Born in Mexico City, Elena Climent is an acclaimed artist known her for detailed still lives. Climent is a self-taught artist who specializes in oil, watercolor, and drawing. Through painting everyday objects, Climent gives the view a glimpse into the lives of many Mexicans. Her work has been exhibited in museums internationally. We are honored to feature her as our June Mujer.
Tell us a bit about your life, your family; I know your family emigrated from Spain to Mexico. How did that experience shape your world view?
My father came from Spain, he was exiled from the Spanish Civil War, and my mother came from New York. She came from a Russian-Jewish family, so we were raised in a very multi-cultural environment. This made us very aware that everyone is the same. With my father being an artist, our home was very oriented around art. There was a lot going on all the time between conversations, activities – our vocabulary was very visual, it was just a very artistic family. I had this impulse since I was very little—I couldn’t stop drawing, I think it due to of course the environment I grew up in. I spent all my school years drawing in class and have never stopped.
How do you choose the subjects that you paint?
I usually choose subjects that have to do with my immediate life. So as I’ve evolved, the subjects have changed, I’ve been through a lot, I’m already 66, so I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’m able to pinpoint different experiences in my life by my art. When I was about 33, we moved to New York, so being away from Mexico, it made me very conscious of what Mexico looked like. There was a bit of nostalgic inspiration there. Since we were coming and going all the time, I would take lots of photos of Mexico and go from there.
You’ve chosen different mediums over the decades; what factors go into deciding whether a work should be watercolor or oil or something else?
We live in a time where we have access to so many media – if you’re able to keep your focus, it’s actually a very good opportunity because each media has it’s own language. It also makes you see different things. For example, I went through a period where I was solely creating art by drawing on the iPad. There is no texture, you’re drawing with pure light. So, when you’re drawing with light and you’re very conscious of shadows because you’re not painting with other media, it’s almost like painting with your mind. Each medium, oil painting, the principle one in my life, have a different language and are more appropriate for different subjects.
Art for me is a little bit like home. It’s my inner being—it connects me with myself.
You’ve lived all over the world (Mexico, Spain, France, and the US). Tell us a bit about how those experiences influenced you and your art?
Art for me is a little bit like home. It’s like my inner being—it connects me with myself and has always given me a bit of stability. I’m expressing my point of view so it’s been a very stabilizing pillar in my life.
Finish this sentence: Art should make a person….
As the artist, it should make a person conscious and observant. It has a very powerful effect on being aware. It’s being able to learn to see more and wanting to communicate that so other people see it too. You materialize it in a painting or an image.
How do you spend your ideal Friday night?
I’ve been through many, many different Friday nights in my life. [Laughs] At this stage of life and with quarantine, I am really liking being indoors. I have my music and painting and I just love to have a good rest after a good days work and I don’t really have different days of the week, we’ve learned to live this way now. As an artist, I consider myself very lucky to have this lifestyle.
I love quesadillas with handmade tortillas.
Best book you recently read or podcast you listened to?
I listen to books all day long while I paint, I don’t know where to start. Right now I’ve been allotted to Jane Austen and also been reading the Dantes Inferno. I love to read Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. Also because of the interest in my fathers background, I have been reading some Spanish literature called the Generation of the 98.