For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed artist-designer-activist Bibi Flores who was born in Austin, Texas, raised in Mexico and who, for the past 12 years, lives and works in New York City. With paint as her main medium, Bibi works in acrylic and occasionally oil. Her most recent series, Goodbye to Assholes, I Deserve Much Better, is a feminist body of work addressing a society in which women are often the target of violence and oppression. For more information, visit www.bibiflores.com.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
My latest body of work is titled, Goodbye to Assholes I Deserve Much Better. It is a project that I started in 2010 connected with my healing story as a survivor from different types of abuse and traumas – a survivor of situations related with rape, emotional and physical abuse, including in some relationships I had in the past, in and between other painful experiences that happened to me from my childhood and throughout my life. It connects with my earliest collections of works too as the story of my emotions. This last project tells my story in a more specific way, puts it out there, and my message brings my voice as a survivor and everything I went through where pain and emotions were kept in a hidden place, to a place of being heard and acknowledged and to be able to heal.
My work represents my feminist point of view; it’s a body of work that includes – as in my earlier works – painting pieces, photographs, installations, the last two usually incorporating the element of painting or paintings in them in full or partially. The focus of the project is to empower and celebrate your one unique personality, love yourself and respect yourself. It also critiques a shallow and judgmental society where women still exist in a submissive structure and are the subject of violence, suppressed feeling and oppression, and sometimes they don’t even know it since they grew up accepting those beliefs. This affects all humans, particularly women, on all levels, places, classes and countries. Victims end up feeling guilty, shamed, devalued, alone and in silence, and it creates wounds that need to heal.
Work started with the process of identification of assholes and moving on from ego-centric personalities, and to heal from present and past events. I’ve been gifted as a very empathetic person and that, in so many cases, lead me to see compassion or good in everybody, even attackers. I had to go a long way to see the bad and think about myself, to build healthy boundaries and recognize emotions I had, express them, empower myself, build respect and recognize that I deserve better, I deserve to be respected, to be loved and happy, to heal from past abuse and to be surrounded people that care and love me as I am.
The word asshole, which I never totally liked, was a very powerful word for me, it was stronger than words like jerk or idiot, and it was exactly what I needed to express and recognize there was abuse and move on to better place. The word asshole in my mind gives me a power to be alert, mark, define and create healthy boundaries, bring respect of the self and start to heal the wounds. When you suffer from emotional and physical abuse, you learn to accept some other types of abuse too, since it doesn’t seem as bad as other but it’s not good either, and my wounds kept attracting some people that opened those wounds more. I needed to change this, move on and heal.
Titles in the work connect with pieces within each other and tell the story, all my process and healing. I also believe in the meanings behind certain colors and shapes connected with emotions and energy, and I believe those are tools as other ways to communicate and it was the way to express my healing message too, and put my healing energy into it. I want to live in a better world where there will be less suffering and more joy, I believe that all humans, especially women, should be feel respected, loved and supported. I deserve much better, all women deserve much better, all women and men, we all deserve better.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
My love for painting as a medium to share my story. I always notice I want to paint my emotions as a form of energy, almost like a portrait of a certain parts of my life, this is since other past work starting mid and late ’90s, and that led me to the depths of my latest project.
My passion is to paint. For me, painting is another type of language that exists and connects to another energetic dimension. Being able to communicate and explore thoughts through colors and shapes is inspiring to me. It is exciting to have your own personal way to express emotion and to tell the message directly from your soul that bridges with you and the world.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
I don’t think I ever completely liked the word superheroes. I think because in my mind it connects to fictional characters that are portrayed as perfect and powerful, and humans don’t need to be superheroes to be powerful too. I’d rather say they are inspiring humans with flaws – not perfect but beings who are or were their unique selves, express it in special ways and got to the depths of my soul. I enjoy from those humans seeing energy transmuted and putting it in a physical plane in infinite ways, and multiple artists sharing their own stamps in their work.
