The Surreal // So Real issue would not be complete without including two of our favorite artists: Juan Villegas and Rosemary Allen.
Both Juan and Rosemary paint from the soul, integrating elements, both mystical and natural to create transformative artwork. Their paintings are about more than just a pretty picture. They are commentary on humans’ relationship with nature and the spiritual world.
We commissioned Juan and Rosemary to collaborate on the covers for Issue 18, and were inspired by what they came up with.
You both incorporate natural elements into your work. What does nature represent to you?
Juan: Everything. With my work I want people to remember the importance of being connected to nature. I think that’s something we’ve drifted apart from for a long time now. It’s important to remember our roots and our relationship with animals and plants and how we sustain each other. There is a balance to everything.
Rosemary: It’s also this feeling of we’re one with nature and we’re never alone. I didn’t use to notice things the way I do now like epic skies, or simple things like finding a beautiful feather on the ground. When I tuned more into that, a lot of my worries seemed to go away. It’s important to love nature and be one with it.
Does creating surreal artwork give you more freedom?
J: I have a big imagination, I have since I was a kid. Surrealism nurtures that. It’s a nice balance of the mystical part of my mind and the psychological.
R: You get to reimagine things in your own way. Like, what am I seeing in this? What do I want to show other people?
Do you start with an idea based in reality then skew it from there?
J: For me, it’s mostly visions. I get this imagery in my head and then it’s just translating that on paper. I wander off in my head and things pop up.
R: I am maybe equal parts. I get an idea or vision that comes to me or I’ll have a siting of something. Like I’ll see owls in my yard and they’ll tell me “you need to paint me,” and then it’s me finding out how I’m going to make that my own. It can start with one little piece of inspiration.
How much do you share with the viewer? Do you want to leave it up to them to interpret your work?
R: We love descriptions. Sometimes I feel like my work isn’t as straight forward, or I had something really cool happen when painting it or something that inspired it and that’s not something you’re able to see just when looking at it. And that’s what makes it really interesting.
J: People really engage with the descriptions of the work. They still have fun getting their own perspective, but knowing our intention behind the painting is important to them and important to us. We treat our work as medicine for the soul, and there is a certain amount of that that needs to be explained. We feel like it’s very connected, the description and the image.
Have people ever just said, “I don’t get it.”
J: Haha, yeah.
R: Yeah, or just “it’s too weird.” I feel like Juan gets people saying that a lot. My parents were commissioning something and they were like “don’t put this, maybe you can do that, but not too much…” basically saying, “don’t get too weird.”
J: It’s okay though. That’s why there are different art forms. There’s an audience for everything.
Can you share your inspiration for the cover?
R: We wanted to use the prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle. We both felt like there’s so much going on right now, and we wanted the covers to embody the many themes we’re experiencing. The prophecy goes back thousands of years. It said that humankind had split, some had went with the way of the Eagle – science, logic, industry. And others went the way of the Condor – the heart, intuition, spirituality. The people had split and the eagle almost wipes the Condor out of existence.
J: The arrival of Columbus to the Americas was the first half of the prophecy. The Eagle almost wiped out the Condor, which happened with the colonization of indigenous people. And then 500 years after that, which brings us to now, the potential arises for the Condor and the Eagle to fly together and mate and produce a higher offspring, Higher Consciousness.
It relates a lot to what’s going on right now, the coronavirus, protests, the treatment of nature. There’s this division between us but the Prophecy is asking us to make a change now and bring a balance of the energies. We can come out on top, collectively. It brings so much truth, it was hard not to bring that awareness to people. We thought it was important to bring that up, and as a way to bring people together, to connect us.
R: It also represents us, because Juan is from South America and I grew up in Wisconsin (North America), like the two birds.
J: Yeah the cover has a bald eagle and an Andean condor soaring together in a circular movement. But we switched, I painted the eagle and Rosemary painted the condor. So the dance represents the potential for change and balance to be brought into the world, and bring the awareness of everyone rising up collectively.