Embracing Creativity, Equality, and True Identity in Art | Interview with Multitalented Artist Zaleski

Our generation is lucky enough to have surpassed the close-minded history of humanity (for the most part) and move on to bigger and better things. Labels are out the window, creativity is flowing, and the hope for equality is on the horizon. At TITLE, we deem it necessary to give everyone an opportunity to speak their truth no matter where it leads them or how it comes out. Today, we are happy to present a multitalented artist whose work is not focused on just one area of expertise.

Zaleski, the painter, illustrator, sculptor, performance artist, feels no need to focus on just one way of being creative. Her artistic expression takes us on multiple levels and she’s not afraid to take us there. While we have all had feelings of being lost and caged in, especially during a time like this, Zaleski has found a way to show her identity through her work and therefore ground herself in something beautiful.

Even the titles to some of her pieces that appear to be slightly longer express a sort of poetic aspect to the pieces. Some of which were created during pandemic times, you can really feel the emotion in every piece presented here today. We got the opportunity to interview the young Nebraska-based artist herself and got an insight into her creative mind and process.

Can you give us a brief introduction to you and tell us about the projects you usually work on?

Hi, I’m Zaleski! I’m based in the Midwest, US, and definitely thread my surroundings into all I create. Drawing in pen and ink is my greatest love, but as of late I’ve been working with a lot more acrylic paint and delving into oil because they allow me to work on a larger scale. I have also recently relocated a kiln I can use, so ceramics are back in the cycle as well. Honestly, whatever I can get my hands on I’ll use! Video, light, and sound work are also on the to-do list in this new year.

At Title, we emphasize the importance of staying true to yourself, your art, and your identity. What would you say is your True Identity?

My true identity has always felt wonky, though I haven’t allowed myself to fully live in it until the last couple of years. I say wonky in both a serious and light-hearted way. My racial and sexual identities have always been rather ambiguous, so internally I’ve been riding a very fine line for years in terms of how to present myself; maybe this is a common feeling. But hey, if in writing it down I can make someone else realize they’re not the only one feeling wonky all of the time, then that’s an added bonus!

How do you manage to create on those days where you just feel uninspired? Has the pandemic increased the frequency of these kinds of days for you?

The pandemic in some way has helped my art. I was moving around a lot and focusing on more performance art pursuits for most of 2018 and 2019, and I could feel parts of me slipping. I painted a piece years ago– now being reworked–titled “please don’t take this away from me,” at a time that I felt the language of art being lost. And that hurt more than I can explain. Although being back home for such a long time hasn’t been my favorite thing (I love to be on the go) it has granted me the time and space to put art in all forms back at the forefront of my mind. Learning from what I experienced during the time that I wasn’t able to create as much, I do my best to note/create something every day because I can’t risk losing this part of myself again. I always know that eventually, I’ll process the lost and uninspired energy, and maybe turn it into something rather dope!

How did you find yourself creating these art pieces? Were you inspired by art from a young age?

I’ve always loved art! I used to build paper towns with my cousins when we were super young. But I didn’t gain confidence in my art until later in high school. I quickly realized that in creating I am happy, even when I “fail” at least I’m learning something.

Are there any artists you look up to or whose art you admire particularly?

I fell in love with Wangechi Mutu’s work in college; not only is she also a Female Black artist like myself but the way she creates entire art experiences is right in line with what I aim to do! I’ve also admired Henri Matisse for years and often find myself taking inspiration from Gustav Klimt. I am simply obsessed with art, honestly. Archaic works, Renaissance and Baroque pieces, Constructivism, Contemporary– it’s like a massive encyclopedia that we’ve been adding to since the dawn of time. How wonderful is that!?

What is one of your favorite pieces you’ve created thus far and why?

Two pieces that I made in the Pandemic– These hands in Motion; who am I saving if not myself and This is my form, though I have carried many; green bleeds. Lengthy titles, but very personal pieces.

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process and your ultimate goal? Is there something or someone specific you have in mind when working on a project?

I think of art as a collection of notes and a little bit of vomit. I write down and draw out notes daily, and eventually, they come together. If experiences or thoughts really stick out I’ll jump right into creating! Basically, I keep it as organic as possible because I know that I’ll grow with the work, and you can’t force that. Big scheme: I want to create entire experiences with my work, installations that fully immerse viewers and hit all of the senses. It’ll be like stepping into someone’s mind or curated dimension. There’s vulnerability in that pursuit, but I believe that it is for a greater good.

Alternative Reality is a name we use when describing realities we allow ourselves to enter when creating, something very separate from reality itself. What is the difference between alternatives and realities for you?

A couple of months ago, I was watching a Ted Talk that gave me the words to explain what I’ve felt for years, and especially during this isolated period. In short, the speaker said that all dimensions are real and valid, but this “true” reality is simply one that we’ve all agreed upon. Acknowledging that they’re all valid makes it easier for me to experience and process them, and sometimes seek out the spaces as a means of escape or seeking inspiration.

Do you have any advice for artists struggling to create during a time like this?

To other artists, I’ll just say that you are valid. Your art is valid. The world needs you and is grateful for your willingness to be vulnerable, so thank you.