I will say I get attracted by bold works that feel connected energetically with me or with my way to see the world, my thoughts or my ways of communicating by shapes, or colors. Some examples I can mention are: Franz West, Mary Heillman, Yayoi Kusama, Barbara Kruger, Sean Scully, James Turrell, Any Goldworthy, Cai Guo Chag, Kara Walker, Christo and Jeanne- Claude, Pipilloti Rist, Dan Flavin, Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Marina Abramovic and Alexander Calder. It is hard to mention only a few and I’ll add definitely my father Jaime Flores who, with his paintings, introduced me to art. Paint became part of my life, and passion. Since I was young, I loved to play and experiment with it. He also introduced me to energy, metaphysics and other wonders of the world, from enjoying gazing at stars to walking in the park and enjoying those valuable special things in life, those good things about him that I keep close to my heart.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Doing what I love to do, being brave, courageous and believing in myself, my message and my passion. Just do what you feel is right and go out of your comfort zone – that is what creates excitement.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
Right now, I am working on paintings related to my project The Goodbye to Assholes, I Deserve Much Better, and as a part of this I have been working on a mural in three buildings in the same block where I have had my studio almost since I arrived in New York. It’s a mural as a temporal piece, with complicated surfaces almost feeling like barriers and obstacles, so I choose it to be painted ,to be transformed, and connected with worth, open doors, healing energy, transformation and letting go of the past. For a long time, the three buildings had the feel of being abandoned. I have been looking the same way since I arrived in New York. In all the years I have been working on my project and during my healing process, they have been like that, so I thought it would be nice to connect it with my project and transform it and paint over it, like putting healing energy into it, as a symbolism of erasing doors, blocks, barriers and moving on to better. I felt in a point of my life like those abandoned buildings. I want to repaint it in a metaphoric way, giving it life again. It’s also interesting how in this piece, I already brought wounds out, like people feeling entitled to write on the work, or do something to it, and how ethics and respect of a person’s space and healthy boundaries are respected or not. This piece shows where it has been wounded and healed.
As a painter, it’s interesting for me to work outside in these buildings, I had painted artwork in walls before but in private indoor places including galleries and this is the first time outside in buildings in New York.
The building’s owner passed away a few years back. He used to love art we talked about the artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude before so I thought it was going to be special to do something in his building too. My project was accepted and I was able to start to paint in the buildings, so I been working on this as a public painting piece for about two months. Since my latest project has been very personal it hasn’t been easy to put it out, so this piece is like saying I will be brave enough and do it in full now, open that door and put my message out for others to heal too.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
The process of transforming my life and healing wounds, growing and expressing my passion of painting, speaking up and sharing my story and message, helping others to heal, plant that seed helping to make this world a better world.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
I don’t think I would be doing something different, maybe I would be able to do it in a different way or the world in general would be more free, but I believe things happen for a reason. I believe the world is in the process of change, mentality and spirituality, and maybe some barriers could be a way to learn experiences that will lead you to where you need to be.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
I had to overcome a lot of pain, so much pain that I had to overcome by myself, self-doubt, fear of being judged for what happened to me,or being devalued for the same reason. I had to overcome and move away from people who didn’t respect me and didn’t appreciate my worth. It was not easy to share my story and to do it through art in a very personal way. I had to heal and confront it, put the message out and be brave about it. I had to have some guts. Not as easy as it sounds.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Being myself and connecting to my own creative process, the feeling of joy, joy of what I love to do, and put love into my passion. I also love to connect with nature and have time to myself in calm meditative states. Music is also always good.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
I guess fear as a protection, fear sometimes held me back, doubts from past pain, certain beliefs from past experiences that limited me in my past. It was not easy to trust since I was hurt, manipulated and controlled by people. It has been a process of letting go and healing of all those since my project started. It has been a whole process, step by step. leaving behind the past, all toxic or hurtful for my soul, and moving on to a different loving, respectful, environment slowly but surely.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
I have so many different pieces of art that I like, since each one has had a very special importance in my healing process and my story. Each one takes a special moment, like a stamp, and connects with what has been going on in my life.
