In 2016 Ambar Navarro and I talked CalArts, purple futons, and cats.
Ambar Navarro is a multimedia artist based out of Los Angeles, originally from San Antonio, Texas. She received her BFA in animation from California Institute of Arts. She creates art incorporating both American and Mexican culture.
I went to CalArts for Experimental Animation 2011-2015 so i’m still a recent graduate.
I lived in Valencia for 4 years and moved around a total of 6 times while I was at school. I lived in the dorms, Lakeshore apartments, an apartment in NewHall, Val Verde, a house near school, and a house in Newhall. One of the houses I lived at had 6 cats and since all of this have gotten really good at moving.
Do you remember their gallery night things on thursday nights and did you ever do that?
Yeah! Tbh I didn’t go to too many openings since I was usually stuck at my desk working in the stop-motion BB4 building aka Butler. I did definitely stop by when I could though and really enjoyed Audrey Wollen’s final show and Cosi Schietekat. Also Alice Lang made really nice work! I had some shows of my own while I was there. It was really difficult to reserve gallery space at CalArts if you weren’t in the Art department and I remember camping out my final year, I got to the gallery around 5 AM and saw my friend Jamie who had already been there hours earlier first in line! I think I was 4th. The two gallery shows I had while I was at CalArts was one in C113 called, “MIX 4 U” where I displayed every single mix cd that had been given to me and provided a “make your mix cd” station in the middle of the gallery with blank cds and my laptop. The other show was about my new obsession of shopping in Second Life with their Linden (L$) currency and displayed fake laptop/phone props similar to those in Ikea. That show was called “Do you want to go online shopping with me?? (L$)” I really cared about having an elaborate table set-up and decorated my table with tons of balloons, food, candy, and Dos XX Ambar Beer (sponsor me plz).
Did you make any lifelong connections?
YES! My first year roommate Isabela Dos Santos who I still consider to be my best friend now lives in Miami but I really bonded with her and love her!!! She is super sweet, talented, and also brutally honest lol. She is my go-to for any tough-love advice I need but also really understanding, genuine, and smart. Tempe Hale is another friend who I can say I love and is just overall SUCH a nice person! Julian Petschek is another one of my besties, I used to hangout with him all the time in Butler and he’d make me salami sandwiches. There are so many people to name though, Josh Shaffner, Tomas Christian, Eben Zboch, Julia Newhide, just overall really sweet, smart, talented people.
As far as faculty goes too I immediately connected to Janie Geiser, I was in a meeting with a different teacher who told me I needed to meet her ASAP. She’s a really great theater and film director and I still keep in touch with her. She runs an experimental puppet theater in Chinatown.
Literally tell me all about it.
There was definitely a really strong Butler crew which is the only thing I’ll ever really miss about CalArts (and the equipment) 😉 Butler was this sort of forgotten dingy building out in the back that no one really visited but us and we would be in there building sets, puppets, or animating every day/all day/all night. What I also really loved about it was we were all pretty hands on with equipment and all had knowledge in cameras and lighting. Very technical stuff. There were also some pretty funny characters in there and because it was sort of an open space with a big community table, it felt like we were all roommates and were all really open with each other. I had an open desk policy where people were allowed to grab anything from my desk as long as they put it back.
One of my friend’s Lizzy Klein had a black pug named Olive who was sort of our mascot and there was this gross purple futon that people would sometimes take naps on.
I wasn’t the happiest CalArts student though lol. I find that when I express my opinions on my school experience people get really offended and there’s sort of this divided line on people who liked it and didn’t like it. For me the tuition was really high which I knew beforehand but also no one tells exactly how much you’ll receive in financial aid + scholarship until you actually accept to go and pay your fees. I didn’t get a full ride and not many students do. I did get some scholarships which I am thankful for but it didn’t come close to paying much for the 4 years of tuition. I also find that most of the people who get offended by my opinions are those with the most money and had their parents fully support them and pay for their tuition. A lot of these people are still being supported by their parents. I don’t want it to come off like I am a hater to people who have money, I think it’s great if you come from that but still appreciate hard working people who can support themselves or use their $ for a good cause.
Money is really big topic to bring up when talking about expensive art school$ and I wish people were more open about having this discussion. I also don’t think we should stop worshiping these higher institution art schools as “clubs” or anything that excludes people who don’t have money. I also felt that the Experimental dept. lacked in any sort of structure and was all based on self-taught which has it’s pros and cons. It was a high bill to pay for self-taught though.
Like any good reporter I did my research, I looked you up and I found your vimeo. I don’t know if this sounds creepy but I loved it, I watched almost every video. I wanted to ask you about “Dalton.” I like that one the most I think, how did that come about, are you proud of that one or any of the others?
Hahahaha omg I am so happy you like that piece!! I made that in sort of a really weird state of mind, my best friend from back home was in labor and literally texting me during it but suddenly had to be rushed to the hospital for some really complications she had during her home birth. I stopped hearing from her and and felt so sick and nervous I didn’t know what to do so to pass the time while I waited, grabbed some film from my desk and started making a little scratch on film piece for her which is basically manually scratching in tiny drawings on every single frame on 30mm film. Everything turned out fine and Dalton is the name of her little son ❤ I remember when it screened at the Bijou theater in CalArts it had no reaction and I felt super awkward sitting there. The song is from one of my all time fave musicians and friend, Chris Lyons aka Gene Defcon who lives in TX. I got to stay in his house a few times and have been obsessed with his music since high school.
How do you feel about your older art as compared to what you do know? I saw that you made a short animation for burger records that I also really liked. It reminded me of the artist Sam Lyon who does Jelly Gummies. If you’ve never heard of him you should look him up. But to that point I wanted to know that old cliche of a question; who inspires you?
I think my older art is really “cute” but also kinda embarassing. I want to go back to animating miniatures which is something I haven’t really quit doing just made it more complicated and expensive to not have supplies or space after graduating from school.
I do know his work! His gifs are pretty viral on tumblr I wish I was as good as him at cg stuff!
People who inspire me would be Adi Rajkovic, she run a space called Sunday Los Angeles that is currently on a temp hold, she used to do workshops and acted more of a community space that also had gallery shows. Her whole gallery was very pink and cute and had this little store inside that sold art and was displayed very nicely. I also really like Adam Ferriss, the artists in DMA at UCLA have really good openings, Vince Mckelvie, and Molly Soda’s work and tweets.
Do you look at a lot of other animation.
Not really anymore.
I know you told me you read a lot of interviews but as a curator do you look at art constantly, I know I overload myself aesthetically.
Constantly on instagram and going to galleries.
All Photos from Ambarnavarro.com
Ambar’s work can be found at Ambarnavarro.com or on her instagram @Ambarbecutie