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Claudia Talavera, A 21st Century Artist with a Mission of Faith

To represent the divine, especially in contemporary settings, is no mean feat. Today, people engage in more individualistic ways of worship, and there seems to be no linear way of accurately capturing what faith means to people. 

But Peruvian artist Claudia Talavera takes this as both a challenge and a responsibility. She describes her love for art as something “inherent” — perhaps as inherent as the Catholic spirituality she’d nurtured all her life. Claudia wants her work to be “an instrument to restore people's bond with faith.” 

Taking inspiration from modern artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Talavera uses art as a medium for her “mission” to spread the joy of her faith to others.

[NOTE: This article has been translated to English from Spanish.]

How did art come into your life?

Desde siempre, desde que era una niña y recuerdo, tengo absoluta afinidad por todo lo que significa transformar y crear. La pintura se convirtió finalmente en un medio, pero me gusta hacerlo todo desde una sensibilidad artística. Es inherente.

Since I was a child, I remember having an absolute affinity for all that it means to transform and create. Painting eventually became a medium, but I like to do everything from an artistic sensibility. It is inherent.

What does the creation process look like for you? How do you feel while you’re creating a piece, and after a piece is complete?

El proceso creativo es como una danza, hay que empezar, dar el primer paso y luego todo empieza a fluir. Además el proceso creativo necesita orden y organización. Sin estructura, nada funciona, no se llega a buenos resultados. Eso lo he aprendido con el tiempo. Mientras hago arte recorren varias emociones, pero a diferencia de lo que piensa la gente-que hacer arte es un momento relajado- yo diría más bien que es un momento de tensión, tensión cognitiva acompañada de mucha acción, a veces es placentera y a veces muy frustrante. Cuando termino una pieza es porque creo que a llegado a un equilibrio que no quiero romper. Pero tiene que ver con el tiempo, a veces vuelvo a obras antiguas y las transformó ligeramente, veo que algo falta y le meto mano sin miedo. Que una obra esté terminada para mi  depende del contexto, en  ese caso,  cómo me siento o lo que busco en ese momento es variable. 

The creative process is like a dance. You have to start and take the first step, and then everything will begin to flow. In addition to that, the process needs order and organization. Without structure, nothing would work and you won’t get good results. I’ve learned that over time. 

When I make art, various emotions run through. But unlike what people think — that making art is a relaxing moment — I would say that it is a moment of tension, accompanied by a lot of action. Sometimes it’s pleasant, and sometimes it’s very frustrating. 

When I finish a piece, it’s because I think it has reached a balance that I don’t want to break. But sometimes I go back to old works and slightly transform them; if I see that something is missing, I’ll put my hand on it without fear. Whether a work is finished for me depends on how I feel about it, or what I’m looking for at that moment.

‘Holy Family’ by Claudia Talavera (Source)

How do you incorporate Catholicism into your art? What role does your faith play in what you create?

Una vez alguien me dijo algo muy bonito, “no eres una pintora que haga arte catolico, eres una católica que se le nota cuando hace arte”.  Me gusto mucho esa definición, creo que contiene algo muy poderoso que tiene que ver con la identidad y con que siempre, hagamos lo que hagamos, vamos a dejar salir aquello que somos. Siempre y cuando seamos transparentes, claro.  Hacer arte Sacro Católico, es para mi una gran responsabilidad, me llena de orgullo, de amor y de ganas de contagiar a otros la fe que vivo. 

Someone once said something very nice to me: “You are not a painter who makes Catholic art, you are a Catholic whose faith shows when she makes art.” I really liked that. I think it’s something very powerful that has to do with identity. Whatever we do, we are going to let out who we are. As long as we are transparent, of course. 

Making sacred Catholic art is a great responsibility for me — it fills me with pride, love and the desire to spread the faith that I live to others.

In your Instagram bio, you have “Con María, para María y en María”. The Virgin Mary is obviously a prominent fixture in your works. Why her specifically? What does she signify in your life? 

