Ylenia Mino: A World-Renowned Artist Shares Her Perspective

In our weekly interview with a ground-breaking international artist, this week we chat with Italian artist Ylenia Mino. Benefiting from her multilateral perspective, we are thrilled to learn more about her nuanced artistic practice, international career and how her varied, eclectic artistic training impacts her work today. The artist has a prevalent career abroad, especially in the United States, with an upcoming exhibit from June 2nd at Gallery Sitka (MA), work in the Artist’s Style in Art group exhibition in June (Los Angeles, CA) and a solo show at Hellada Gallery (Long Beach, CA) in July. The artist has recently collaborated with Aquarium of the Pacific this May in Long Beach, California and exhibited at the Red Dot Auction at Chuck Jones Center in Costa Mesa, CA.


ANTE: Thanks for sitting down with us, Ylenia! Many of your artworks seem inspired by your travels. Can you talk about your exhibitions abroad and what motivates you to travel as an artist?

YM: I love traveling and take inspiration from the energy, different cultures, and beautiful places that I see during my travels. I recently took a cross-country road trip from NYC to LA and it was simply wonderful to see the southern part of the United States. So many states and such a big variety of landscapes and wonders.  I think my favorite and the most inspiring to me was exploring a Petrified Forest, a magical and ancient site. What I love to do is to take lots of photos with my camera and in my mind; then, I put these memories on canvas.

YleniaMino Installation in Signal Hill
Mino with her installation in Signal Hill

ANTE: Your works showcase a broad, international influence. Can you explain how pop culture – and American culture specifically – have influenced your practice?

YM: I spent many years in NYC and I definitely absorbed “the melting pot” culture of the Big Apple. You may notice much in my traditional art and landscapes, but it’s evident in the strong energy and vibes you get from my paintings. American culture has impacted both my art and my experiences, but I still consider myself a carrier of European culture and vibes.

ANTE: You are an artist internationally recognized for your artwork, particularly your landscape paintings. Can you talk a bit about painting competitions you’ve won and international exhibitions you’ve participated in?

YM: I’ve taken part in many competitions. Over the years, I had the honor to be included in international exhibitions in London, England; Austria; and also, the Caribbean as well. The last competition I won was in NYC, called “Design is Everything” at Dorma in Bryant Park. My painting, “Journey”, was very successful, and thoroughly appreciated by the jury and the public!

Ylenia Mino standing next to one of her paintings
Ylenia Mino displaying her painting

ANTE: Would you explain your background as an artist? Is your education in fine art or art history? Are you self-taught? How has your education impacted your artistic practice?

YM: I started painting when I was a little girl. Every spare moment away from school, I was drawing and getting immersed into my creative and imaginary world. My parents noticed my natural inclination and around the age of 7 they brought me to a private school run by an amazing Egyptian painter, Mohsen. I studied on and off for about 10 years with this Egyptian master.  I then got a diploma degree in classical studies and languages (Latin, Ancient Greek, History of Art, Philosophy, etc). Learning from Mohsen really impacted my art; it was so inspiring to have the opportunity to learn like the old tradition and the greatest artists did, with a student-master relationship. Also, learning History of Arts and Ancient Greek and Latin increased and deepened my passion for culture and the arts.

ANTE: Can you explain how you connect your artistic practice to your support of charities and philanthropic causes worldwide?

YM: I started supporting charities and causes about 7 years ago by donating part of the proceeds from the sales of my paintings. Now, I regularly receive invitations to auctions, galas, benefit dinners, and celebrity events to be a fine artist sponsor at the event.

I believe in helping, encouraging and supporting people, so I support different charities, fundraisers, and causes. I hope my support will help to improve life conditions, give people a chance to develop their full potential and to reach their destiny in their society.

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Mino, Ylenia. “Tropical Paradise”(2017), Oil on Canvas, Triptych

ANTE: You’ve shown internationally in exhibitions and art fairs. What are your most interesting or favorite experiences exhibiting internationally and how have they helped to expand your artistic practice?

YM: I have had so many art shows and exhibitions that it is is hard to decide. They are all in some way my favorite and have contributed unique memories affecting my career as a fine artist, but I can definitely recall the one that marked the beginning of a new chapter in my career and life: International Artexpo New York 2011. It was my first international solo experience, and it opened my mind to a new world. A significant meeting I had during Artexpo was with Craig Kausen, the grandson of the amazing cartoonist and animation director, Chuck Jones, who is famous for creating Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, etc. At the time I was not fluent in English well, but Craig and I had a great conversation about art and my paintings. He inspired me and loved my works. He became fascinated by my passion and the love that I have for doing what I do – a passion that I attribute to my Italian heritage!

Raise Your Voice: In Praise of Artist Shoshanna Weinberger

“If you deny people their own voice, you’ll have no idea who they were.” Alice Walker

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“Excluded Included” 2017-2018 Mixed Media on Panel (Shoshanna Weinberger)

“invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery”, Shoshanna Weinberger’s solo exhibition at Project for Empty Space in Newark, NJ, employs repetition to dizzying effect. Perhaps not dizzying: mesmerizing.

Women’s bodies are both seen and unseen, presented and contorted into unidentifiable abstractions. Feminine visages, their outlines incorporating distinctly African and Afro-Carribbean hairstyles, are obscured by abstracted nothingness: their identities crushed beneath the weight of visual white noise. Similar to the background choir figures throughout Childish Gambino’s visceral and poignant music video for “This is America”, the multi-dimensional figures presented throughout Weinberger’s exhibition literally outline the trenchant visual narrative of hiding in plain sight. Even in the era of the #metoo movement, women are often excluded: their voices negated in everything from polite conversation to exorbitant wait times for major retrospectives. However, women of color fight an uphill battle not only against patriarchal discrimination but sometimes, even, from their own female allies. Weinberger’s presentations of the female body, ethnic even in their abstracted and distilled outline, elevates the Afro-Carribbean experience even while commenting on the objectification keenly experienced by women of color, in the arts as well as in everyday life.

