Based off of her adorable, carefully curated Instagram feed, you might get the impression that Laura Nadeszhda is purely a girly-girl, a Pollyana type with an endearingly naive love for the world. But look a little closer and you'll notice that there are several dualities to her character.
It's not that she hasn't faced hardships. Her work has a definite dark streak, and her career in art is marked by her struggle with mental illness. It's about recognizing that there are positive aspects to human existence, without over-exaggerating them to create a saccharin narrative; her art is also real. Rejecting the idea that social media has to be estranged from reality in order to be appropriate, Laura is pretty transparent about her day-to-day life, and the access she gives her audience only heightens the emotional value of her work.
I came for the over-the-top femininity of her visuals, but I stayed for the honesty and bravery behind those images. Her photographs, zines etc. are a celebration of the power and freedom of being honest with yourself and allowing yourself to be vulnerable around others. The contrast between the bleak and the joyful depicted in her work is illustrative of an affliction that we all face, and I, for one, am grateful to Laura for communicating these feelings in a completely uninhibited way.
What work are you most proud of?
I couldn´t pick one! I´m pretty proud of my artwork in general because of the implications this has on my mental health; I spent lots of years very overwhelmed by the impostor syndrome and I was unable to contemplate myself as an artist, so any little step I take towards fighting against that is a great achievement to me. I could tell you, though, how intriguing it is to me that my favorite pieces are usually the ones that are the least liked by the people who interact with my content on social media.
Anyway, I´m not solely proud of my artwork, but of the way I project and expose myself on the internet too. I decided a long time ago that my Instagram account wasn´t only going to be my portfolio, but also a place where I could overshare to normalize sensitivity, vulnerability and emotional intimacy. Following this motto, I’m equally proud of my fanzines and my podcast, Lirio Arlequín (sorry, both are in Spanish), where I talk about my usual conversation tracks and open myself inside out.
Who are your inspirations?
Mostly female artists I found on the internet from all sorts of disciplines. My biggest aesthetics inspirations in my beginnings were Petra Collins, Yungelita, Lora Mathis and Dara Scully. I also draw inspiration from different sources like cinema (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Sofia Coppola, Carlos Saura, Xavier Dolan, Yorgos Lanthimos or Dario Argento), literature (Pilar Adón, Joyce Carol Oates, Adelaida García Morales, Joan Lindsay…) or painting (Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, etc).
When was a time in your life when you felt the most happy?
I’d say now. I’ve been going to therapy for some months and that´s helping me amazingly to regulate my emotions and setting boundaries towards others. As a result I’m improving in terms of self-respect, which is something that I had a huge problem with and for which I felt people were constantly taking advantage of me because of showing myself vulnerable.
How would you describe your style?
I feel kind of weird sometimes theorizing about my style, so I’ll tell you lots of people describe it as girly and dark. I prefer thinking it´s just a balance between thanatos and eros, like Lana del Rey´s imagery, but I suspect the most accurate definition would be saying my art is like a sad millennial in her pink bedroom full of toys reflecting on how people mistreated her. There’s that regarding one part of my corpus. About my fantasy portraits… Well, I didn´t have a very happy childhood and I was quite an imaginative child, I guess as a means to looking for some escape. I remember a toy commercial where a kid got under his living room table and suddenly showed up in a fairy tale land. I tried it so many times but I couldn´t make it. During that time I was pretty obsessed over fantasy and the sinister; I still remember how I obliviously stuck a chick pea inside my nose while watching Beetlejuice. My mother had to take me to the hospital but it was completely worth it.
So, I’d say these pictures are portrayals of the creatures you could find in this realm under living room tables. People say those portraits are full of fantasy and nostalgia, which I love, because it´s just the atmosphere I want to reproduce; that’s why I use disposable cameras to capture those moments as if they were washed-out, dreamy memories. I take great pleasure on my portraits because my models are often people I love, like my sister or my friends. It´s so tender to me that we work together in putting my abstract ideas into something tangible.
What's the biggest risk you've taken?
I don´t know if you mean in my art or in my life. In my art, it could be opening that much emotionally, as it is so easy that other people use your weakness against you or patronize you. In my personal life it comes from what I said before, setting boundaries even knowing it would lead me to losing lots of people I cared about, but getting self-love and respect instead even if the path is tough.
Why are you attracted to girly aesthetics?
It makes me feel myself and free! During most of my life I felt people didn´t consider me a feminine woman even if I´ve always felt highly represented by this adjective. It seems lots of people around me believe my personality is way too strong to be associated with a concept they relate to weakness. It´s fascinating, because this usually happens face to face, I don´t really think I show that hardness online; in fact I´d say people there assume I´m all love and kindness, and that´s not quite true either. I´ve been always a little bit obsessed and disturbed on how I project myself and how others perceive me. I know it´s not healthy, but I´m giving you honesty in its place.
Anyway, I love everything related to girly art and nowadays we can perceive women are reappropriating this to get rid of all prejudices around it and giving this aesthetic an empowering meaning.
What sorts of things have you acted in?
When I studied Drama I acted in several plays I´m not especially proud of because, even if I consider I did a good job, they didn´t represent me. When I graduated and moved to Madrid, the capital city of Spain, at first I was in a La La Land mood but later I decided to be my own artist and stopped auditioning, so I started writing my own plays to later act in them, as well as taking part in other artists´ projects I really liked. I knew that would mean looking for a side job, but I preferred that instead of taking part in plays I didn´t feel passionate about. In that moment I wrote a play called Las canciones de invierno (in English probably Winter Songs) based on the myth of Pigmalion, the concept of confinement and the strategies we create to overcome it. I put it on stage two years ago with my colleague and friend Ana Rocío Dávila and we´re still working on it.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to continue collaborating especially with female artists who I share principles with. It may sound crazy, but I would love to work as a music video art director, they are a great source of inspiration to me and these are a wonderful way of exploring your creativity.
If you were to compare your body of work to an animal, what animal would it be and why? Maybe a rabbit, because they look apparently cute but when they open their mouth you can see long, sharp and scary teeth.
Where do you feel most at home?
In my hometown house, where my family is (I don´t believe in consanguinity bonds, but I feel blessed ‘cause I truly love them), but about feeling myself, and even if it´s too cliché, I pick the bedroom of the house where I am currently living with my boyfriend. My house is my sanctuary, especially my bedroom; I´m intensely territorial and don´t usually invite people over. It´s my refuge, I have the urge to spend lots of hours alone and feel safe.
I´ve always loved the concept of bedrooms as sancta sanctorums (in fact I´m obsessed over that notion since I read about it in a book called El cartero siempre llama mil veces, that could be translated as The postman always rings a thousand times, which has nothing to do with the Jessica Lange movie!), so there it goes.
Images used in collage via @lauranadeszhda