2019-02-27 / Features

Local Express

Annabelle Popa

Artist Annabelle Popa was born and raised in Jackson Heights, went to LaGuardia HS of Music & Art, and majored in illustration at Parsons School of Design from 2013- 2017. “All my life I’ve been inspired by nature and animals, always saw my work as a longing for some kind of fantasy world. Most of my work is based off of folklore or an attempt to create wonder in reality. Just these past few years I’ve been pushing my art into the public art realm to try and make it accessible to all. Working in the studio can get lonely and all artists struggle with self-doubt when paintings start to pile up in the corner. Public murals have been a huge blessing to me as I get to interact with people who see my work, and I feel a new responsibility gets put on it, which is refreshing. I’ve also always loved sports, but due to my passion for art I never had time to join any teams, so the physical activity involved in working on large scale pieces is another aspect I’ve appreciated. Another side interest I have is sewing and expanding my art into the 3D realm. I’ve created costumes, plushies, sculptures, toys, and more. I feel this just makes my characters and fantastical animals come to life.”

(See QGazette.com for related story “Jackson Heights ArtSite Installations” February 20.) (See QGazette.com for related story “Jackson Heights ArtSite Installations” February 20.) QG: What’s the earliest you remember making art?

AP: I honestly can’t remember the earliest moment that I made art as I was always doodling and drawing. A few moments I do remember were drawing baby dragons or copying pictures of Pok√©mon and dinosaurs. I do remember I used to draw people as just a circle with four limbs until my brother taught me that the human body was at least three circles, a head, body, and hips – instead of just a head with arms and legs coming out. My father is an artist and I remember some of the early years with my two brothers. He would sit us down at the dining room table and have a “Saturday morning art class” where we would draw horses and sketch some of our toys. I still have a few childhood sketchbooks which are always fun to revisit.

QG: Can you describe the positive feeling that motivated you to really specialize in art?

AP: Growing up with my father as an artist, I always saw that art is a viable career. In my youth I began to discover that my art was not only just fun drawings, but also a way to communicate narratives. Being able to create worlds and have free reign over my own fantasy worlds was thrilling and so exciting.

QG: Why do you think some people need or want to create art and others don’t?

AP: I’m not sure. Maybe some people are just wired differently, or maybe some get that drive “beaten” out of them as they mature. I feel every child has that creative side to them and maybe some part from it and others don’t. A popular quote by Picasso is, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

One analysis I want to add is I feel all creativity stems from a form of dissatisfaction. In The Birth of Tragedy, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche simplifies humans into two driving forces: Apollonian (logic) and Dionysian (emotions), which are constantly at war. Basically, you need to be logical in your day-to-day life, you go to work, eat and sleep. But you also need time to be an emotional creature which can be hard or impossible without making a mess (Dionysus is the god of wine, fertility, theater, and just basic raw, wild emotion). The philosopher said that the emotional part of our brains is what helped create theater.

Going back to the original question, I think people with the need to create are the ones who cannot come to terms with this dichotomy. They’re the ones who feed from this unknown crazy emotional void that exists in humans and try to recreate it in a more controlled manner and make sense of it. Nietzsche said tragedy is the misery that comes with understanding you can’t have the two at once. That art stems from the unwillingness to accept that they cannot be merged and that is why artists are constantly seeking the Dionysian life. When you are in that raw feeling (he would call it the void) all you can do is feel, and once you become self-aware, then the spell is broken. I feel artists are trying to bridge that gap, or at least share that experience with others (or even recreate it).

QG: Do you still live in Queens? What do you like about Queens and where do you see it going in the future?

AP: I’m excited to see Queens continue to grow. One of the biggest things I like about Queens is the amount of trees and gardens in the area, especially my neighborhood of Jackson Heights. While Manhattan can be gorgeous with its tall glass buildings, and Brooklyn is edgy and exciting with all their underground art events, Queens will always be seen as home in the way that I’ve spend most of my time there. While I do want others to experience those same things, I hope Queens doesn’t get too popular to the point where it loses all of its beautiful cultures. As long as people coming into Queens want to help support whatever is already there – not change it – then I’m on board. It was sad to see 5 Pointz, a famous graffiti spot where my dad had a piece one summer, whitewashed and torn down a few years ago to make space for luxury condos in LIC. I think people are more aware of gentrification now and while they want the area to continue to grow, they are more careful and hold larger developers accountable. I find this encouraging and am hopeful that maybe we can reap the benefits and share the area with new people, but also reserve space to empower and preserve the locals, in the form of art grants and other programs that help small, locally owned businesses.

—Annette Hanze Alberts

This column was originated in July, 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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