We had the good fortune of connecting with Pedro Lavin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pedro, what do you attribute your success to?
At the beginning of 2020, I left a full time creative director position at a world renowned animation studio. For a couple of years, my artistic life had been unbalanced. Commercial work provided a decent wage but required me to sacrifice artistic integrity and to quiet my voice in favor of client demands. Moving towards independence was primarily a way for me to balance the equation, and reclaim my time and ownership of my work.
I now find myself at a place in life where I have the time and resources to create. At times, this newfound freedom has been a source of elation and pride; but it’s also created anxiety, led to me to set lofty expectations for myself, and to endlessly question where I am in my career. I try to see these two seemingly warring sentiments as complimentary. One represents gratitude, and proud recognition of where I am; and the other is an engine, constantly propelling me forward, never stopping at satisfaction for long.
My perception of my own success changes every day. Today I may feel accomplished, enlightened and content with my achievement; but tomorrow that same fulfillment will invariably feel stale, and I will ignite that anxious engine once more, accelerating towards the future.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Looking back on the path I have walked to get here, I recognize specific periods of time where my visual style took turns, or leapt forward. I currently feel like I am in a phase of discovery that began with artistic discontent a few years ago, and has forced me to reclaim my work and point it purposefully in a more fulfilling direction of introspection and creative, spiritual growth.
This phase has been preoccupied with queerness and eroticism, deities and mysticism, magic and dreams; threads that had been semi-dormant since I entered the professional world and had to adapt my work and ‘commercialize’ it for consumption. Since reclaiming my career, I’ve returned to these interests with a renewed and insatiable hunger, and a new arsenal of skills and collaborators.
I also began therapy about a year ago, and an unexpected consequence of the sessions with my psychologist has been insight into my own body of work and of course my psyche. I have begun to understand why certain images keep resurfacing in my work, or why some themes ring especially true. Symbols and metaphors, previously hidden in my own drawings or films, reveal themselves to me and invite me to plunge ever deeper, mine the caves of my subconscious and see what treasures I find there.
I am currently most excited about I Feel Love, a short film I’m directing, slated for release at the end of summer 2021. Following a similar trend to the rest of my more recent work, I Feel Love has slowly revealed itself to me over the course of its development. What I initially thought to be exclusively a celebration of queer love has evolved into a much deeper exploration of my own relationship to my queerness, and my mexicanity. I usually work in shorter bursts, so creating a more robust piece has been very different and exciting. I have loved seeing this piece blossom and present it’s many petals to me over the course of its longer gestation period.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I usually don’t visit museums often, but with my best friend staying over in New York City I would have no excuse to check out the exhibits in town. Some of my favorites include the Tenement Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. I’d also take them to the Mexican muralists exhibition at the Whitney, and the costume institute at the MET.
My favorite restaurant in the city is Cosme, a Mexican spot in Flatiron. They serve some of the best, most original Mexican food I’ve ever had. We’d go with the duck carnitas to share; and drink two Damiana corn beers.
Every now and again I love a good night of wild dancing at a queer bar, and my best friend in town is certainly an occasion to indulge. First option is the Rosemont in Williamsburg if we’re feeling a little more grimy, or we could do Hardware in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a bit basic, but if if we’re willing to forego coolness for a night, they play the best/worst top 40’s gay music we’re too guilty to admit we love.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am originally from Mexico City, a place full of overlapping, contradictory cultures. My more recent work attempts to untangle these cultures and traditions; and find its own place within the tapestry. By recognizing my past and origins as hugely influential threads running through my work, I give it context and depth.
My work feeds from the garish and violent visual lore of Mexican art and culture. Subconsciously at first, but more and more consciously as I’ve recognized this influence; I find myself incorporating Mexican motifs and cues into my art, combining them with different aspects of my existence. This extends well beyond the purely visual, also tinting my conceptual thinking. I recognize how the painful, oneiric fantasy present in my work can be traced back to the Mexican surrealists Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington and of course Frida Khalo; and the subversive realities I portray are linked with the magical realist writers of the 30’s and 40’s.
In line with the contradictions that make up my culture, I myself have been nourished not only by the love and support that my country and my family have provided, but also by the pain of growing up queer in a deeply conservative and Catholic society. My occasionally tormented past provides truth to my work, grounding it in honesty and imbuing it with necessary pathos. The wounds, as painful as they have been, are just as beautiful as the love.
All images courtesy of the artist.