VARAMODE: I suppose we should start with the obvious – ”How Do I Feel Today” and your ongoing creative collaboration with photographer Rogerio Mesquita. How did it all begin?
NATHALIE: I first met Rogerio in 2014, and at the time he had a studio in an artist residence in São Paulo. I started going to his studio and we’d discuss our mutual desire to start an art project, but at the time we didn’t know what exactly. At one point we did a shoot where I was making different expressions and faces, but we promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until probably six months later that I thought of something and went back to ask him for some of those photos. I’ve always believed that we express ourselves through art, and I had this idea to paint something over my face. Rogerio printed a few of the images for me and I took them back to New York. I started to paint over them, just a few as tests, and eventually I sent them to Rogerio.
VARAMODE: How did he react?
NATHALIE: He said, “Ok, wait. I have to think about it.” I was like, “Whaaat!?” [laughs] I think he didn’t like it very much. But the next day we had a Skype call and he had the suggestion of doing many, many more of them – one per day for an entire year. This just blew my mind. I remember thinking, “This is it. This is what I’m going to do.” This was back in November 2014. I started it officially three months later on January 1, 2015.
VARAMODE: It must have been a bit daunting, knowing that you were committed to 365 different paintings. Did you ever have any doubts about finishing?
NATHALIE: It was a challenge for me because I knew I was going to paint one per day for the whole year, but I always knew that I would make it to the end. Maybe not everyone around me believed that I would, but I’m very disciplined so when I focus on something I finish it.
VARAMODE: You mentioned it was a challenge.
NATHALIE: The process was hard, especially in the beginning. At first I was too close to it, to close to myself. I was painting only on my face, or within the lines of my face, or on the shadows of my face. It was like this for the two months. By the third month I said **** that. It was difficult, but I believe that we have to search for inspiration every day. Inspiration is in the air, we just have to connect with it. Practicing art for 40 minutes a day really helped – it forced me to look for it. When I was working on “How Do I Feel Today”, I was thinking differently.
VARAMODE: Because you were open to finding inspiration anywhere?
NATHALIE: Yes. And because I knew that I was going to go home and that I had to paint. Every single day, no cheating. I feel that the process and regimen of the project really made me grow as an artist. You have to be creative if you are going to do something every day, especially if each day has to be different than all of the others. And I wasn’t inspired every day. Some days I would be very inspired and the idea would come easily. Some days I didn’t want to look at that ****ing picture, you know? But I still painted.
VARAMODE: It must get difficult staring at a photo of yourself every day.
NATHALIE: Like I said, it was a challenge. It’s hard. But I learned a lot about myself and that was the most important part. The goal of “How Do I Feel Today” is to use art as a tool of self-knowledge. That is what I truly believe, and that is why I am doing it as a workshop with kids. I want to encourage them to practice this kind of art. When you practice art, you connect with your inner self – you put your emotions out there and you learn and grow as a person.
VARAMODE: Did you know when you started the project that you wanted to utilize it to help at-risk and underprivileged kids?
NATHALIE: No, not at first. It was during the process, around April, that I had the idea. The project was making me grow so much and feel so good that I wanted to share this feeling with other people, and children, or anybody that wanted to paint. Anyone can paint a “How Do I Feel Today”. You can. You can paint a weeklong project!
VARAMODE: So when you do the project with the kids, is it just you? Or is Rogerio involved in that as well?
NATHALIE: Rogerio is always helping me, but by the time I started doing them he was living in New York, and I did the workshops in Brazil. He was able to attend one though, at the end of last year. In total I held 14 workshops, with more than 1,500 children. But I always had help! My mother helped me with all of them – she’s like the producer of “How Do I Feel Today”. She’s incredible, I don’t think I could have done it without her. I also had friends help out. It was all very homemade.
VARAMODE: What were the workshops like?
NATHALIE: We would go to the favelas, to the children, and photograph them. Then we would print all of the pictures and have them paint over themselves. I would also speak to them and encourage them to practice art and help them to see that they were also an artist. Everyone has an artist in them. And can be an artist. “You are an artist” – that is the message that I want to spread. At the end, we would also give them art supplies so that they could practice at home.
VARAMODE: So what is next for the project?
NATHALIE: I want to expand to other countries outside of Brazil. All of the workshops were done with the proceeds from selling the original paintings that I did – I took 40% of the revenue and put it into making this social project, but now the money is over. At the moment we are searching for partners to help us make the project bigger so that we can take it to other cities and countries.
VARAMODE: And what is next for you? Another series?
NATHALIE: For sure I will do another series, but something different. I’m working on something right now with Rogerio but it’s larger paintings, not every day paintings. It’s a deconstruction of the body and face. Even though it is not “How Do I Feel Today”, it is still of myself because what I paint is from within.
VARAMODE: We haven’t heard even a whisper about this yet!
NATHALIE: For now, I’m hiding it. I haven’t posted anything about it. It’s going to take a while to finish because I have so many things to focus on right now, but I told Rogerio let’s just keep doing this without a clear end for now. I’ve done three paintings so far.
VARAMODE: Can you say anymore about it?
NATHALIE: A little bit. We broke a mirror and then Rogerio photographed me through the different reflections of the reconstructed mirror. So my body is deconstructed and I paint over those pictures as well. As we evolve the project and the idea, we want to talk about the breaking of convictions and certainties. It’s pretty interesting. But, we have lots of different things that we always want to do. Also, I have “Art Lovers”.
VARAMODE: Been wondering when we would get to that one.
NATHALIE: That one is fun. We call it an Insta-Project. People always ask me if I work as an artist, but I don’t like to say that I do. I like to say that I’m an art lover. My soul is an artist. So I made “Art Lovers” around the idea that I was the lover of the art. And I kiss statues. All of the statues that I can. That’s what I do, because I am the lover of all of them.
VARAMODE: So are you always on the lookout for statues?
NATHALIE: I wouldn’t say that I look for them…but when I see one I have to kiss. I even kissed one in the Metropolitan [Museum of Art]!
VARAMODE: And you didn’t get thrown out?
NATHALIE: [laughs] I was with my mother. I gave her my phone and I said, “Mom…be fast!”
VARAMODE: Surprised you didn’t set off an alarm! So is that your favorite museum?
NATHALIE: My favorite is the MoMa [Museum of Modern Art, an art museum located in New York City]. Maybe because it is the one I know the most. I’m a member there, so I go every month. Modern art is my favorite.
NATHALIE: Any other questions for me? Now I feel like I’m the one doing the interview!
VARAMODE: Yes, tell us all of your beauty secrets.
NATHALIE: [laughs] Oh, my secrets? Well, I eat paint. I eat a lot of paint. I think red is the best for the skin…it gives me a healthy glow.
Discover more about VARAMODE member Nathalie Edenburg by visiting her profile.
To find out more about “How Do I Feel Today”, or to become a sponsor, visit their website www.howdoifeeltodayproject.com.