At Destination we were lucky enough to have a chat with the luminous Paola Beck in Rome where she is currently living and working. Meet this visual artist and yogi who is making a difference through her work.
She is best known for her social
practice where she aims to change negative social dynamics through public space transformation with community participation. Her large scale mural paintings demonstrate her concern in creating positive messages with significant content.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am half German and half Mexican, and I guess that is a very defining thing in my life. As a nomad I have always moved a lot since I was a kid. I was born in Mexico City, but grew up in a very small town in the south of Germany, where I attended a Waldorf School, which changed my life. When I was eleven we moved back to Mexico City and I was shocked; I had no freedom, couldn’t grab my bike and go on adventures.
Everything had to be done with a car and I started my new life in a catholic girls school. The shock of these two worlds clashing constantly made me realize after many the years the importance of your quality of life and nature. Simple things such as breathing, enjoying and contemplating nature became my main focus after having lived in cities like Rome, London, Berlin, Mexico City, and finally wild nature places like Puerto Escondido (Pacific coast) and Tepoztlán (Semiarid mountain) in Mexico. These experiences made me discover that our connection with nature is our basis as a race to survive and cohabit with our surroundings in a balanced and respectful way.How did you start painting and how did it evolve with time?
I have always drawn since a young age, and after having studied Illustration at IED, Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome, I moved back to Mexico City where I started working in a marketing agency. After one year I quit and started the adventure of being a freelance artist doing illustrations for magazines, music bands and children books. In my spare time I started painting, and I slowly got commissions of mostly portraits.Over the years my work as a painter started to grow exponentially, to the point that I started painting murals for restaurants, art festivals, private clients but mainly on public spaces.
Thanks to this I learned about the impact of a mural on its community, so I started to develop a language of positive messages and simple concepts as respect to nature, our roots, our community and ourselves.What are your the Social commitments that resonate with you as an artist?
In 2010 I started a very close professional path with Laura Reséndiz, a dear friend, art historian and curator from Mexico City. She organized and curated my first solo show, and since then we started collaborating all the time, until one day she asked me to develop an idea she had about reactivating a small open space in the centre of Guanajuato, Mexico, right behind the university and between a wall and a parking lot. We started imagining and thinking of all the possibilities in that tiny space.
We imagined a mural, benches, plants, and recycling containers. In the end that project didn’t happen, but 6 years afterwards we founded CICLO based on the same principle, to activate public spaces to facilitate encounters, wellbeing and teamwork, through public art, permaculture etc.
In 2015 we received a grant from CONACULTA, (Mexican National Commission for Arts and Culture) to work on 9 different spaces in a peripheral area in the south of Mexico City called Magdalena Contreras. The collaboration with artists, architects, farmers and neighbours was a life changing experience.
In 2016 we were invited by Site LAB (collective of artists and architects) to do Ciclo in Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA). Together with the Latin, black and white community we reactivated a public space that was full of garbage, and it turned into a temporary park for ArtPrize 2016, where migrant women and kids could play, be together but mostly feel safe. During our research we noticed that Latin migrant families didn´t use public spaces in that city because they felt they don’t belong. All these experiences have definitely led me towards focusing my work towards community, ecological awareness and the importance of honouring our space and community.What would you say to anybody that would like to start painting today?
Making a living from art is definitely complicated, but then I ask myself ‘what nowadays is not difficult’? If you have the urge to paint, dance, or any kind of artistic expression, you HAVE to do it! It all starts with the humbleness of knowing that at the beginning no one knows you, so you might have to do some things for free, search as much collaboration as possible, connecting with other artists, go to museums, galleries, etc.
Painting for me has been curing, and I find peace in it. So I invite everyone who feels the call to go to an art supply store, buy a block of paper, watercolours, and pencils and just start drawing and experimenting. Of course taking workshops or lessons helps A LOT. What comes to mind when you hear the word Corsica? I´ve always had wanderlust and Corsica (where I haven’t been so far) sounds to me like a beautiful island with landscapes and a sea like nothing I have ever seen before.And last question for our Yogis, what does yoga mean to you?
Yoga changed my life. My mother has been doing yoga for decades, and some years ago she invited me to a yoga class with her and since then I haven’t stopped. I used to think that I needed the rush of sweating and running to feel that I had done some exercise, until I tried yoga!
Yoga for me means getting to know my body, becoming conscious about my breathing, my balance, my health, and listening wisely to my body. It has taught me about humbleness and knowing my limits, but also teaching me that I can break my fears or insecurities, and try out poses that I would have never dreamt I could do. It also helped me a lot to get better at surfing, a sport that I also practice and love. I noticed a huge change in the different sports I do after beginning to do yoga. It seems to me that my technique, strength and awareness became so much better!! It’s also about discipline, which I’m not so good at (yet). But I try to be focused and to meditate a little more every time.
We are looking forward to having Paola with is Corsica next Spring for a Yoga and Creative Expression Retreat Upcoming Yoga Retreats – Corsica. If you would like to learn more about Paola and her work you van contact her at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Lara Boshoff