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Meet Kristen Silva

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristen Silva.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Art started out the same way for me as most people, as a child in a classroom and at home. I kept at it through school and took classes and courses later in high school and college that never really connected with me. My teachers and professors weren’t very excited about art and the ones that were seemed to have a particular vision that wasn’t really encouraging of anything different. I had pretty much abandoned the idea that I would do anything with it but kept it as a cathartic hobby to check out of reality when I needed a moment to myself.

Then, in 2012, one of my closest friends died suddenly at a young age. It was shocking and nothing anyone could have been prepared for. I painted while I was mourning the loss and during that process, I decided to pursue art and give it bigger role in my life. Abandoning art wasn’t an option anymore. Life is too short and precious to squander on other people’s value of your work.

I left my hometown and moved to LA in 2014. I was overwhelmed but delighted in the opportunities. I spent all the money I had on oil paint and wood. I kept at it until I exhausted myself of the medium. Then, suddenly, I had a significant panic attack in 2016. It was terrifying but it gave me a second chance to take a step back and look for alternative ways to take care of myself, even creatively.

At the time, I was a specialty barista that relied on coffee to make it through the day, so my coffee consumption came to a screeching halt. I quit drinking coffee for about two years but I was constantly interacting with it and people drinking it. In 2017, amid workshopping new mediums, I remembered a quick note I jotted down about using coffee like a watercolor from a year prior. In early 2016, I had spilled coffee on a piece of paper I needed and stared at it for weeks. I wrote it down and forgot about it. Once I started working with coffee as a medium, a spark reignited and I became a working artist.

Please tell us about your art.
I paint with coffee, as a medium, on watercolor paper. Mostly, I paint female figures because the storytelling in their posture and gestures are some that I am familiar with. I use espresso, French pressed coffee and drip coffee. Decaf or Regular doesn’t really matter, whatever I can get my hands on. Each coffee profile and process has a different property that can highlight a piece or feature. What I like about it is that it’s a really inviting medium, which I haven’t found in other mediums I’ve worked with. The first time you see a piece, you’re studying it to identify the medium. Once you identify it, it really does invite you in to examine the moment and gesture and that emotion once you step inside it. We connect with the intimacy of that brief moment. It makes you realize how rare it is that we connect on that level of intimacy when most things these days are immediately revealed in a heavily curated and edited process.

My hope is that people take that modest invitation and share it with someone. By that I mean, use that analysis to compare with others and start a conversation with a friend, stranger, a neighbor, etc. I take delight in knowing that it’s such a playful medium so it’s sort of disarming and doesn’t call for a serious interpretation out of the gates. I can see one thing, while a friend sees another, next thing you know, we are sharing our sentiments about the gesture or mood of the painting. We create stories about the subject and that moment we have caught them in. We may learn something about someone or even find similarities with them based on their perspective of the piece. The moment of reprieve we find our subject in, we also find in ourselves. It creates a moment in which you can also exhale a bit and share an unguarded opinion. Before you know it, you can find a common ground with someone or even simply find that assuring camaraderie in the subject. I just would love it if people can identify the similarities we have with each other.

As the artist, the work manifests the same thing for me. Before I started painting with coffee, I was always worried how a piece was going to look or be executed, so my pieces were often a bit stale as a result. Everything was heavily manicured, which made it sort of lifeless and dull. My anxieties over what something should be often stifled the piece. With coffee, I gave myself permission to get messy with the work and let myself relax. As a result, I’ve relieved many doubts or fears about what I think I should be or what others might think of the execution of the piece. I’ve opened up to all of that and it allows me to share with others these moments I’ve captured. Art is still very cathartic to me and the more I do these pieces, the more I’m opening up to the process and sharing the most authentic version of myself that I can.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
While I acknowledge that the current political climate does effect art, I don’t think artists roles have changed in any of that. Art has such a wide reach that it’s a little silly to think it doesn’t have an impact in any of this. Just as it has done in the past, music, art, and literature really goes through a volcanic transformation in times of hardship. We transcribe our emotions, no matter how good or bad, to move society forward. Adversity may seem overwhelming but it allows the confrontation of problematic behaviors. In turn, it will set the path for ourselves and others to create new, better ways with an inclusive future.

Local issues create reactions and what better way to start processing those reactions than to create with it. Art is a universal way to connect with others and continue to create in the wake of pressing issues. Even music made in response to these issues influences the way I create work. I have made many pieces that really reflect my feelings toward issues and process those emotions in a tangible way that can impact society with more than just empty words.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My work is currently displayed a few places in the Magnolia Park neighborhood of Burbank. I have most of my pieces up at a coffee shop called BLVD CAFECITO. I also have a piece on display at The Mystic Museum. Besame Cosmetics also has a few custom pieces I’ve created specifically for them, featuring one of their products. That piece is made out of mascara.

All three of these places are on Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, CA.

If you don’t have the opportunity to see them in person, I also have a website, an Etsy and I feature all my work on Instagram. You can follow news for shows and events through my Instagram. Simply sharing my work is the best way you can support this local artist.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Whitney Allen

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. donna

    June 19, 2019 at 16:29

    I met this young lady when she was ‘almost 2.’ she became a very intricate part of my life for quite a few years and it was always easy to see how special she was in how she interacted with people and how she saw the world…through loving eyes/heart. it is nothing less than wonderful to see how far she has come in her love of art and her willingness to share who she is with those who want to take a look and get to know her. always kind-hearted, funny, loving, gentle with other people and so happy for her and her success. thank you for such a nice interview and sharing her with those who may have not met her yet but now certainly have a desire to do so. she has a very special place in my heart though I have not seen or talked to her for several years (I live in TX) and she always brings a smile to my face and heart (and to everyone else also.)

    • Christian

      June 26, 2019 at 09:01

      I met Kristen at our local coffee shop and was immediately drawn to her coffee based paintings. (How can you not be? They rule.) This sparked an artistic friendship (she was beyond helpful to a clueless newbie, which speaks volumes about her character.) I am so impressed by her creative output and look forward to the natural journey ahead. The story behind the work only impresses me more. Happy our paths crossed. Keep up the incredible work!

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