Life is rarely a walk in the park. No matter who you are or where you’re from, a worthwhile life will most often include a good amount of obstacles, obligations, and adversity. Although there are people who will dwell in self-pity as a result—sitting around endlessly complaining about how unfair the world is, there are those inspiring, fearless souls who just don’t have time to sit and moan. Instead, they take life head-on, whipping it up into one crazy, festive and amazing adventure.
Art Motif Magazine’s next featured artist, Southern Arizona native Katrina “Katapixia” Hassan Vidaurri, is one of those bold and fearless people. Rather than waiting around for the perfect life and environment to create her art, Katapixia is flexing her imagination muscle and carving out the necessary time, space and energy to ingeniously bring to life her Chicano heritage through witty and colorful graphic designs, paintings, illustrations, screen prints, and paper maché piñatas.
What is essential to your work as an artist? It is essential that I have music, inspiration and/or a deadline.
What works, events, or moments in your life have influenced your art? Events that have influenced my life are usually stressful ones. When I am stressed it is nice to make some art to get out of my head, but it is not always the case. If I am annoyed or angry, I usually can’t focus and leave artmaking for when I am more inspired.
How do your background, cultural roots, and/or sense of identity manifest in your art? My culture and roots definitely play a huge part in my art. I love color and bold designs. I am one of very few people that make piñatas in London so you can say I kind of have a niche market going on here. I think my Chicana identity definitely shows in my work. One example is when I was commissioned to make a giant Frida Kahlo piñata head with the logo of a Mexican restaurant. I didn’t know where to put the logo so that it would look good. Then, out of nowhere, the idea to give the piñata a tattoo on its neck featuring the logo came to mind. I thought it looked good with a touch of “el barrio”!
How has your artistic practice changed over time? Over the years my practice has changed by morphing into mostly piñata-making. I suppose it is the “exoticness’’ of it. There aren’t any dulcerias around here! I have also been painting and working with kids, teens and adults with disabilities. I really enjoy working with the adults and the teens. They have such a good vibe and create some great artwork. They are also fun as hell!
Are there any themes you gravitate towards more in your works? Themes in my work can be anything. I love the challenge. I usually do piñatas for either children’s parties or crazy-themed parties. Every now and then I’ll get a super random one. A funny one was “El Gato Asustado” (the Scaredy Cat). I received a phone call from someone I didn’t know, a señor from Ecuador. He asked for an airplane piñata and then, the next day, his wife called to ask for a cat piñata. She wanted the cat to look scared. They were on a super tight deadline so I went straight to work. The following day, the señora called to say, “Señora Katrina, please, can the cat not be scared anymore?’’ and I’m just thinking, qué QUÉ?!? I politely informed her that the cat was already scared and could not be un-scared if she wanted it finished on time. Most likely, she just didn’t understand the process. That experience taught me to think twice about taking on super short deadlines with customers I don’t know.
A theme I get asked for often in London is “authentic Mexican style”. Last year I was asked to do an ofrenda for a big Día De Los Muertos party. That was truly a mental job. It was set in a damp, dark tunnel where plague-infected bodies had once been stored. Creeped out is an understatement!
Do you have a preferred genre/style/medium? I don’t have a favorite genre, style or medium. I love the freedom of changing up styles and using different materials and techniques. I also enjoy working with different mediums and really like doing collaborations with my friends and their different styles and mediums.
What inspires you (e.g. places, scents, elements, moods, sounds)? My inspiration comes from listening to all sorts of music and traveling. Depending on my mood, the music I listen to can be anything from mambo, to boogaloo, cumbia norteña, punk, psychedelic, and indie. I also need to work early in the day when my mind and body are still fresh. For some reason, I went from being a night owl to a morning person after having a kid. The best place for me to work is at home when everyone else is out of the house.
What is your creative process? What does a typical day of creative expression look like for you? A typical day for me is waking up around 6:30 AM, helping the kid get himself ready for school, feed said kid, then go drop him off at school. Unfortunately, there are no school buses in London! Then I go back home and make myself another coffee and maybe a second breakfast. Then I put on some music, the radio or a podcast, and finally get to work. I work until lunchtime. I try to eat something tasty for lunch for extra inspiration. If the work has stumped me or is particularly challenging, I may take a quick break. I’ll have more coffee, call one of my friends, or just change the scenery for a while.
