Larissa De Jesús Negrón’s neo-surreal work is a means of self discovery
“My work makes me vulnerable because it displays my innermost intimate thoughts”: the multidisciplinary artist walks us through her introspective style.
- Olivia Hingley
- 5 January 2022
New York-based artist Larissa De Jesùs Negrón wants her audience to be “shocked by the absurdity and uneasiness” of her imagery. But, and perhaps more importantly, she also wants them to “feel strangely understood by it,” she indicates. Larissa’s hypnotic depictions of naked female bodies, distressed faces and eerie bathroom scenes are all a way for her to accept, overcome and represent her personal experience with trauma. Yet with her powerful representation of the difficulties and damaging expectations of contemporary womanhood, her work also speaks to a shared female experience.
Born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Larissa was enrolled in art classes by her mother at the age of nine. Becoming enamoured with the creative process, since then, Larissa says that she “hasn't stopped making art.” At the age of 19 she moved to New York to study for a BFA at Hunter College, and she now lives and works in Forest Hill, Queens.
Whilst Larissa often seeks to invoke feelings of “uneasiness” through her work, she tells us that spontaneity and play are also essential to her process. Not keen on any form of planning or preliminary sketching, Larissa likes to be led to unexpected places by creativity. By playing with various materials and techniques, Larissa uncovers her unconscious mind which then leads to her “processing bottled up emotions.” It was this focus on exploration that led Larissa to develop a multidisciplinary practise; she has tried her hand at mediums as diverse as filmmaking, photography, graphic design and oil painting.
It was only in 2020 when Larissa began integrating airbrush into her routine, which she sees as opening a “whole new world of combinations.” With her hazy, blurred style, airbrush has now developed into a distinctive feature of her work. But, Larissa also isn't really interested in developing or maintaining a strict style. “I enjoy the process of unveiling my identity to myself through my work”, she tells us, “this is what keeps me coming back every day.”
Defining her work as “neo-surreal” Larissa cites leading names in the surrealist movement such as Frida Kahlo, Ivan Tovar, Salvador Dali, Louise Bourgeois and Jimmy De Sana, as inspiration. “Some inspire me to technically push me to be better and others inspire me through their story and what they overcame.” But, Larissa also intends to revitalise the style for a contemporary audience with a “focus on themes like mental health and psychology that weren't necessarily vocalised or acknowledged during the surrealist movement.” While her work has a clear surrealist essence – with a dreamlike quality, floating objects and distorted faces – Larissa's specific imagery powerfully reinvigorates its subject matter.
In one of her bathroom scenes, a visibly distressed woman views the various toiletries that sit on her shelves, all of which are clearly marked for use by gender. The bottle aimed at men is simplistic and emblazoned with a bulging bicep, whilst the bottles aimed at women are much more garish, designed to restrain and tame natural attributes. Through these old fashioned gender tropes Larissa depicts a stark, ever-present double standard. She skilfully highlights the damaging expectations still forcefully placed upon women today, even from the comfort of their own bathroom.
A recurring theme throughout Larissa’s work is water; often in fat glistening droplets and sometimes in murky baths and wide-open seas. The signature droplets are painted with such dexterity and contrast that they often appear to be detached from her paintings, resting on and rolling down the canvas. Larissa observes her inclusion of water as a means of invoking “fluidity of thought”. It represents her ongoing, flowing interaction with themes of introspection. Through this introspection Larissa hopes to “bring attention to living with social anxiety and coping with my role as a woman in society.” Intricately layered and full of deeper meaning, Larissa’s work is an example of how powerful and healing self-expression has the potential to be.
Larissa De Jesús Negrón (Copyright © Larissa De Jesús Negrón, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.