday, I wake up at 6am, but I come to enjoy it.
For the ones who are not familiar, what kind of art do you create?
I am a painter, so I do acrylic on canvas. I do large scale pieces of nude women doing different things with food.
What's the story behind that?
The women usually reflect some experience that I had, they are also a great way to reflect on the things that are going on in my life. Mostly, they reflect bodily agency. Agency being a woman, growing into a woman, taking control and experiencing different things in life, which is why they are usually these close up images of women, nude because you are in their space and they are doing these things with food, reflecting the growth of womanhood, in the kitchen and they learn to cook and then, there is the sexual aspect of food. A lot of my paintings dealt with bodily agency, being a woman and growing up into a woman.
Were women always your topic?
Yeah. At first, the topic was me, I learned how to draw myself. The first time I did that was when I was really young. So, a lot of my practice comes from looking naked in the mirror which also connects to growing into womanhood. So the female body is an important aspect of my work. I feel like as a woman, if you identify as a woman, you can look at these paintings and feel something. You can connect to it, you can connect physically or emotionally to what I am painting.
When did you start painting?
Painting is fairly new, I'd say I started painting privately maybe 2 years ago, before that I was always the paper and pencil kind of girl because I enjoyed the privacy and being secretive, and then, I got to an age where I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, show off what I can do.. to people, show off myself. Then, I did something scary, I painted a giant painting and put it on Instagram and then, from there, my art grew, my confidence grew, my creativity is just always going to new places.
Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from this project that I started doing a little while ago called 'About my brown'. It's a heritage project which I was exploring, exploring the oral stories of my ancestry when everyone was doing 23andme, DNA tests etc. I actually was talking to my grandmother, my grandparents about where I come from, my lineage and things that I would have never known otherwise if I hadn't spoken to my elders about it. So, my inspiration from my artwork, whom I am growing up to be, it all comes from my family. My grandmother especially because she is so fierce in her identity, in her background, who she is, she keeps stacks of family trees and she knows things from the 1600s, she is so sure of herself, where she comes from... that is my inspiration, developing into the woman that I am.
What's your cultural background?
My mothers side, she is Dominican, and my fathers side, he is Indonesian and Surinamese, so my grandfather is from Suriname in South America and my grandmother is Indonesian, with a whole bunch of other things mixed in.
Have you been?
My grandfather lives in Suriname, but I haven't been yet. I always get yelled at: why haven't you been! It's the jungle and you have to take a yellow fever pill before you go and that's pretty intense! I am from New York, so I am a city girl!!!
So were you born and raised here in New York?
Yes, I was born and raised here. As a child and as an adult, I've gone to the Netherlands, visited my grandmother a couple of times and I love it there, but I am a born and raised New Yorker. I don't know if I'll stay here forever, but for now, this is where I am.
So, what's up with Buena Studio?
Buena Studio is a creative partnership between me and my boyfriend, who is also an artist / designer. We live under the same roof and it was only fate for us to come together and combine our creativity. It's a creative space / design studio where we cater to small businesses and cool people we believe in and we provide design services for them. It's been really awesome!
We are based Uptown, Manhattan where there is no real creative studio yet, so we're untouched ground right now which is also really fun and exciting!
Tell me a little bit more about your running? When did you start?
I started running 3 years ago. I never played sports, didn't grow up with it but I created this bucket list... Every year, I create a new bucket list, and I wrote down: I am going to run a marathon and it will be badass. So that's how I got into running. I did the 9+1 (which qualifies you to run the NYC Marathon the following year trough NYRR) and then, from there I made friends. It just became consistent and now, I am training for my second marathon which is lots of fun and a lot of work!
You're running New York this year?
Yes, I am running New York the second time!
Don't know why I am doing it again, it's painful (laughs), but I think after this year, I'll definitely try to globe trot, go somewhere else and see some new places! Running the NYC Marathon is kind of what you have to do as a New Yorker.
Does running influence your painting? And vice versa?
