Valerie Prosper Imparato is originally from Haiti ,but has lived all over the world. Valerie’s aesthetic draws from the diverse cultural influences in her upbringing, with an emphasis on East-African and Caribbean art.
Valerie’s art teeters on the balance between the ethereal and the earthly; the fantasy of the whimsical and the perspective of the realist. She hopes to make art that inspires dialogue on issues of faith, race, immigration, feminism, and the plight of the oppressed.
Her most recent work is focused on the Black Woman and all of the identities folded within the intersectionality of blackness and womanhood.
Valerie attended our first Boston Visual Artists meeting at Zuzu in Cambridge, and we were all stunned by her work, and we are excited to share this interview and samples of her work.
Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?
It definitely changes piece to piece, but I think that I get in these moods where a series of pieces will be about the same thing. Lately a lot of my work has been about black women and presenting black women as holy. It has been about the godliness that lives within black women. As a Christian, there are all of these representations of white Jesus which are frankly, historically inaccurate. More than that though, I think that many black women don’t see themselves in the American Church, and they certainly are not often presented as holy or pure in American media. The golds that I use, and the Renaissance style-esque aesthetic that I incorporate in my work all point towards that holiness.
I see you are from Haiti, how did you end up in Boston? How do you find the art scene here? What is the most artistically inspiring place that you have lived?
I am indeed from Haiti! I have moved around A LOT. I was born in Haiti, and then spent 13 years in Maryland, followed by 1 year in Johannesburg South Africa, followed by 3 years in Nairobi Kenya, followed by college in New York (with a brief stint in Spain), law school in Cambridge MA, back to NY for work, and back to Cambridge when I got married a couple of years ago. So I guess the short answer is that I moved back two and a half years ago after I got married because my now husband was located here. I am still learning the art scene in Boston. I have found great community here, which is wonderful, but I will say that it has been harder for me to find my art people in Boston than it was in New York. The most artistically inspiring place that I have lived is New York, but only because New York is filled with art from all over the world.
How did you start as a visual artist?
I have only recently been calling myself an artist (in the last 5 years), but I have always loved art. I did a lot of art work with my mom when I was a child, and drawing and painting have always been soothing for me. I started taking my work more seriously when I was in law school and the stress of life made me a true insomniac. I would paint at night since I couldn’t sleep, and then I had so much art around the house that I figured I should start sharing it with others.
What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?
Recently a lot of people have told me that my art makes them “feel something,” and that’s the goal. It is often difficult for people to articulate, which is great, because it’s difficult for me to articulate too. I think that a lot of my work feels intimate, even though it’s about more universal themes. I love that people feel that way.
Do you hope that your work will inspire a change in the people who view it?
I do. I hope that my art makes people view black women differently. I hope that it makes people view faith differently. I hope that it makes people view the world differently. Ultimately, I hope that people share a private moment with my work, and that that moment causes introspection.
How do you start a piece? Do you have the finished idea in your head when you begin?
I never have a finished idea in my head before I start a piece! I think that has happened maybe once. The way that I start depends on the kind of work I am going to do. If it is mixed media, I usually start with an image that speaks to me, and create the are around that. If I am working on canvas, I usually start with the figure that I am going to paint, and then create my world around her.
Are there any artists who inspire you?
So many. I have always been inspired by Dali’s surrealism. I am very into Kehinde Wiley lately. I would say that any artist that puts themselves out there inspires me. It’s a really hard thing to do, and it is sharing such a personal part of yourself.
What draws you to East African and Caribbean art?
I have always been drawn by the color and whimsy of both East African and Caribbean art. A lot of Haitian art has this ethereal quality to it, and I often incorporate that into my work. Kenyan art to me has always felt alive. It’s just so full of life and color, and I love that.
What is your goal as an artist?
I think I am still trying to figure that out. I want to make art that is true. If that truth sparks something in others, then all the better, but I never want to make art for other people.
Valerie’s work can be found on her website Valeriepimparato.com and on instagram @Vp_visualart.