My work changes from day to day. One day can be only graphic design, while the next can be all about planning and getting materials ready for one of the classes I teach. Another day can be a total mess-making day of paper maché. It just depends on what my deadlines are. At the moment, I am also working on some Spanish to English written translations for a friend who lives in Chicago. Some days, I don’t work on any art at all. One of those days may just be “el cleaning” day. Although it may be boring, it pays the bills and gives me the opportunity to listen to random, interesting podcasts. In the back of my mind though, I may be thinking of a solution for an art-related job that I’m feeling stumped in.
Different people perceive and respond differently to art. Do you recall any memorable responses by others to your works? The most memorable reactions to my work are usually squeals of delight and big, fat smiles on kids’ and adults’ faces when they first set eyes on the piñata they ordered.
What piece of advice would you give other aspiring artists? When I had just graduated from school, I asked fellow Nogales, AZ artist Zacarias for work. Even though he didn’t have any work for me, he was very nice and shared this piece of advice with me: “Don’t ever, ever work for free. Charge a symbolic amount, but never free.” Even though he didn’t know me, he shared these words that have been super useful for me. When you are just starting out, a lot of people will promise to promote your work if you just do this or that for them for free. Usually, they are huge jobs, too. His words saved me a ton of headaches.
Who are your favorite writers and/or poets? I have a few favorite writers. Margaret Atwood for her feminist dystopian yet sometimes humorous books. A writer who surprised me with a great story and a very familiar setting was Chiquis Barrón. I really enjoyed reading her novel Café Dulcet and I can’t wait for her to write more novels. No pressure whatsoever, Chiquis! My favorite male writer is probably Victor Villaseñor, his book Rain of Gold is so long, detailed, crazy and true. It inspires me to want to write my nana and tata’s stories too. Yeah, one day!
Who are your favorite painters? My favorite painter is probably my uncle and nino Mike Garino. He is also a great ceramicist. I love his 1970s paintings. My favorite is one he gave my mom as a wedding present. It’s officially mine now. Ok, mom? My mom’s other brother, El Mayor Garino, is also known for his super mosaics. The arts are in our DNA, I guess! My friends Violetta Silva, Shelley Scurran, Orsina Pasa, Eloisa Henderson-Figueroa, Marisa Polin, and Fara O’Connor all have very different and interesting art styles, too.
Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in real life? My real-life heroes are my parents La Honey and Chamoy. They are both hardworking and have a great sense of humor. Thanks to them, I have a good work ethic. They’ve never let adversity bring them down. Also, they are always making fun of me. ¡Son bien carrilleros! They are the best and I wish I lived closer to them!
Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in fiction? My fictional heroine would probably have to be Katniss from the Hunger Games or Toby in the Year of The Flood. Katniss is a badass. Toby has an incredible memory and remembers all sorts of plant remedies. Juan in Rain of Gold is pretty cool too. He never gives up and he’s always outsmarting everyone!
What is your favorite motto? My favorite motto is, “es mejor pedir perdón que pedir permiso” (it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission). Who knows where I first heard this many moons ago. In other words, just take the risk. Go for the adventure. That is my interpretation of it. ¡No paaaasa naaadaaa!
What is your idea of happiness? My idea of happiness is probably getting a little house with an art studio in the back either in Nogales, Rio Rico, Bisbee, or somewhere nearby in Arizona. I’d love to work on my art part-time and then work with the community somehow. I’d like to have an amazing garden, a chill-out space, and a nice, big art studio where I could work in peace. That way I could also have all the Mexican food in the world without having to make all the tortillas myself. I’d also take full advantage of Arizona’s good weather. Let’s face it, we usually have great weather in Southern Arizona and we just don’t take advantage of it when we are there. I know I didn’t! Oh, yes, I would also travel the world for collaborations with other like-minded locos.
To learn more about Katapixia and see more of her work, click on the following links: