Natalia, artist and activist
Natalia is an Argentinean artist, activist and entrepreneur. She moved to New York in 2016 to continue working in the field of sustainability in art and fashion. She found a unique community of like-minded artists and an endless amount of inspiration.
“I came to New York encouraged by all the activity that was going on here related to sustainability in the fields of art and fashion. I wanted to learn more in order to incorporate new tools and translate that experience to what I do in Argentina. I’ve always dreamed about New York and on my first trip here I found my tribe, my creative family”.
What do you consider your nationality to be?
Have you ever considered yourself a foreigner?
I’ve considered myself a foreigner my whole life. Even though I always ‘fitted in’, in a way I’ve always felt like an alien, like I belonged somewhere else.
Can you tell us your story as a Foreigner?
I came to New York in 2016 encouraged by all the activity that was going on here related to sustainability in the fields of art and fashion. I wanted to learn more in order to incorporate new tools and translate that experience into what I do in Argentina. I’ve always dreamed about New York and on my first trip here I found my tribe, my creative family. That was when I decided that I wanted to come back and live here for a while; it’s been an incredible journey so far.
There’s something magical about NY and if you are an artist, inspiration meets you everywhere: from the architecture and the unique people you crossed paths with to the amazing cultural life. When I’m out walking on the streets I’m smiling all the time. I feel like everything deserves to be photographed!
What do you enjoy about living abroad?
To start with, being in constant interaction with artists who are on similar paths as me is priceless. And there’re so many events, lectures and conferences available, so much information out there to absorb, so many people to learn from...I feel like a kid in candy store.
Also, I really enjoy the variety of supplies and materials to work with. The offer here is huge. The first time I walked into one of those gigantic art supplies stores I almost fainted.
Do you remember any challenge in adapting to local culture?
Where I come from when you run into an acquaintance on the street you kiss; you arrive at the office and you hug and kiss each other, even if that other person is your boss...and it’s all so spontaneous. Physical proximity here is so different in many ways from what I’m used to, that I had to control myself at the beginning!
Was there any key encountered in the country that helped you personally or professionally?
The peak of my journey was meeting Debra Rapoport, a remarkable human being, style icon and talented visual artist who has been working with recycled materials since the ‘60s. I’m honored to call her my friend and mentor. Through Debra, I’ve met many incredible people who
(luckily) have been helping me until this day. I’m very grateful for that.
Do you think your experience as an artist would have been the same if you stayed in your country of origin?
Absolutely not. Coming here has expanded my horizon in ways I’d have never expected. I have a much clearer idea now of what’s going on in my fields of work and study.
How do your origins inspire your work?
I started crafting and working with discarded materials at a very early age: castles made out of toilet paper rolls were my specialty when I was ten. At twelve I represented my home town at the local House of Representatives with a project on waste management. Something that started out as homework ended up with me speaking about waste and recycling at an official session.
That experience triggered something so that as a teenager, between rehearsals from my dancing classes, I used to go with my friends to help the set designer to make paper mache oranges and cactus out of PVC pipes. That was my first approach to ‘working’ in the theatre and I realized that sometimes working with what you have is all you have. And I LOVED it.
A few years later I started working as a costume designer, art director and performer in plays and musicals. The budgets were always so limited that working with what I had at hand, whether it was textile waste, second hand clothes, leftover paper or old light bulbs, was mandatory...and an incredible adventure that still gives me great joy.
What about the local influence?
Well, I also have to mention my parents. Ever since I can remember my dad would come home after work with a shabby chair he found on the streets to restore, while my mom would deal with the upholstery. I used to see my house as a palace of diverse and beautiful found treasures that came to life again thanks to my parents. They taught me that everything deserves a second – and even third – chance.
Which message would you like to share with the local people who don't know your work yet?
Now more than ever I’m focused on the impact of my work has on the world around me, and I try to have a holistic approach. Am I adding value for someone? Where is this going to end after I’m done with it? If I absolutely need to buy something, where does it come from? Who made it? I think is very important - particularly nowadays - to try being more aware as human beings. Even if you don’t work as an artist, you surely are a creative person because all of us are engaged in something that has an impact on the immediate world around us: whether it is cooking, helping your kids with homework or developing a project at work. You are actively participating in making something and there are so many ways of doing it as there are people out there. I believe in understanding that power we have as co-creators.
Anything you would like them to know about your country of origin?
Argentina is an amazing country, there’s such a rich diversity. I’m a Polish/Spanish descendant and most my friends’ parents, grandparents or great-grandparents came from Europe looking for new opportunities. You can see that legacy in the food, the language, the architecture. And geographically the contrast is so beautiful. I’m very proud of being Argentinean and a Latin-American woman.
What are your plans for the future?
Keep working on my art, on stage and back-stage, keep on teaching and traveling. Right now I’m focussed on building a community with other artists who share my same values: creating positive and meaningful experiences empowered by love and empathy. Working in the theatre I learned that we can accompilsh so much more by working together: we can’t coexist without each other. As the great Freddy Mercury said: ‘Surrender your ego, be free’. What is better that doing it while surrounded by inspiring, passionate and driven people?
Where is home?
Home is wherever it feels good and safe to be.