LIBA WARING STAMBOLLION
"AN ARTIST IS A CHILD WHICH SURVIVED."
Liba Waring Stambollion- because her last name is so long and her first name so rare, she goes by the name of Liba WS. Liba WS grew up in South East Asia and came to the United States when she was a teenager. Culture shock and adolescence made her landing quite dramatic. She was thrilled with the counter culture in the United States but the system didn’t quite accept that enthusiasm and she dropped out of school before she even started high school. To this day, Liba WS has no regrets for this choice. She worked for social and environmental causes and eventually was accepted into an early college program in environmental studies based on the work she had been doing. She went on to receive a scholarship at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago where she studied painting, bookbinding, and woodworking. These three fields became Liba WS life’s work.
"I believe that no matter what we do, whether as an artist or a cleaning lady or the president, we are accountable for what we bring to the table. We all have a message and if it is not one of kindness, love, and respect for ALL life then it is not a message I am interested in."
Liba WS’ art is a constant and perceptible representation where she uses her painting as a tool for spiritual growth and transformation. Ecology, erotica and the sacred are the recurrent themes in her work without leaving aside a captivating characteristic: Circles. The circle appears in innumerable representations – the Wheel of Life that turns nature as a whole, with its cycles, its rhythms and its eternal movement; the totality, integrity, and finally the realization. A crucial element for the existence of her life on earth. And without a single doubt, is a painter at heart but it is not so easy to make a living as a painter, especially when raising a family. The art scene in the '80s was very doom and gloom and she has always been a symbolist, painting her dreams and visions. There was not really a place for this in the commercial art world and she was not ready to compromise her work. She dropped out of exhibiting for quite a while and in 1990 she started a design company for handmade ecological furniture. After almost 30 years of designing furniture, she is stepping down this year to paint more, work on her books, and a documentary. She has won prizes and shown in almost a dozen museums. But we won't spoil it for you, we will let her, with her own words, share her accomplishments with us.
Q. Do you remember the first piece of art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I have made art since my earliest memories. My mother is an artist so we always had lots of paint and colored pencils and scissors and paper to make art with. I was a self-proclaimed artist from my childhood. My main ambition was to paint, write and be a priestess (laughing out loud). I paint and write still but I only share my spirituality through my painting and writing. Although I am deeply spiritual, I definitely do not want to be a priestess today.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career?
A. This is a hard one. I have done almost 100 shows and my work has been in magazines, books, the web and even on TV. I have won prizes and shown in almost a dozen museums. But really the most memorable shows were not necessarily the fanciest or best for my career. I run a group of symbolists called Dreams and Divinities which showcases symbolists who have Love as their guide. I would say that the shows I have done with the group have always been the most fulfilling. We have worked with indigenous people, collaborating in the deep forest and have shown in museums like Andalucia’s Institute of America - Centro Damián Bayón. Of course, solos are always wonderful and probably my favorite one was in St Germain Paris at L’Espace Bleu. I look forward to showing with Otto Rapp in a two-person show this June at the Nautilus Gallery, Germany. Also, the Naia Museum is a wonderful place to show. I have been with them every season since they opened five years ago. Last but not least, I have done some great shows with Surrealism Now which is headed by Santiago Ribeiro.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, are there any particular painting traditions or "old masters" that have influenced your work?
A. I absolutely love the old Flemish painters like Bosch, Breugel, Holbein, Van Eyck. They definitely have an influence on my painting and I have studied the old master methods and adopted many practices. I am influenced by beauty in general and love the contemporary visionary painters who express their hearts with bold color and fantasy.
Q. What does "success" mean to you?
A. Being happy and making others happy.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Because I organize events and am invited to do so many shows, I have to say it is far from being lonely. My favorite days are when I can cut off my telephone and computer and just paint all day with my music blaring and my cat nearby.
Q. What does your work aim to say?
A. I am a symbolist so my message is as important as the medium. I don’t expect everyone to understand what I am painting but art is like a mirror. A good shiny mirror will let the viewer see themselves through the painting and hopefully grow from it.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Some people say that it doesn’t matter what message the artists put forth; all that matters is the finished art piece. Artists have been forgiven for racism, sexism, being on the side of dictators, etc.. I strongly disagree with this. I believe that no matter what we do, whether as an artist or a cleaning lady or the president, we are accountable for what we bring to the table. We all have a message and if it is not one of kindness, love, and respect for ALL life then it is not a message I am interested in.
Q. Apart from making art, what do you love doing?
A. I adore my family and friends. I love music and theatre and oceans and mountains. I love ceremonies celebrating the magic of Life and community work where we can exchange ideas and network. These are some of my favorite things…
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. If people talk bad about me, well its none of my business.
Q. What advice would you give to the next art-generation?
A. Be true to your heart and know we all have a gift. Don’t compare yourself with other artists. Just make art!