Vulnerable Rebellion: An Interview With Olga Esther
Author: Caitlyn Gregson
2018 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, 3rd Prize winner Olga Esther is creating a world of her own; A world where princesses are their own saviours. She is speaking out against the stereotypes that princesses are only beautiful, kind, and they’re to be saved by a prince with a refreshing and empowering way; Girls with sad big eyes.
Growing up between the city and country of Spain, Olga has a refreshing view of life and how to live it. Her works are so much deeper then they originally seem, which creates an air of mystery around them and a deep desire to dive deep into the canvas and discover each level of intrigue thoroughly.
I interviewed Olga on her experience with the Art Prize and the opportunities that have opened up since, and we delved into the drive behind her work.
You came 3rd in the 2018 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Congratulations! What made you decide to enter?
I entered the Art Prize because I deeply admire Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. I think it’s a wonderful project and it does an incredible job to promote art and artists.
What was your reaction when you heard that you reached the 3rd? How did you celebrate it?
When I received the news I could not believe it !!!!! I never thought that I would be one of the winners !!!!! I screamed, I danced … it was a wonderful moment that I will never forget. I was so happy and so excited! The first thing I did was call my parents to tell them. That night I celebrated with my partner and my two dogs.
I think this exhibition is an incredible opportunity for any artist. Berlin is one of the main benchmarks for art on the international scene. In addition, collaborating with BBM is always wonderful and a window that makes it possible to visualize your work. Urban Nation is a very interesting initiative that has been born in the city of Berlin and being part of it in some way is a great artistic enrichment. It seems to me to be an innovative and renewing project that seeks to assess and collect contemporary urban art, closely related to criticism and art protest that had always been on the periphery of established art
Did it open many opportunities since you participated in the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine art prize?
Yes!!!! The truth is that this award has meant for me a great opportunity. I have opened many doors and have had many offers to participate in artistic projects, so that my calendar for the next two years is almost complete.
Your website says that you have studied art in Spain, the Czech Republic and Mexico. How would you rate your artistic education? Was it beneficial for your career as an artist?
I have studied art since I was very small. My parents always supported my passion for painting. However, at University I did not find my place. While conceptual painting and abstract art were the thing at that moment, I dreamed of learning the classical techniques of Gothic painting, of El Bosco and Van Eyck and the Flemish painters. The scholarships in Prague and Mexico were very positive experiences, both educational and personal, knowing other cultures and other forms of artistic expression enriches you on many levels. Anyway, I feel that I still have a lot to learn, each new painting is a new challenge, a new search.
In your biography it says: “Her little girls who are nobody and have no one have become princesses who do not want to be princesses” seems to be a sharp turn in a completely different direction compared to what little girls grow up thinking about princesses. Princesses are destined to be happy, carefree and surrounded by people who love and adore them. What do you mean by this statement, and why did you want to create a different style of princesses?
Like most girls, I grew up wanting to be a princess. I loved the tales of princesses, the stories of brave blue princes, enchanted toads, and fairy godmothers. Later, I realized that these stories conveyed values with which I disagreed, absolutely different stereotypes for boys and girls. According to the gender you belong to, you must be and feel in a different way. They are what we call gender mandates. Princes must be brave, daring, intelligent, live endless adventures, fight against monsters and dragons and finally save the princesses. The princesses must be above all beautiful. Does anyone know a story where the princess is not beautiful? So the main mandate they transmit to women is Beauty. And the second is that they are good and the third is that if they are good and beautiful it is enough, they do not need to do anything else, their life consists only in waiting to be saved by the prince charming. This mandate of beauty to which we face causes women to hide behind a lot of pain and frustration throughout our lives.
I believe in a world where people are autonomous and free to be and feel free, regardless of the gender to which they belong. Women can be brave and save ourselves, we can have more goals in life than waiting for the prince charming, we want to be scientists and writers and painters and mechanics and businesswomen and engineers.
Why do you refer to your girls as “sad with big eyes”? Was there an important point in your life that made you want to create sad and lonely princesses or was it a concept born of rebellion and a desire to go against stereotypes?
