*Featured photo: Series: I don’t want to forget. FAITH. 2019. Stamen table. Thread on wood. Thread, glass beads, beeswax, wood. 20 x 20 cm
Nadia Díaz Graverán (Havana, 1982) defines herself as a Cuban mother, woman and artist. A graduate of the National Academy of Fine Arts in San Alejandro, she spent years working in street theatre until 2015 when she chose to professionally return to her research within the visual arts.
Since 2016, she has exhibited regularly in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her most recent ones include White on White. Black Circle. Vol II, Wolfgang Gallery, Oncyber.io; NFT Cuba Art. On Altitude, Oncyber.io; Cuban Women Art, Oncyber.io, Twitter Spaces. In 2022 her works are on display at the Triennial of Latin American Art of New York (NYLAAT), the First Material Biennial of China in Quingdao (China). In 2019, Mariano Gallery presented her solo exhibition at Casa de las Américas in Havana.
Between past and future, drawing on traditional knowledge and ancestral subjects, Nadia Diaz experiments with techniques and materials until she lands at NFT, the avant-garde of contemporary art. She tells us about this journey and her research in this beautiful interview.
Are you born as an artist or did you become an artist? And what does it mean to be an artist for you?
Art has always been my refuge, my expression, my freedom, my struggle, expansion and a way of healing, essentially in difficult times. When I understood that it was my purpose in this life, I found myself. Being an artist is for me a natural gift of this existence.
In your opinion, what is the responsibility of the artist with respect to his time and the society in which he/she works and lives?
The artist is an arrowhead that slits the world where it´s launched. He may or may not be connected to his time, reality or society, even ignoring his environment, it all depends on his personal vision.
However, in my opinion, artists have an important power of communication that must be used wisely. A work can change everything, depending on the context and content. These are times to say what is essential, to live each process (interior and exterior), to support the causes that make us vibrate strong and to fight for them. Not taking advantage of this opportunity would be a waste.
The degree of responsibility depends on each one of us, and the involvement with our present, too.
How autobiographical is your research and how intimately are art and life interconnected for you?
My work is the expression of experiences transformed into art. All my work is born from something I lived, no matter what it was. Behind it there is always a story that blends with the piece until they become one soul.
Through the creative process I experience the greatest changes, I learn from the many hours of realization, the discipline, concentration, the firmness to reach the result I´m looking for, which requires me a continuous transformation. I´m constantly constructing and deconstructing myself.
For me, art is life, from the crudest to the most sublime.
What is the “Linea de la vida”?
Line of Life is a series that discusses the events of conception, birth, miscarriage, loss, grief, understanding, meditation, healing and transformation through my personal experience and creative process.
It does not seek culprits, it does not seek to judge, nor to mark, it does not demand whys, it does not deprive women of their rights, it does not contradict any belief.
It´s born from a personal experience that feels sister to many other stories from which it is woven and nourished. It brings to light a reality that exists as much as life itself and is its counterpart.
As women of these times, it´s important to exercise our right over the physical body and recognize the need to reestablish the body-mind-spirit link, take responsibility for our sexual life and education, and heal inner pains, while learning and transforming ourselves.
Everything starts with a 12m x 10cm line, crocheted with jasmine stitch, where 1m = 1 week, representing the first 12 weeks of gestation, the time when most miscarriages of the three types occur.
From it hang fetuses woven to the approximate size and weight of those aborted, each in its corresponding week.
This work is still in progress.
From this mother piece arise others that deal with different points within motherhood and the female experience, where I explore different techniques and formats.
Some of them are Line of life is not just flowers, Circulatio, 85445, Armour Will Temperance, New Generation. A birth story. (NFT Collection), Line of Life. (NFT Collection)
Textile is traditionally associated with women’s domestic or recreational activities. Is there also a desire to overcome stereotypes and prejudices in choosing this medium for your artistic practice?
Weaving is part of my human essence.
When I learned I connected with the tradition of many weaving ancestors, which is important to me from the knowledge and wisdom it can bring, but never as an imposition or immovable dogma.
Art is the vehicle of expression I have to explore who I am and how I live, understanding everything that happens around me.
Stereotypes will always exist, just like prejudices about certain subjects, they are links of our human society. Yes I have encountered them but, when creating I don’t worry about breaking them or not, I just flow and let the message to be given take care of everything. Although, honestly, I can really enjoy breaking certain barriers.
Textiles – materials and techniques – have their roots in the mists of time. How does this ancient heritage combine with the NFT, the avant-garde of the contemporary art?
Thanks to the continuous exercise of creation and photography.
With the pandemic the doors were closed for many realities, among them the art market, but a total change always requires renewal.
In mid 2021 I began to hear about NFTs, the opportunities they offered, the new perspective they gave to the art world, the autonomy it gives to the artist as creator and marketer of his work, the authenticity of the work as a digital archive, among others. I applied to a call in which I was selected and I was able to create my first illustration.
I had never explored the digital world, the thread was the first thing I knew, since I was a child I felt attracted to it as an initiatory material. However, as a creator one should not set limits for oneself, and I was very attracted to the new perspective.
I wanted to maintain my passion for weaving and at the same time develop and learn from this new path.
I discovered the possibility that, through photography, I could unite two worlds that are apparently distant but that merge into each other.
Thus were born several collections that are currently part of the Life Line series, and that naturally have been interwoven between technology, contemporaneity and tradition.
For the “This earth is my whole body” series you used human hair. Can you tell me about these works and why this choice?
For me it is important that the material I use or don’t use in the work, brings both physical and symbolic content to it. Each one, according to its discourse, completes its expression with the right material.
Esta tierra es todo mi cuerpo is a series from the beginning of 2021, but it is fully developed after 11J in Cuba.
It speaks of my feelings regarding the reality in which I currently live, of the pain that my land causes me, which is not only the small island, but also the whole planet, and also my small body. Of my relationship with the totality that surrounds us, of going from the big to the particular in a phrase that resonates in me as a truth, taken from different authors and that discourse on points of interest due to their relationship with my life.
Hair has the information of the person, their DNA, the story of who they are. It is also root, branch, strands that seek the earth from us.
When I comb someone in the family, or a friend gets a haircut, I take the hair and make little strands of thread, which I then embroider in consecutive line creating each letter, word, and finally the whole sentence. By using my hair and my family’s hair I bring to the work important symbolic-energetic information, offering a part of me and mine that merges with the support, the message, the rhythm of the calligraphy, the inner transformation that comes from the creative process, and the need to convey a reality that is myself, in all my extension. With each stitch everything comes together.
The hair is embroidered on antiseptic fabric, a fabric that in Cuba is used for diapers for newborns, and that the government gives it in a single module per pregnant woman. The fabric left over from my three maternities became the perfect support for some of the works in this series.
From the first works to the last, how has your artistic research evolved and how has your art changed?
I think the evolution can be seen in the work itself, from the formal to the conceptual. The constancy and discipline of daily work makes the artist mature in his proposals.
Today I am in a different place from where I will be tomorrow and that comes from yesterday, from mistakes, insecurities, pains, conquered fears, from study and the firmness to keep learning.
My search is more and more internal, even if it touches external or concrete themes inherent to my reality, it is inside where the transmutation occurs from which the work will come out. There are things that do not change, such as the visceral need to make art constantly, but there are others that are constantly renewed in the creative action.
My work and I have changed and grown together.