Laura Pretto Vargas, Abnormal III, Acrylic on Canvas, 67×39 (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

Italo-Brazilian artist Laura Pretto Vargas makes abstract and figural paintings that explore feelings of vulnerability, happiness, energy, and sexuality. Using mostly acrylic and, sometimes, oil, Vargas builds the surface of her large-scale canvases with densely textured brush marks and bursts of bold color. Her practice, which is informed by her background in fashion and international travel, weaves together different forms of creative expression in various styles. As a result, each painting pulses with universal human emotion, providing a space for connection and reflection. Vargas lives and works in Milan and Miami. 

This month Vargas will be part of  Engaging the Full Spectrum, a group exhibition at the Agora Gallery that features works of photographers, painters, and sculptors. Blending familiar and recognizable imagery with the abstract and supernatural, this survey will present alternative modes of seeing and experiencing everyday life.  

Laura Pretto Vargas, Bliss, Acrylic & Enamel on Canvas, 31×39 (Courtesy: Argo Gallery).

FA: How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?  

LPV: I’ve always loved art, but it was during fashion school, where I began my art career. When I started school, I assumed my love of fashion would translate my thoughts and feelings into designing a fashion line, but that was not the case. Instead, I always felt misunderstood and unfulfilled. The fleeting nature of fashion really bothered me in the sense that every season must be expressed differently; that was never an appealing idea to me. I think of art as a constant entity, where forms of self-expression adapt and change as you grow and learn, but on your terms. Art is forever! A work of art is a permanent statement your soul makes, one you desire to share with the rest of the world. Ultimately, that is why I choose to make art…not because it is trendy but because it reflects who you are, what you feel, and how you see the world. So I dropped out of fashion school and joined a public art school in Italy.

FA: Who has been a significant influence on you in your career?

LPV: I have had several influences throughout my career, but my foundation has always been my mother. She inspires me to be a better businesswoman, like her. She also plays a part in every major marketing and image decision in my career. I respect and appreciate her experience, opinion, and work ethics. She was the first to believe in me as an artist, and she helped make it possible for me. That said, I dream of a world more densely populated by women in the field. Many painters have impacted me and have been an inspiration and influence on my career — Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Kazuo Shiraga, and Jackson Pollock for their action painting; Mark Rothko because I love to lose myself in his infinite silence of colors and Claude Monet, for the immenseness of his Water Lilies series. 

Laura Pretto Vargas, Fundus Oculi, Acrylic on Canvas, 31×39 in (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

FA: When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?

LPV: When I’m feeling blocked, I like to completely disengage from the canvas: watch a documentary, read a book or magazine, or listen to some music that I love. When I’m in my studio, I need to be feeling connected and have a clear vision of the work I’m about to do.  The ideas and inspiration will come at the right moment, but they cannot be forced out. I try be patient with myself.

Laura Pretto Vargas, Androgynous, Acrylic on Paper & Board, 44×33 in (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

FA: How do you define success?

LPV: For me, it’s two things. One is being proud of myself as living my true purpose doing something I love. The second has a positive impact on the lives of people I touch with my artworks by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before. 

FA: What message do you hope your work communicates, what lagacy it creates?

LPV: I’m interested in the basic human emotions that impact people. In my artworks, I hope to communicate my feelings, vulnerability, pain, happiness, movement, sadness, energy flow, and hope… When someone looks at one of my paintings, I like to think that they will recognize their struggles and feelings in it. I think paint has the power to play with our emotions and make us lose ourselves in it. My work aims to open the viewer’s mind.

Laura Pretto Vargas, Illusion, Acrylic on Canvas, 59×79 in. (Courtesy: Agora Gallery).

FA: What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?

LPV: I’ve learned that I am always evolving in my art and finding new ways and approaches to captivate the viewer’s attention and curiosity without losing my sense of style and identity.

FA: Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?

LPV: Always believe in yourself and your skill; at the right time, you’ll find your place.