Portraits Pisciacais: Episode 1, La Street c’est Chic

Hello everybody! Today, we launch the first episode of the student podcast Portraits Pisciacais, the city by the Seine’s favorite platform. Our first guest, Lorena, is the creator of street-art character Lorenita, a black and white girl with cool sunglasses and a punk rock philosophy.

Hello everybody, my name is Emilie and you’re listening to the first episode of Pisciacais Portraits, the student podcast who doesn’t take itself too seriously! 

Intro music

With me today, Lorena, the creator of Lorenita, a little street art character running around the streets of Poissy. Lorena, could you present yourself to the audience and explain your urban art project?

My name is Lorena, I live near the Seine in Poissy and I am a street artist, painter, illustrator and creator of Lorenita. 

Could you describe Lorenita for the audience of this podcast, who can’t see her? 

Lorenita is a stencil, whose shape is defined by me. She’s a caricature, I tell amusing stories through her because I need to laugh, to have fun. Her style is colorful, entertaining, and although she dreams of a black and white world, colors follow her.

What sort of materials do you use?

There are many: Lorenita likes to appear on different surfaces with different formats. We can find her on acrylic boards, on walls in a more mosaic style, on concrete or under bridges, on the yellow tile in a pixel art kind of style. I’m inspired by the enormous work of the Space Invader. 

I saw on Lorenita’s character sheet on your website that she caught the coronavirus: is this true, and is this what pushed her to go into the streets? 

In part, yes. Everything about Lorenita is very true, she’s down to earth, she’s very realistic. Even when I put her places, I put her close to ground level. So, yes she had the coronavirus, but that’s not the main reason which pushed her outside, what inspired me was the work of other artists. I had a therapeutic need to create her, but I was inspired by creators such as Franck Stromme, a photographer. I saw his work once in Poissy, near the train station: there was a whole photographic journey displayed on panels called “Regards”, a magnificent black and white ephemeral work on the human gaze. I needed to continue this dance which he had started in Poissy. And then I met Marie Possita, my street artist friend who sticks portraits around the city! So Lorenita is in the continuation of this poetic, visual dance, which the coronavirus helped bring to life. And…well, it’s ordinary but I had a difficult pregnancy and I was in the hospital a lot. Lorenita was created there, in a waiting room. 

You mentioned on your website your urban art project with Marie Possita and her character Lubie: this kind of public street art is urban in its essence, and so I wanted to ask you if you conceptualize street art as a sort of game between pedestrians and artists?

That’s a beautiful question. Yes, of course! This game with Lubie takes place on billboards and it resembles grafiti, it’s fun and it comes from a need to offer the public alternatives, small things. These pieces of art are small details, poems, some pedestrians take pictures in front of them and send them to us which is very cute. It motivates us to continue, this sort of relationship. This performance is also live, and so we chat with people walking by as we paint. 

Do you see art as necessarily collective?

For me, art is nothing if not collective. Art is going towards others, especially for street art, which is hard and physical. Street art is not sitting down and painting water and flowers: sometimes there’s wind, rain, or we have to clean up beforehand, it’s fun to do it together, it’s better.

Do you have any anecdotes about one time you went painting and something went wrong?

Yes, with Lubie we have plenty of them! Sometimes, people send the police after us, which I find funny. The cops come and we end up laughing with them. It’s a shame to call law enforcement for obviously dangerous people like us. But people are scared, I understand…I mean I don’t, but that’s life. Once, a man threw a bottle of tomato juice at us while we were working. It was both violent and a bit funny. A woman wrote next to my art: “who’s paying?” and I wrote down “me!”, so I guess you could say there’s a sort of dialogue with the public. 

You often leave blank thought bubbles next to Lorenita, so people can talk through her, express their feelings. Have you ever found something weird or funny in those thought bubbles?

No, not yet, I’m waiting for it though. The dialogue is mostly on social media though, where people comment on my art. I think it’s normal, considering that for now the project isn’t finished yet. I hope there will be more dialogue in the future.

