Daniel Zovatto is a Costa Rican artist and actor whose first solo show, Mi Pequeña Realidad, which translates as My Little Reality, exhibited at Art Share LA and will move to Muramid Museum and Art Center in August, 2016. Zovatto has appeared in Laggies (2014), Beneath (2013), It Follows (2014) and the forthcoming Don’t Breathe (2016). His television roles include Revenge and Fear the Walking Dead.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sarah Sutherland is an actress best known for her role as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ daughter on the Emmy-award winning Veep (2012-16). She has also appeared in Beneath the Harvest Sky (2013) and the forthcoming Cannes feature Chronic (2015).
I first met Danny in New York City. We were acting in what was mutually our first film and were introduced on set while donning our characters’ prep school uniforms. Our relationship in the film was very playful, not unlike our own now. But that first day, we didn’t address each other in the scene very directly. We just had to notice one another. What I noticed was his very generous smile, equal parts sweet and devious. He is one of the warmest people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
But to leave it at that would miss the point. He is also one of the most passionate people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He has the depth and heart and guts characteristic of any true artist, and I find that his willingness to inhabit that place extends beyond the confines of his work. It is clear in the way he lives, breathes, moves, speaks, wonders, listens, laughs.
And for this reason, I love his paintings. They are evidence. They are intensely personal little relics that are muddled with emotion, romance and childlike sentiment coupled with heartbreak and other countless contradictions. At first glance, they are bursts of mess and color; at closer examination, they are more dynamic, complicated, layered. They are littered with little messages to the viewer, like hidden treasures. One could walk among his pieces multiple times and always notice something new. They are, in equal measure, chaotic and inviting. And however lively, they dare you to be still.
Mi Pequeña Realidad is showing at Muramid Museum and Art Center in Oceanside, California, from August 1 through August 31.
Sarah Sutherland: Where are you from?
Daniel Zovatto: I’m from Costa Rica. One of the most beautiful countries in the world—ask anyone.
SS: When and how did you start making art?
DZ: I have been painting and drawing since I can remember. My first canvases were walls, most notably my own bedroom walls or my mom’s living room. Don’t blame me. I just saw empty canvases around the house.
SS: Who influenced you growing up and who influences you today?
DZ: Your first love is impossible to forget—Picasso. I remember seeing his work in person at a young age, and that became all I ever wanted to do. Seeing Guernica changed my life. I was always captivated by his freedom of expression. When I was much older, Basquiat became a huge influence. I love how both of them never let go of their inner kids. They both reminded me that it was okay. You can see it throughout their work… Or at least I can, and that’s what captivated me. I also love Kooning’s freedom. Or Pollock’s, for instance.
SS: I was amazed by the volume of your material. How does it feel to have accomplished this body of work?
DZ: Thank you. It feels good to walk into a room and see your pieces on nice white walls, perfectly lit. But I must say, if I could afford more canvases and paints, I would have more! It’s just the start for sure.
“I need noise. I like the
process to be free and conversational.”
— Daniel Zovatto
SS: Do you have rituals or a particular process when approaching your work?
DZ: I do. We all find and mold that process as we go, and it’s a continuous thing that changes. I always have music playing, the TV usually is on, and I don’t mind if the phone rings—I’ll pick it up! I need noise. I like the process to be free and conversational. I don’t usually go in with a clear idea. I let it guide me as I go. At least for now, that’s what I’m going through. But again, I think it changes because you change. That in itself is very intriguing to me.
SS: What do you want people to take from your work?
DZ: I want them to walk away with a thought, a feeling. I want a part of my work to click with them. We all live in this same world and tend to go through similar situations. Yet, we all struggle and feel alone. We act like we are the only ones going through a heartbreak or losing someone… Art should remind us we aren’t alone. We are here to help and listen to one another. I want my art to bring people together. If you can take people out of that gallery for a second, you did something right.
SS: What motivates and inspires you?
DZ: Color. Emotion. Stories. Moments. Working inspires me.
SS: What emotions most fuel your work?
DZ: I like to think it’s the whole spectrum of emotions. I tend not to limit myself by approaching a blank canvas with a specific emotion. I tend to dwell with the emotions as they come. Usually music, a word, someone on the phone, whatever it may be, triggers my mind and takes me somewhere. I use all of it to guide me. I listen and let things come and go naturally. Nothing should be overthought… It’s funny because “Express Yourself” by NWA is playing right now.