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“A Grove of Invisible Fruit”, Shoshanna Weinberger, 2018 Two Sided Mirrored Acrylic.

Weinberger’s installation “A Grove of Invisible Fruit”, situated at the front of the gallery space, provides a hyper-dimensional yet fragmented entry point firmly rooting the artist’s overall exhibition. The “grove” can be viewed as a reflective and dizzying moment of pause – a blinding distraction, yet an inviting and meditative moment of respite anchoring the multiple viewpoints orienting visitors throughout the exhibition. The figures interspersed through “A Grove of Invisible Fruit” are hybrid beings: neither distinctly human nor wholly “other”, creole-ized and hypersexualized figures in high heels supporting a mirrored superstructure. The dual presence and absence of these figures, the lack of distinctive identity, could conceivably be contrasted with the experiences of women migrating to America. How dizzying is the burden of bearing others’ prejudice and preconceived notions? Much like the entrenched stereotypes hearkening back to the age of Chiquita Banana, these conceptions have neither disappeared nor evaded us as we continue to evolve as a society. Weinberger adoitly places these figures within a networked construct: joined together yet alienated, the figures reflect back only what we cast at them. They present to us Plato’s shadows on the walls of the cave.

“The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to [his] adoption of the adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.” Frantz Fanon’s words in Black Skin, White Masks permeate the pores, the very follicles present in Weinberger’s works. In the artist’s series, “Invisible Invisibility”, she presents monochrome women who are identified by their cosmetics or sexualized poses, often obscured by the backgrounds which seem to “fill” them. Weinberger is presenting women difficult to categorize by societal “norms”: their very outlines prevent them ascending to the reified realm of acceptable “cultural standards.”

Fanon’s words echo throughout the exhibit, where literal “masks” create an entry point for viewers to both engage with these portraits and be denied access to the personal qualities typically found in portraiture. Voices are silenced and features hidden, marking both the uniformity of lived experiences of women of color and a refusal to be sequestered into stereotyped ethnic categories. The artist, herself American, Jewish and Jamaican by heritage, has both denied and overcome identity from “the other” in her figurative works. The portraits themselves seem to emerge from an obfuscation they willingly present to the viewer: by placing a barrier between themselves and the casual observer Weinberger’s creations upend expectations and deny the ubiquitous male gaze.

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L–>R, “Rhiannon”, 2017-2018 Mixed Media on Panel and “Emerging from the Periphery Like Mona Lisa”, 2018 Mixed Media on Panel, both by Shoshanna Weinberger

Weinberger’s exhibition as a whole mines the loaded metrics of repetition and representation. Presenting different variations on repeated themes allows the viewer multiple angles of entry into the series of artworks on view. The series of images in grids, according to Weinberger, represents yearbook photos – indicating variations on the artist’s own American, Jewish and Jamaican identity. The artist is presenting these autobiographical two-dimensional works on paper, presented alongside more sculptural works, literally examine themes present in the artist’s work from multiple angles. The visceral yet limited color scheme creates heightened awareness of the forms in the artist’s compositions. The artworks are tightly framed, implicating the viewer in almost claustrophobic nearness to the figures in the works they encounter. This irony of silenced narratives is reinforced by the presence of one single feature on the faces of the women in the artist’s portrait series: their mouths. Eyes, ears, and noses are left absent: women are expected to observe in real life; here, they are liberated and confined. They can only speak. Evoking the powerful moment of applying lipstick, a visible acceptance of womanhood, these lips are not only ready and able to speak but they are empowered to do so with grace and beauty.

Weinberger tumbles and leaps through a perceptive circus ring of contradictions in “invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery”. She produces one of the best nuanced exhibitions of Pop-infused, graphic style imagery in recent memory. While Pop art can be inherently subversive, Weinberger has managed to tease out intricacies of race, ethnicity and identity that are so often overlooked in contemporary art. Her dedicated exploration of individuality and marginalization has shown its splendor in this solo show at Project for Empty Space.

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L–>R: “The Queen of Fruit Walks Hi-Heeled in the Concrete Jungle: Invisible to Some and Obvious to Others”, 2018, Ink on Paper; “Some Fruit Have Legs”, 2018, Ink on paper (far wall); “The Camouflage Gang: Girls, Sisters and Otherness Passing” 2017-2018 (grid) works from the series “Invisible Invisibility” by Shoshanna Weinberger

In a space in the rear of the gallery, the artist points to a sculpture bust, indicating that it is a self-portrait created through the process of 3-D printing. Curled tendrils of hair hug the figures’s face, a cluster of evocative lips the only evident feature. The porcelain-colored whiteness of the bust shimmered in the direct light, giving the visage a sensual luster. Weinberger deftly re-imagines her identity as a literal fabrication, not just of social norms, but of the replicating process inherent to 3-D printing. Her vision of the portrait serves not as an admission, but instead can be perceived as a denial. This playful figuration is a credit to her finely tuned artistic sensibility and a deeper revelation of the ever-evolving social constructs of gender and ethnic identity.

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“A Rapid Prototype of My Doppelgänger”, 2018 3D Print Polymer, Paint, Wood; Shoshanna Weinberger

 

“invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery” is currently on view at Project for Empty Space, 2 Gateway Center in Newark, NJ, through May 18th. Shoshanna Weinberger is a currently resident at Project for Empty Space.