Class Notes Profile: Nature Lover

Vivian Zapata spray paints a flower made from found materials for “Yellow Box,” a sculpture that reflects climate challenges facing the Earth. (Image by Stan Strembicki)
Artist Vivian Zapata’s work revolves around the wonders and perils of the natural world 

Stare at a white wall, and you likely see it for what it is: a white wall. Vivian Zapata, ’08 FAA, sees a blank space awaiting transformation. “That’s the kind of space I like to work in,” she says, “all-white, clean.”

Zapata creates multimedia, large-scale sculptures from wood, foam, newspaper, artificial flowers and paint. Her artwork is inspired by nature and reflects how “our culture is becoming increasingly distanced from it.”

Zapata’s studio is a modestly sized spare room in her Skokie, Ill., home. Her in-the-works project is rendered in bright hues of red. Ligneous branches extend from the trunk of a red plastic tree, under which rests an unassuming block of foam, soon to be carved into a forest floor.

“Beneath the ‘whoa,’ I want people to walk away with a renewed sense of wonder,” Zapata says of her work, which is frequently steeped in symbolism. One example is “Yellow Box,” a painted sculpture in which an enigmatic room, furnished and wallpapered in yellow, is overgrown with moss-green leaves. “Meteor-ologists draw a yellow box around areas [with] severe weather,” she says. “‘Yellow Box’ warns us about the Earth’s [changing] climate conditions.”

Proficient in painting and sculpture, Zapata won first prize in the 2005 National Latin Grammy Contest in recognition of a brilliantly colored poster swirling with performers, instruments and musical notes.

“I make art because I love it,” Zapata says of her chosen profession. “Artists create gifts that come from themselves. That is special.”