I have always painted sad girls with big eyes. I have painted these girls because they move me, because when painting them I make them visible, because they are a part of me and how I have felt sometimes. And not only me, I think that at some point we have all felt that way, small, vulnerable or alone. And I think that’s why people connect with my painting, because it makes them connect with that part that is inside them.
My princesses integrate these vulnerable girls, they are still there but sometimes they acquire more dimensions in their personality. Who says you can not be vulnerable and rebellious at the same time?
My princesses rebel against injustices and stereotypes because they seek a better world for all those sad girls.
I love the idea behind your princesses; they are a breath of fresh air. Is there any particular effect that you pretended to have on the viewer? Or are they created only to be visually attractive?
For me the visual or aesthetic part is very important, but there is always a story or a feeling behind my paintings. It is impossible for me to establish a border between one and the other; in my creative process they form an indissoluble whole. I claim beauty but a beauty that is plural, that integrates what is different. When I paint a one-eyed girl, I do it from beauty and at the same time it is a denunciation to the limits imposed by the stereotypes.
I love how your paintings have combined the two places in your life at the moment. Most of their girls are in beautiful European rooms with a kind of elegance that is around Russafa, Valencia, but they are surrounded by the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. Was this combination of your life in Russafa, as well as the Spanish countryside, planned?
You’re right; I suppose there’s a lot of autobiography in my paintings.
I love the aesthetics of the baroque palaces with their wallpaper on the walls, and the carpets and the old mosaic floors. There is a lot of Ruzafa in that imagery.
Animals have always been in my life, since I was very small. My parents educated me to love and respect them. We always picked up the abandoned animals. I would raise baby sparrows that would fall out of the nests with bread and milk, give bottles to kittens that had been abandoned in a dumpster, and play with puppies more than other children.
I remember that at 8 years old, my friend from school and I wrote a letter to Greenpeace to offer us to go on their boats and save the sea turtles. Obviously they answered that no, thank you very much but we were very small and we would have to wait a few years but they gave us stickers and magazines and we were very excited.
When I see animals, I automatically think of Disney princesses such as Snow White. The animals in these movies are there to bring comfort to the princesses. Is that what animals do in your paintings?
Yes, exactly. Being an only child and living in a house in the countryside away from the city, sometimes I felt alone and the animals kept me company. I played with them and they consoled me if I was sad.
I always wanted to study zoology and although I finally inclined for Fine Arts, the animals continue to surround me in my life and in my paintings. My princesses, even if they feel lonely or sad, always have some animal that accompanies them, just as it happened to me.
Have you created fairy tales / stories to accompany your princesses? Or do you encourage the audience to create their own?
There is always a story in every painting that I paint but it is my story. Sometimes it is an elaborate story and sometimes it is just a feeling. I can not paint a painting without getting emotionally involved in it and for that I need to talk about some truth of mine, of something that surrounds me. But I love the idea that each person is free to elaborate their own story.
There are some familiar faces that continue to show in your works. Do you have a reference or muse to base your princesses, like a daughter, niece, etc.? Or are they formed purely from your imagination?
All my princesses are real girls and at the same time, all of them have an imaginary part. First I take pictures of girls that surround me: nieces, daughters of friends… but then when I paint, they take on a life of their own and when they become fairy tale princess they transform, they are still different. I would have loved to have a daughter and I would have painted it without stopping, for sure.
You have recently participated in the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine curated exhibition “Ephemeral” at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco, what did you think of the experience?
Yes!!! It was a fantastic experience. The exhibition is wonderful and participating in it together with so many artists that I admire is great
Thank you very much for doing this interview. On a final note, what advice would you give to an aspiring artist who wants to be successful with their art?
It is difficult to give advice because each person is different and we live different circumstances but I think the most important thing is to put passion in everything you do. Passion moves the world. I fall in love with each of my paintings, I could not create without that truth, and for that it is important not to lose the illusion in what you do.