Natalia Nakazawa should sound exhausted, but she sounds chipper and friendly, excusing herself at first to quickly heat up a late lunch as we spoke. The New York-based artist is a woman with a lot going on.
Nakazawa’s next project will open March 10 at Brooklyn’s Old Stone House, which is a reconstruction of a historic Dutch farmhouse from 1699. The project will incorporate the work of 70 seventh-grade photography students from a nearby school. “It’s loosely thinking about human migration and immigration. We’re going to be mapping their migration path,” she says. “This could be something that they’ve lived, or it could be a familial history. For instance, mine would be a genealogical history looking at my grandparents and my great grandparents from Japan and from Uruguay and Spain.”
“It’s really through the lens of Brooklyn and talking about the diversity of kids and people living in Brooklyn and their histories. It’s a cool project because I’m also installing digital collages that are responsive to the architecture of the Old Stone House,” she explains.
When she’s not creating her own works, Nakazawa helps nurture other artists. For the past four years, she has been the Assistant Director of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program. The non-profit foundation, which began in 1992 as a grant-giving organization, now focuses on more hands-on enterprises. Besides the Studio Program, the EFA also runs the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Program and a gallery called Project Space.
Visual Heteroglossia: Infinite Flooding, Infinite Burning(2016) Jacquard textiles, digital collage, Faux leather, vinyl, concentrated watercolor and acrylic on wood panel 40" x 30" x 2"
Visual Heteroglossia: In Absentia(2015) Jacquard textiles, Arches watercolor paper and acrylic on wood panel 40" x 30" x 2"
Visual Heteroglossia: The Epic of Fire Palace(2015) Jacquard textiles, paper collage and acrylic on wood panel 40" x 30" x 2"
Visual Heteroglossia: Excavation of the Gentry(2016) Jacquard textiles, laser cut Arches watercolor paper, vinyl, jewels, concentrated watercolor and acrylic on wood panel 40" x 60" x 2"
To create the Studio Program in 1998, the EFA bought a 12-story building in midtown Manhattan and created 90 studios for a wide variety of artists. An annual open call application process occurs each autumn to fill vacancies, which are few, as Natalia and her colleagues have worked to keep the studios full and raise the profile of the program.
The weight of the EFA’s role in Natalia’s life is evident. “My primary calling card is being the Assistant director for the Studio Program. Because I represent an organization, and it is a very important part of how I operate in the world. I’m here three days a week, but it bleeds into all of my life because I have a studio here, too.”
Yet she still finds the time to do more. On Fridays, Nakazawa, a former high school teacher, is also an arts educator for the Museum of Arts and Design. She teaches art workshops based on the museum’s exhibitions to middle school children in the South Bronx. “I love it. It’s great, and the kids are amazing,” she explains, “We do anything from weaving to origami paper folding to mixed media collages to working with clay. You name it, we do it.” The program also offers free museum entry to the students and their families so that they might further explore the art world.
Natalia also curates shows, gives lectures, and sits on panel discussions. Recently, she even judged student submissions to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, an event that she participated in when she was a high school student. If you’re not convinced Natalia Nakazawa should be exhausted, it should be added that she’s also a wife and mother of a 16-month-old baby boy.
“I don’t have time for hesitation, let’s just do this,” she says. “I try not to hesitate on anything. If I think, ‘Oh, I should email that person…’ I just do it. Instead of using the mental time to think ‘should I…’ or ‘how should I…’, I try to minimize that before time and just go for it.” She also admits, “I program everything in my life. I put everything in my calendar and make it non-negotiable. That’s it.”
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