According to Lorenita’s character sheet, you have a long inspiration playlist, from Argentinian punk rock to Mexican feminist songs to French rock… Can you tell us about your relationship with music, about punk rock philosophy and how it relates to your art? 

Thank you for that question! I believe I dance when I paint. For me, painting is a dance just like pogo. Lorenita dances too, she loves punk rock and dancing, moving. Maybe she jumps in pixel art, from tile to tile, each one a little jump… I don’t know yet, it’s too recent to know. 

How does Lorenita express the punk rock philosophy? 

Well, she expresses it in a savage way, because she appears in the street suddenly, like BAM. This district wasn’t really fit for this savage mood, I think: when I painted cement blocks in the colors of the rainbow down the street, it was both punk rock because it was sudden and unexpected, but also “do it yourself” and “peace and love” because of the work behind it and the color palette. My art is a mix of philosophies.

You say Lorenita wants a black and white world, but colors follow her: what does that mean for you? 

Lorenita likes black and white, maybe grey because they are the only nuances which work with the stencil: I tried with colors, but it didn’t look good, so the colors follow her instead of being inside her. That’s where the peace and love makes its appearance. It’s like a punk and a hippie are following her despite her wishes. The world of this character is just like that: she doesn’t tolerate colors inside her.

About the rainbow you often mention and represent in your street art: does it have a link with the LGBT community, with the concept of freely expressing your identity?

It could, but it wasn’t the primary goal. This old lady asked me this same question when I was painting the cement blocks the other day, but she didn’t dare ask it directly like you did. She said “this rainbow, what does it mean exactly?” I didn’t choose the rainbow for this purpose, it’s up to the public to find their interpretation and project whatever they want onto my art. That old lady was reassured to know that it wasn’t explicitly tied to the LGBT community, and it’s her right: I think we need a little bit of everything to make up the world. Works of art have to live on their own after I make them. 

Lorenita is inspired from the Argentinian character Mafalda, and so I wanted to know what exactly is Argentinian about Lorenita?

That’s a hard question. You know, I have a friend who’s franco-argentinian and he gets mad when people say he’s half and half: Lorenita is like that, she’s a 100% French and 100% Argentinian, both identities coexist. She speaks Spanish with an Argentinian accent and French also with an Argentinian accent….Oh I don’t know, maybe she’s more Argentinian than French, but she was born in the Poissy hospital as I told you previously, when we were waiting for Doctor Rosenberg.

Do you have a final goal, an aspiration with your art, or do you go day to day without thinking about the future? 

Lorenita just hangs out in the street, she doesn’t have a goal in mind, but as an artist, me, Lorena, I do. I have ambitions! I want street art to be more present in cities like Poissy, which could be very dynamic but where nothing happens, especially concerning street art, modern art. 

Yes, especially since the district by the Seine tends to be a bit expensive, with rich people in pretty houses: your art comes in contrast with that.

Oh, Lorenita is pretty quiet still. I let her live here because of that, and that’s why I say “La Street c’est Chic”. Lorenita is respectful: I got the authorization for this project, I went all the way to the Minister of Culture. Lorenita is coherent in spirit with this district, but her style is punk rock, so it shakes things up a little.

Would you consider doing this urban project without an authorization? 

Lorenita wouldn’t care, but I do: vandalism risks 1800 euros in fines and 3 days in prison. Also, I didn’t want to run around, to hide, I wanted to do this properly. I wanted to intervene on Poissy’s old bridge, which is considered a historical monument, so I had to ask for permission to make this artistic link between the past and the present. This interview motivates me because I see people like you, who are invested in the neighborhood and that makes me happy. 

Finally, what is your favorite place in Poissy? 

I don’t have a single favorite place, I like the whole neighborhood, the whole stroll around the Seine. It’s beautiful, Claude Monet chose to live here you know, even though he hated Poissy! Anyway, it’s not a place I love, but a movement, my art is an invitation to walk around, to wonder and explore. 

Thank you very much for your answers Lorena, and your time dear audience! Pisciacais Portraits will be back soon: for now, don’t hesitate to walk around the neighborhood: who knows, you might spot Lorenita and her friends…

Outro music 

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