Artist Interview: Leilani Bustamante

Leilani Bustamante has been one of our closest friends for about 10 years and has been among our most popular artists since we opened the doors to Modern Eden, nearly 5 years ago. Watching her work advance and develop has been a gratifying and humbling experience. We could not be more thrilled to announce her third solo exhibition with us, marking her return to San Francisco after a few years living in NYC. She is making her mark with "Haunt" a collection of works inspired by Robert W. Chambers' "The King in Yellow". The new series maintains themes of Bustamante's work exploring the loveliness of the macabre and the mournful influence of osteological motifs while introducing new elements of symbolism, narrative, and the mystery of the unknown.

ME: Haunt is loosely based on Robert W. Chambers’ story “The King in the Yellow”. Do you have a favorite horror story? What is it about dark themes that inspire you as an artist?

LRB: Although it’s not a typical type of horror story, I remember reading Joyce Carol Oates short story “Where Are You Going And Where Have You Been” when I was young and finding it to be just as terrifying and fascinating. An adolescent teen is pursued by a predator posing as a hollow shell of a man. The unknown factor is what makes this story truly scary. It’s a reminder that not all horror stories have monsters that are so clearly defined.

As human beings curiosity of death and the dark is a part of life. I find a lot of comfort in dark themes and they fall in line with my emotions and sensitivities. I think it’s a natural and universal concept to find a little darkness in everything and everyone and throughout art history it’s easy to see why artists romanticize the dark—it is alluring, attractive and unknown.

ME: All of the paintings have two reoccurring circles in the imagery, what is the symbolism of these?

LRB: Chambers writes about the “Twin Suns” setting in the realm of Carcosa. In one of the short stories, a character is transported to Carcosa and bears witness to the terrible and beautiful landscape. I’ve intuited the two circles to represent that the fear and the great unknown is always looming and Carcosa can corrupt and take you at any moment.

ME: Do you ever get interpretations of your work that you didn't expect?

LRB: Yes, always. I encourage viewers to take what they will from my work. even if it’s an abstract feeling or tone. For instance I’ve received feedback from someone who intimated that one of my paintings reminded them of falling in love. Those interpretations are precious to me an artist, however varied or ambiguous.

ME: You recently moved back to San Francisco after a few years in NYC. Did this  influence your work or the series in anyway?

LRB:  Absolutely. Not necessarily in an aesthetic way, but life experiences such as those broaden your perspective in an essential way. I went from a massive city (a great city) constantly bombarded by people and stimulation to driving across the country through some of the most beautiful and rural landscapes. All of these impressions add to how you view your own feelings and thus how to process them into your work. As to the effect on the series—I feel like I am able to be bolder than before. This story has such ethereal elements to it that it allowed me to work in a less controlled way.

ME: If you could have a meal with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why? And what would you eat? 

LRB: Oh I love this question. I would sit down over a meal with Rod Serling. The “Angry young man” of Hollywood was such an incredible writer and his prose served as commentary to what was going on politically, spiritually and civically during the 1950’s-1960’s. The Twilight Zone was not only preeminent to the history of science fiction but also theories of the collective unconscious and human behavior. Human beings posing as aliens to step back and look at ourselves as human beings? Brilliant. What would we have to eat? New York Steak and a highball of course.

ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?

LRB: Because I have this compulsory need to be doing something all the time,  it’s rare that I don’t have anything to work on whether it’s for myself or a show.  But lately I like to cook and bake things I’ve never made before : I’ll get this inclination where I say to myself- I’ve never made Coq Au Vin before so I’m going to tackle that.  Going to see movies is also a big thing with me and friends of mine who share the same cinema obsessed, nerdy quirks.  Of course there needs to be food after the movie too :)

 

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HAUNT opens March 14, 2015 at Modern Eden Gallery.

More info about the exhibition can be found HERE.