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Three Questions With Artist Vik Muniz At His New High Museum Exhibition

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Brazilian born photographer Vik Muniz was in town for the Atlanta premiere of the internationally touring retrospective of his work, titled “Vik Muniz” at the High Museum of Art in Midtown. The show opened to the public on Feb. 28. Muniz, a fantastic artist and a very talented, innovative photographer creates beautiful visuals out of unconventional, and even microscopic, materials. The exhibition primarily features most of his recent works, including prints from his “Colonies” series, created by employing microorganisms to multiply into riveting designs.

In an interview with VOX at a pre-opening sneak peek for the press, Muniz discussed his work and his advice for teens exploring art as a career.

Q: What would you like teens in Atlanta to know about your exhibition, specifically teens interested in the arts?

A: Well, that this exhibition is pretty open and accessible. It’s not the kind of art exhibition that you have to know much about before coming. It is about a lot of the images they probably know and see. It’s about how to rethink contemporary [art] and art in general by the filters on contemporary media. I have teen kids, I have pre-teen kids, and I’ve been experimenting with my images on them for a long time to make it interesting for them to look at. The work of an artist is to be present  and to be aware of every single thing that happens in contemporary media. I’ve always trying to update my art so it’s relevant and can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of age or social status or the amount of knowledge they have about art in general.

The artist's depiction of the Mona Lisa made out of peanut butter and jelly.
The artist’s depiction of the Mona Lisa made out of peanut butter and jelly.

Q: What advice would you give to local teen artists?

A: Until I was in my late twenties, I didn’t know that I was going to become an artist and I think that was good because I didn’t start with the constraints of being somebody. You can do that if you’re a brain surgeon or an engineer that makes bridges. I think you have to be very focused in what you want to do from the very beginning, but art is something that comes from life, you know? If you live your life honestly, earnestly, and intensely, I think your chances of developing this into a language that you can pass onto others are much greater.

There’s one thing I’d like to say to young people: there’s a point in your life that you feel that all the books you’ve read, all the films, all the series you’ve seen on TV, the memes you’ve seen on your cellphone, you’re going to feel that you’re not just consuming culture anymore. That your generation, the tide is reversing. These things start appearing in the production of culture of your time. That’s your time. It’s very important for any creative person not to miss that moment. When you see that people your age are actually producing culture instead of just consuming it. Don’t miss that time.

Q: What would you say to those who don’t think art is important in public schools?

A: Culture is what humanizes us. Art does a great job of  doing that because it creates the impression or the possibility of a world that exists beyond the immensity of our senses. There are cultures beyond our own. There are people who live outside our homes. It makes us aware of a world much bigger than what we can see with our eyes and feel with our senses. When you start realizing how big this world is, you start respecting other people, you start treating them better, you start thinking as a group. Without art, this type of communication … without this, we don’t have a society, we don’t have a civilization. Without this we’re just animals.

The  “Vik Muniz” exhibition will call the High Museum of Art home from February 28 to August 21, 2016. Tickets for teens are $12 and are free on select days. Check high.org for details.

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