Some of these works were breakthrough moments in my life when I started to build healthy bounderies and reclaim my own space. I’ll mention the titles of a few: Cabrón Total, 2011; Stop Feeling: NOT Being Enough, 2012; I Say No, No and No to You, Asshole; I Walked The Wire For You Asshole… Not Anymore, 2012; La Gota Que Derramo el Vaso, 2011; Limosnero y Con Garrote, 2011; For a Life Full of Yays Instead of Yikes, 2012; Judge by Assholes Not Anymore, This is a Goodbye, v.2 2013.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Well I admire people who are passionate and had something to say or did something great for the world to make it better, those who go beyond limits to show different ways of thinking, breaking from usual thinking or those who also did something special through art, music, poetry, film or any creative tool or form of expression.
Mahatma Gandhi, as an activist of peace, civil rights and freedom. The Dalai Lama, Amma, Sadhguru.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, with her poetry as a feminist, Hombres necios que acusáis a la mujer sin razón, sin ver que sois la occasion, de lo mismo que culpáis …
Coco Chanel and her very individual way to break the rules of how clothing was supposed to be and to be herself.
Mother Theresa, for her love for humanity,
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Just for being me, for my message and doing my passion.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
I really enjoy to paint in big sizes, like murals, not everybody understands why, a lot of people had to ask me, but I just love it. I also really enjoy in those cases to get paint all over while working. It is like magic dust in the painting version and I guess it reminds me of how I use to play with it when I was a child. It could be in a deep part of my soul – it takes me there and connects with my inner child somehow. I will add to that all kinds of chocolate, water as an element and travel, all without the guilty part and the joy of it.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Don’t worry how you are feeling right now: never heard, abandoned, being strong by yourself and for others, even when you were going through a lot. At one point, you may try to talk with someone about what happened, they will not understand and they will make you feel bad, judge you – don’t listen to them. You are worthy, you have a voice, a message to share, and you were meant to be your own awesomely weird person. The experiences you went through didn’t lower your worth, don’t let anybody tell you differently. Its ok if you feel you don’t think the same as others. All those many who pushed you down and made you feel bad, hurt you emotionally and physically, take advantage of you, and made you feel like you had to fight to be enough. Forget about them! Your were always enough, your gut feeling was right, and you will have time to heal all those wounds, express, love and say what you always want it to say, tell your story, your message, be free, and be just who you are. Never give up, you’re getting to the place, your place where you supposed to be. Just being. Be Bibi.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
There is a reason that I came to New York, I think is the city of the world, were creative minds join, the city for art, it’s the city where you can meet and connect with people from everywhere any place on the planet. Be friends with them, be part of their lives too, get to know different flavors, ways of thinking, different ways of doing things, languages, color meanings, that coexist all together in New York. I am really loving the experience for about 12 year now. Who knows ,maybe later if I will explore other places.
Q: What is your idea of success?
Being able to live from doing my passion, and enjoy every part of it.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Enjoy the moment as it is, enjoy every emotion that it brings. Being in the present and smile, enjoy being you, enjoy your own process, learning, your own time. Life is magic … it is so precious, gorgeous and unique, this life where you and I just happened to coincide and be living at the same time and moment on this beautiful planet. Enjoying each part of your journey, enjoying each moment as a great gift, as different and unrepeatable as it is, that is my idea of happiness.
Q: Final Thoughts?
I’ll end with my MANIFESTO:
Past is ….
Focus on today
Anyone and Anything that
Drains you …. Just…
Let it go…
Be aware of your fears and…
Be with the right good people
And with friends that care
I Say Goodbye to Assholes
Goodbye to Assholes
Goodbye to Assholes
I deserve Much Better
Became and Celebrate Yourself
BI BE JUST BI
For the Right to Be
For the Right to Bi
Just Be…. BIBI
AND Fuck YEAH