Valeska Soares: ‘It can be really exciting to be lost’

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The first West Coast retrospective of visual artist Valeska Soares’ work, on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, is a multisensory experience. Fresh, pungent lilies hide under a stainless-steel fainting couch. A canopy of lightbulbs invites visitors to pull the brass chains and create a lit masterpiece. A huge chunk of taffy stimulates your taste-buds.

The exhibition, Any Moment Now, is part of a massive series celebrating Latin American art launched by the Getty Museum called Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Over 70 exhibitions are on view in museums, galleries and art centers across Southern California, including four shows in Santa Barbara.

KCRW toured Soares’ work alongside the visual artist herself.

Lugar Comum, 2016 (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

On letting the art speak for itself

“Each of these works is experienced personally. One of the ideas of the show was to experience and look at the art again, instead of reading about it (there is no text explanation next to any of her pieces). The tendency today is to read about visual arts instead of look at it. There’s so much text telling people what to think or what to see. So I know, to some people, it can be scary to walk into a museum without directions, but it can be really exciting to be lost.”

Un-rest, 2010 (Ronald Amstuz)
Fainting Couch, 2002 (courtesy of the artist)

On smell, touch, and the space between

“I love playing with materials and concepts. Early on in my career, perfume was sort of a metaphor for this division between attraction and repulsion. All the materials that I deal with work towards this borderline – the space in between things that are very attractive and very repulsive at the same time.

Pathologies, 1994 (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
Finale, 2013 (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

On being ‘Latin American,’ and why it doesn’t really matter

“We should deal with this idea of the Americas as geographical instead of ethnical. I don’t think the North has the ownership of the American citizenship. I’ve always been American – South American, North American. My work is representative of my process, not a specific country – neither America or Brazil. More labels and divisions aren’t going to help. Actually, it’s going to make it worse.

Vaga Lume, 2007 (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

The exhibition is on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art through December 31st.