I think both ways it does. In running, there is definitely a mental component and this mentality of 'You don't know where you're going but you're going there' and there is meditation involved and I think, all of that goes into my paintings, too. Sometimes when I paint, I don't know where I am going when I am putting something on a canvas but there is this consistency. Just being consistent and knowing that 'I am going to get there'... yes, I am going to have some doubt along the way and I might want to throw my canvas out, but I feel like those things that I take from running, that patience in that, you will continue on and I put that into my paintings as well. It gives me the ability to be like: you know what, just go for it! Just finish it. You're going to be satisfied because you did that shit.
Tell me a little bit about your buddhism background-which I am super interested in.
So, I've been a practicing buddhist for about 3 years. I feel like 3 years is my pivotal moment.
Did something happen?
I had this really dark moment in my life. I became really anxious and was in a really toxic place, I had really bad panic attacks and I was not in a healthy place. I wasn't raised in any one religion per se. I had books that explained the four main religions of the world, so I was always into learning new belief systems and then, I got to a point where I needed something to ground me. Someone recommended me this podcast, which was called 10% happier and it was this really watered down introduction to meditation and buddhism. I don't know if I have to prove something all the time, but I go full force, so I did an online Harvard course about the Pāli canon and about buddhist texts and history and then, from there, I just kept delving deeper. It's been an integral part of my development as a human being. It's taught me to not only be present in the moment, but also to spread this love for people which is hard in the city and I think everyone in New York should have a little bit of Buddhism in them. It's really hard not to curse people out and think the worst 24 hours a day. So, there are these moments where I have to come back to myself, collect myself and say: you know what, I am going to put some positive love at you and then of course, there are other things like the community, New York Insight Meditation Center, and even with myself, I am really like a solo-person, so just like running, meditation helps to ground me.
With buddhism, there is a lot of self development, there is a lot of self reflection, there is a lot of love to give. You learn about the love you didn't have to give. And you learn to give it anyway.
Do you practice any other sports? Other than running?
I was a super heavy yogi for 3 years, but then, I got into running and then, I wasn't as flexible anymore, I was tired. I don't know, I just want to meditate, roll out and roll into bed. Maybe I'll stretch my arm here and there (laughs). I mean, I still do yoga, just not as heavily as before. I just feel like I am in a different place now.
I feel like yoga, meditation, and even buddhism, comes in and out of your life, when you need it the most. It's not something, even running, that you need 24 hours, 7 days a week and I feel like running fills that void, that yoga did. So for now, I roll out using the foam roller :)
Any tips for aspiring artists or painters?
Just do it! I think you give yourself so much opportunity, so many excuses not to do something that sometimes you just have to shut that up and just do it because.. I can honestly say I am the queen of bullshit, so I can talk myself out of doing anything. Literally anything, but you know what, you don't want to do that. This is going to happen and that is going to happen. You can do that so much but instead, also spend that time doing it and putting it out there, and I feel like that's where I am right now, which is just shutting down the self doubt. It's easy to stay comfortable and say 'it doesn't work for me right now, but then you have to think, when is this going to work for you really?!' So my advice is: shut up and do it.
Goldtogreen started out as a space to find balance, how do you find balance in these different worlds, especially as a young Millenial?
As I've said earlier, I am corporate one minute, then I am freelancer, then the next minute, I am a painter, so I don't think I have mastered yet how to find balance but that's also part of the fun. Having a set routine, balance or not, I would get bored in and it's kind of exciting to be sometimes like oh shit, I am painting too long, I am going to be late for work and then sometimes, not caring, because I am excited about something outside and I like that imbalance, but I think the important part for me in finding balance is, finding a space where I can be happy doing all three. It's about putting myself in a mental space where I can enjoy all three, whichever one takes priority in that. It's like enjoying however my time is divided. You can have balance and not like those things that are balanced. You can go home at 8 o clock at night, go back to work the next day, yeah that might be balance, but being happily imbalanced sometimes, finding a happy medium between all your craziness in life.
Any last things that you want to put out there? Especially for the women?
Be confident in yourself, be confident in what you create and don't let self doubt get in the way ever. And that's how you'll become the most badass woman around.