Manuel Zapata graduated from the Academy of Arts and Minds High School in Miami, FL and completed his first year of college in New World School of the Arts. Now he attends Ringling College of Art and Design and he is majoring in Computer Animation. His idols are Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney. In a few years, this dude is going to be super famous or at least pretty awesome even though he was a weird eye! I spoke with Manuel and he agreed to this Potty Mouth interview on the condition that I would help him escape from his self-portrait above. Seriously. He is free now. For now.
Almost Dorothy: You draw, sculpt, sketch, paint, make films, fly, dance, pilot space jets—I don’t know who you are. Who are you?
Manuel Zapata: I’m a creator. I have a need to illustrate my mind from a simple thought to a complex belief. But paper isn’t enough. I might need to sculpt a character, paint a vision, take a photograph, edit a video, or a combination of these. I’m a dreamer, but I dream with my eyes open.
AD: Before we get this show on the road, or blah blah further, what is art and what is the criteria for an artist?
MZ: In today’s society, the boundaries that defined “art” have been broken and forgotten. Anything can be art, and anyone can be an artist. Art is anything that can evoke a trend, feeling, thought, or reaction, whether it has a true thought-process behind it or not. But all bullshit aside, art is the act of consciously creating an idea, and the ability to convey that concept in a way that an audience can not only read it, but be transcended.
AD: I think my butt is art, ma’s butt too, all of them. So, what’s your favorite medium and why?
MZ: I can’t pick one medium, because not one medium fully satisfies my needs.
AD: Does creating art help you think or is thinking creating art?
MZ: Creating art helps me think. When I have to really think about an idea, or an issue, I just draw patterns, non-objectively, and free my mind. Its a form of meditation and a reality check. Thinking creatively can be art, as long as there is a greater concept behind just the basic human process of thinking.
AD: Wow, double snap & flash-dance! That kind of thinking is beyond my elementary schooling. Were you born an artist or did the artist enter your body?
MZ: Definitely born an artist. Way before I realized that this is the only thing I want to do in my life, I always remembered having a craving to be able to communicate the ideas that I would see in my head.
AD: Ever seen a ghost?
MZ: I haven’t seen a ghost, but I definitely believe in the idea that there are spirits stuck in this world.
AD: I know. I’m totally stuck here in 5th gear. I think I’m also the 5th element but that’s another story. You wrote about your work “All Life is Impermanent” that it was inspired by “the Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed”. So, after you created the work, you burned the mofo’ down. Are you saying destruction is art?
MZ: Sometimes, by destroying something you can create something bigger—perhaps a message or an idea. Why burn the skull? Because the actual finished skull wasn’t as important as the straining process it took to make it. It really tested my patience, which is something that I lack. But also having the ability to detach myself from my creations is very important for an artist’s growth.
AD: You placed a little puppy with a balloon on a precipice next to a sign that says, “Just Do It”. Why would a little dog contemplate suicide? Are you a puppy-hater!?
MZ: This was just a spontaneous, silly thought that made me smile, and so I drew it. A little dog would contemplate suicide because who knows. It is just a thought. I don’t know if it would do it, but if it just happened to be by a Nike advertisement it might be encouraged to. Maybe the mass media should think about what they advertise before flooding our vision with signs and ads.
AD: Very deep. What are you three favorite pieces and why?
MZ: “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” by SalvadorDalí: I stared at this painting for at least an hour when I saw it in St.Petersburg, FL. It simply consumed me slowly but violently, the detail, every brush stroke, every illusion, blew my mind.
AD: That is one of my favorite pieces, too!
MZ: “Theologue” by Alex Grey: When I saw this painting in person, I was entranced by the profoundness depicted. It made me realize that there is so much more out there, and in front of us that we can’t perceive. A greater force beyond our comprehension, and energy, that surrounds us and is present within us at all times.
MZ: The last piece I admire is this 7 minute short film inspired by the work of the two most surreal dreamers of the 20th century. Salvador Dali and Walt Disney, the film is not only beautifully created, and true to both artists, it shows the power of collaboration within the arts.
AD: You see yourself as what in 20 years.
MZ: An innovator, a pioneer. In 20 years I’ll have gone from animating films to directing them. Really surpassing whats been done before, bringing not just fresh ideas, but creating and telling stories that will transcend a universal audience in a positive way. I’ll be living a surreal life.
AD: Favorite curse word?
MZ: “Fuck”. It’s just a great root word that can be used as an adjective, adverb, noun, verb, anything its so convenient.
AD: I wonder if you say fuck with “ ” for effect?
MZ: (Shrugs and looks at me because I am a “f___”-ing idiot.)
AD: Favorite food for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
MZ: A big bowl of Life cereal with cold milk, with 5 Oreos, with chocolate syrup on top. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
AD: Gross. Last words?
MZ: Dream the impossible. Dare to do anything and what ever it is to achieve that. Believe in the possibility of the dream. Make it come true.
View Manuel Zapata’s work at mzapata.tumblr.com or click the image below.