Courage: How do we develop it? For many artists, the answer to this is the same as when asked how they nurtured creativity. The lucky ones of course came from environments where curiosity, individualism and artistic enterprise were valued, even encouraged. But not everyone is so blessed. For many, it may have been that one person or huddle of persons who created that safe haven. As Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas shares with us here, it was his own siblings, his older brothers and sisters, who made for him that “oasis in the desert.” A place for ideas outside of the acceptable. Alternative universes which stretched beyond the walls erected by fear. Where violence and control held no currency. The perfect ground to grow an artist, or anyone who dares imagine…
INTERVIEW WITH EDGAR NOE MENDOZA MANCILLAS
Alicante, Spain ~
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Edgar, I have to ask you about Mutante. Besides being such a fine piece, technically, it packs a pretty powerful psychological punch. This is not just a portrayal of an angry woman.. You include in your portrait of her, in the very muscles of her face, in her eyes, her body stance…a myriad of nuances. Can you tell me a little about this particular work?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: One thing I’d like to make understood is that I am not trying to create stereotypes or caricatures; the look, the actions and the scenes I put my subjects in is only to frame the inner emotions of what is going on inside the people I am portraying. They are surrounded with a particular atmosphere to give a specific narrative or symbolic significance, but most of all, I am interested in observing them internally; my intention is that their faces be the principal tool we use to read and understand them.
When I create my ideas and the environments for my characters, I try to reach the limit ~ without going over it ~ in subjects that can seem violent or ridiculous. Mutante is a painting that can easily be confused with a “gory” subject, but this is only a device for generating a language necessary to achieve my main motive, which is the psychological concept.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: “Lumen” is another favorite work of mine for similar reasons. These are deeply complex, rich portraits you are painting ~ not how we’re used to seeing women portrayed at all. Far from objectified creatures, these are intelligent human beings who capture our imaginations by hinting at the stories they hold within. Were you raised in a family of strong women? Who have been the heroines in your life?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: To determine and express in a painting the essence and character of a person in an interesting way is actually very hard work. Our culture has created subliminal stereotypes of both men and women, sometimes very unfavorable. The artist needs to detach from prejudices and honor the inner expression of the person, independently of her or his physical look, age or gender.
I am interested in models who express introspection but at the same time existential vitality.
Without a doubt, my mother is my heroine with her example of resistance towards the challenges that life has put in her way.
Also, in Mexico, matriarchy is a wonderfully good thing, despite the ugly misogyny that often accompanies it.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: What were the stories and myths that captured your own imagination when you were a boy?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas:
I grew up in a neighborhood where the values of the people were mainly based on a sexist structure. It was also a violent atmosphere where the strongest children stood out.
In that environment, it was preferable to keep quiet any artistic or creative inquisitiveness, or risk being judged or banished. Only at home when I was alone or with my closest school friends, did that imaginative and creative side of me sneak out.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: Nevertheless, my older siblings tried to be cultivated in every kind of knowledge, and I guess they were sort of seen as weirdos in our neighborhood, which allowed me an oasis in the middle of an otherwise desert. They played chess, listened to classic music and sophisticated progressive rhythms, challenged opinions and news about technology, science, history and philosophy, and instead developed a philosophical structure based upon our own multidimensional spiritual experience.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: Without question, despite my outward apathy, they were for me like some sort of extraordinary encyclopedia, and the ideas and activities they shared stayed with me to fuel my imagination.
Most of all, I was fascinated in the “esoteric and occultist” literature, such as The Third Eye, by T. Lobsang Rampa, or the books written by Carlos Castaneda that suited perfectly with my persona of isolation and solitude, despite the fact that I didn’t understand many of the concepts. Nevertheless, any sophisticated tale or even a simple popular story related to those topics that came to my ears caught my attention as a child and as a preteen.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: You frequently use the theme of doppelgangers or twins, or women as partners to one another. Can you tell me a bit about this?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: It was unknown for me this name to describe a specie of a phantasmagorical double of a living person. The topic is very interesting and in that vision of the copy it appears to me disturbing and mysterious talking in a mystical, fantastic and psychological way.
I think my characters seek their own self-analysis to obtain answers about themselves. They also create a double with whom they can talk things over.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: Nevertheless, those other personalities can show contradictory, unpleasant or violent sides.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancilla: I understand that the “doppelganger” generally speaking represents doubles with a dark or terrible personality, but in regards to my paintings, the twins (to give them a name) collaborate through those dialogues for purely therapeutic and existential purposes.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you find it easier to express the soul of a woman? Do men tend to hold too much of their psyches inside?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas:
Women, for me, are a truly unapproachable mystery. Of course I will never experience their reality and perhaps this is the primary reason I choose them as models: all of their interior and physical structures are enigmatic for me.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: That mystery is so interesting and incomprehensible to me. I also enjoy painting women because the female figure feels more universal and contemplative to me.
Whereas I think the masculine figure’s physique is so overbearing that the viewer has a much more difficult time reading the interior of the character.
The same happens with female models who exhibit stereotypical beauty.
All in all it is for me the female models who tend to be the ones who, in a very delicate way, connect better with the inner silence.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: When did you know that painting is where your passion lies? Was there a turning point in your life? Someone or something in particular who inspired you?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: I knew when I was twenty-one years old and in the middle of an existential crisis, the circumstances of which forced me to reflect on what I wanted to do for a living. I decided not to waste any more time exploring professions, and instead, I started painting in the best way I could. I think the discovery happened when I experienced the pleasure of making something one hundred percent by myself, regardless of outcome.
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: I remember I was obsessed with Johaness Vermeer’s work which I had discovered in an encyclopedia I’d purchased in installments. I couldn’t stop seeing the image because it had me captivated.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Of all the qualities that make for a great artist, what do you feel is by far the most important?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: Perseverance is the one that will allow you to eventually meet your goals and fulfill your expectations. There are artists for whom perseverance and will are natural, but when these qualities are not owned, one must strive to manifest them.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you feel is it possible to be a great artist without also being a sensitive human being?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: I think for the reason alone that one has the ability to create something shows the artist to be a sensitive individual with the will to make what has been imagined, although being sensitive for one’s craft doesn’t necessarily makes this person sensitive for all things.
Deanna Phoenix Selene: Advice you wish to pass on to artists just coming up now?
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas: Make the decision to take on impossible challenges to surpass your own expectations.
(Translation provided by Sofía Valentina Arreola Galindo)
Edgar Noe Mendoza Mancillas was born in Durango, Mexico, in 1967. His paintings are part of the collection of the MEAM (European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona), the collection company Jiménez Godoy in Murcia, and the Valencia Bañuls Miguel collection.