Vladimir Cora: His Art Derives from 'Special Moments''

Painting, sculpting are a way of life for one of Mexico's top artists

Vladimir Cora is flanked by his two daughters, Alicia (left) and Adilene at the Dec. 29 opening of his exhibit at Coda Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Gregg Felsen

Vladimir Cora has been coming to the Palm Springs-Palm Desert area to show his work since 1984. He made his trip this year at the end of 2012, exhibiting Dec. 29 at Coda Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

A student of master painter Rufino Tamayo, Cora has risen to the heights of his teacher.

On Dec. 14, 500 of his paintings were among 1,800 works displayed permanently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles as part of the Bernard and Edith Lewin Latin American Art Galleries. The artists also included Tamayo, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The permanent collection is the country’s largest of 20th-century Mexican art and worth $25 million.

Cora spent part of 1981 in Palm Springs where he met the Lewins through Tamayo, who was his mentor from 1979 until his passing in 1991.

The 49-year-old is self-taught, honing his skill in his hometown of Tecuala in the state of Nayarit, Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta. He has a studio in Santa Ana, but spends most of the year in Mexico.

Through a pair of interpreters, Daniel Ramirez and Areli Beltran, Cora spoke with Palm Springs Life.

What is the inspiration for your art?
There is no such thing as inspiration. What I call them are special moments. Inspiration is with me at all times. But when I get in front of the canvas, my heart is telling me to do this. Inspiration doesn’t exist anymore. That’s what they called it back in the day when the master’s started creating work. When I am in front of the canvas, that is the moment that I am going to create something. This is it. I’m going to do it and the feeling comes from the bottom of my heart.

Why is the woman your favorite theme?
She is a woman and I am a man. When I make sculptures, when I make the form of the woman, it’s a pleasure for me to carve them out. I feel it. I love it.

Does your painting finish the way it started out, or what happens if you get to a midway point and realize it’s not turning out as you first thought?
That is every artist’s fear. When you have a canvas in front of you and you start painting, and in the middle of the process something goes wrong, that’s when I feel more of the fear. I see it as a battlefield as to whether I am going to win or lose. At the end, I’m trying to find an erotic figure. That’s my biggest problem. I’m never happy at the end, but I get there. I have spoken to many of my artist friends, for example Rufino Tamaya, who has the same fear, and Tamayo said he has felt it in the middle of a painting where he feels lost. There are artists who have been before me or ahead of me, and they say when you get that feeling, just walk away, come back and you’ll get there.

So actually the fear is a good thing?
I have faced that fear, but I am stubborn toward fear. I have seen it in other artists who are so stubborn, and those are the paintings that make it to museums. I have seen paintings of other artists, and I think to myself, Why do they do this? I have come to realize that they go by their gut feeling. That’s what they need to do and that’s when their work is better. They follow their heart. One of the things I tell younger artists is to go by their feelings. Always do what your heart tells you to do and you will succeed.

Do you feel the need to paint or sculpt every day? Do you take breaks?
It’s a necessity for me to do something every day because deep in my heart it’s what I want to do. In the last few days, I haven’t been able to do anything and I feel nervous. My family thinks I’m crazy. I’ll sit down, draw something and I’ll calm down. I blame my daughters because I wanted to draw and they wanted to go shopping (laughter).

It doesn’t sound like you have a day where you look at the canvas and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do this today’.
I haven’t felt that way. I want to paint every time. If I don’t paint, I will do a sculpture. There has been a day where I have started at 6 a.m. and not stopped until 2 a.m. the next morning, and I’ve done 100 drawings that I was very happy to do.

Why is your artwork appealing to the public?
I don’t know. I don’t understand. (laughing). Honestly, this is what I love to do.

What is your favorite color and why?
Green. Green is the color of hope. I believe in the future, and that is the color. Tells me I have another day to paint. And also yellow. It’s the color of life.

Will those colors be in every one of your paintings?
They are always there. Where I live, I live in a little town called Tecuala.  On one side is the beach and water, and on the other side is the mountains, so my colors, when it rains, it creates these greens, yellows and blues. I love them.

Is it important to be known as a Mexican artist?
It’s not important for me to look at my art and say it’s a Mexican artist. I want to stay open-minded, and not close myself to just that generation.

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