Esta frase viene del Tratado de la Verdadera Devoción de San Luis María Griñón de Monfort, donde nos revela la fundamental misión de María para nuestro camino de fe. Si nos consagramos a Maria, entonces hacemos todo con ella, para ella y en ella, que significa sostenidos por ella y por ende todo desemboca en  Jesús. Ella es el camino hacia su hijo por lo tanto nuestra escalera al cielo. Yo intento rezar mi rosario diario y poner en sus manos todos lo que soy y lo que tengo, desde mis hijos hasta mi trabajo. 

This phrase comes from the Treaty of True Devotion of San Luis María Griñón de Monfort, which reveals Mary’s fundamental mission in our journey of faith. If we consecrate ourselves to Mary, then we do everything with her, for her, and in her. This means that we’re also supported by her, and therefore, everything leads to Jesus. She is the way to her son and our stairway to heaven. I try to pray my daily rosary, put everything I am and what I have in her hands — from my children to my work.

You depict traditional imagery in your own new style. How do you find the balance between exploring traditional images and exploring new styles?

Yo tengo muchas contradicciones con mi trabajo, una de las más fuertes es querer hacer un arte sacro mucho más profundo y cargado de elementos teológicos, pero termino haciendo algo más superficial. Sin embargo la estética que se desprende de los colores, los trazos libres y la simpleza de la imagen hace que se acerque mucho al espectador. Mientras yo busco complicarme, los que aprecian y compran mi obra buscan sencillez. Pienso que el equilibro está en ser muy honesta y encontrar una forma bella y respetuosa de representar lo divino, no es fácil, muchas veces descarto creaciones que siento que no funcionan. 

I have many contradictions with the way I work. One of the strongest is wanting to make deeper sacred art loaded with theological elements, but then I end up doing something that feels superficial. However, the aesthetic that emerges from the colors — the free lines and simplicity of the image — make it very close to the viewer. While I seek something more complicated, those who appreciate and buy my work seek simplicity. 

I think that the equilibrium is found in honesty. Finding a beautiful and respectful way to represent the divine is not easy. Many times, I end up discarding creations that I feel do not work.

Art by Claudia Talavera (Source)

As an artist, who are your biggest influences?

Sin duda para mi las más grandes influencias están en el arte moderno, artistas como Picasso, Matisse, Gaugan, su libertad expresiva, el color como protagonista, la síntesis en la forma y las líneas, es algo que recojo y estudio con mucha admiración. Pero hoy en día la capacidad de recoger inspiración mediante los medios digitales y las plataformas online son simplemente maravillosas, tener acceso a tanta imagen y poder tener todos los museos y revistas y libros de arte a tu alcance, es algo que nunca soñamos qué sucedería. 

Without a doubt, my greatest influences are in modern art: artists like Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin. [Their works use] expressive freedom, colors as a protagonist, and synthesis in form and lines. These are things that I study with great admiration. But today, the ability to gather inspiration through digital media and online platforms is wonderful too. Having museums, magazines, and art books at your fingertips is something that we’ve never dreamed of happening.

Do you feel that a level of Christian spirituality is necessary to appreciate your art?

No, creo que es muy literal, no hace falta tener conocimiento de nada, pero si una cercanía al amor de Dios hace que uno se conecte desde otra perspectiva. Una experiencia de fe siempre trasciende y la obra se llena de significado para aquel que la observa.

No. I think it is very literal — it’s not necessary to have religious knowledge of anything, but a closeness to God can make one connect from another perspective. An experience of faith always transcends, and the work can be filled with meaning for anyone who observes it.

How do you incorporate Christian art in a 21st century world? Do modern sensibilities and styles play a role in your conceptualization process?

Yo trato de revisar algunos aportes del arte cristiano sobre todo en pintura y evaluar que qué símbolos son importantes. No siempre los utilizo, pero intento que algunos detalles permanezcan para que no se den cambios abruptos y se pierda el mensaje. Yo intento integrar mis propios procesos artísticos y estéticos y conceptualizarlos a través de la espiritualidad católica. 

I try to review some contributions of Christian art and evaluate which symbols are important. I don't always use them, but I try to keep some details so that there are no abrupt changes and the message is lost. I try to integrate my own artistic and aesthetic processes and conceptualize them through my Catholic spirituality.

‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’ by Claudia Talavera, available at Consecrea

Decorate your home with Claudia Talavera’s rendition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Purchase it here.
Follow Claudia Talavera on Instagram here.

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