An Interview with Valentina Zapata

Valentina Zapata is an LA-based artist and student. Her work ranges from music to sculpture to jewelry-making and everything in-between. Check out our recent conversation with Valentina about her pursuit of an art-filled life.

DE: Where are you from? How does your hometown influence your work?
VZ: I grew up in Montebello / East LA and spent most of my time kickin it there even though I was kind of all over the place. My teen years were pretty defining when it came to my work. In East Los and Montebello all we did was party … very hard. I think that influenced my work a lot as most of it comes from things I’ve experienced from being a young party animal. A lot of it is social commentary too, along with stories of living in a chaotic household.
Most of my early work is centered around that lifestyle. I guess an innocence is captured too. Montebello / East Los kids were and still are totally free spirited. We would walk to parks and jam out or stay up all night at a friend’s drawing and talking about world issues. We just wanted to make the world, or I guess our world, a better, funner, more adventurous place. I have a lot of fond memories in East LA and Montebello. Those memories continue to inspire me today.
DE: You’ve been involved in the local art scene for quite some time. What made you decide to go to school? How do you feel this benefits your art?
VZ: I’ve had my on and off relationship with school. I’ve always wanted to study art, since I was probably 2 years old. I always had this idea of going to art school and being one of those artsy people who lives in a warehouse loft in DTLA (of course before the gentrification haha). My mother’s side of the family never really supported that whole “study art” thing, so after some issues with my family and the university I was attending, I dropped out, got a full time job stopped going. Eventually I started taking a few classes at East LA College and that jumpstarted me back into studying art and music. It was a slow process but I’m glad it happened because now I’m pretty sure this is what I want to do for the rest of my life no matter what. School keeps me on my toes when it comes to my art. Teachers assign projects with an objective and it’s your job to make that project yours. It’s hard to try and follow project guidelines while still being innovative enough to make it personalized and I think that’s the greatest things about studying something you love in an institution. It fine-tunes your passion.
DE: What’s the last CD you bought?
VZ: Last CD I bought was Juan Wauter’s “Who, Me?”
DE:  Who are some of your major artistic influences?
VZ: I have a lot of influences. It’s pretty hard to narrow them down but I would have to say my strongest influences off the top of my head are Tim Burton, Robert Smith, David Byrne, Bob Dylan, Isaac Brock, Jean Michel Basquiat, and anything Studio Ghibli. I guess this ranges through a bunch of different styles of art, music, and philosophy but I think of these people a lot so I guess they influence anything I make for sure.
DE:  You draw, sculpt, make jewelry, and create music. How do you juggle it all? What else are you working on?

VZ: It is not easy to juggle doing all the things you love in a society that pushes for excellence in usually only ONE skill.

Personally, I go through phases. The last three months has been ceramics. Ceramics everyday! All day! Follow every Tumblr and Instagram that has to do with ceramics! But I already feel myself leaning more towards music again so I’m assuming the next few months will be focused around that and so on.

The cool thing about doing different things is that when you’re bored you can choose what thing you wanna do! That happens with me a lot, too. Life is short and I want to learn as many crafts and skills as possible. Everyday is another opportunity to make something new, whatever that may be. I guess my immediate future goals are to finish my demo ep and make a comic or zine. Been wanting to do that for a while now. 2017 will definitely focus on that, if all goes well !

DE: What do you do for self-care?
VZ: Great question. I’m still figuring that out! Self-care is something I barely started doing believe it or not! Things that make me feel better include sitting on grass, running through crowds of people, hanging out with my cats while we watch documentaries or How I Met Your Mother, playing with my rocks and crystals, and sometimes I just like to sit on my bed and play music while I stare at the ceiling. Honestly, just being alone doing anything is healthy for me. I’m always at work, at school, at the studio, practicing or doing other things that require me to interact with people, so when I’m alone I feel like I’m finally giving myself some attention.
DE: What are a few essential songs you’d include on a feel good playlist?
VZ: This Must Be The Place by The Talking Heads
In Between Days by the Cure
En Mi by Juan Wauters
Never Ending Math Equation by Modest Mouse
Get Away by Yuck
and more but that’s all I could think of right now!
8. What inspires your music currently? How has your musical style changed over the years?
– I used to be the sappiest, most whiney, annoying song writer ever! Most of my songs came from growing up in an abusive household. Now, it’s definitely more balanced especially because I’ve been working at balancing my life emotionally. I have funny songs, sad songs, happy songs, angry songs and just fun instrumentals. Lately I’ve been influenced by my obsession with toy keyboards. Stuff like what Dan Deacon plays! Most of my songs are written out of an intense emotion I feel I can’t control. Not negative, just any emotion where I can’t contain myself or get too excited. Before, I would always write songs about how sad I was. I’m not sad anymore, though, and so the music has changed.
DE:  What’s the last thing you made that you were proud of?
VZ: The last thing I made that I was proud of is my ceramic sculpture called “Nopalitos”. It stands over 2 feet tall. So far it’s the tallest free standing sculpture I’ve made. I was pretty happy about that for sure.


DE: What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
VZ: The whole world is absolutely amazing and I wish I’ve been to more places! It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite place because I just want to see it all! I appreciate the planet and everything she offers! By far Mexico takes the cake for me so far, however. I think it just has to do with my family being from there, so it makes me feel like I’m home in a way. I’ve been all over Mexico and everything about it is beautiful: the variety of terrains, the people, the art, the music, the cities, the history, the culture! I just can’t ever get enough! Especially the tropical and jungle areas because I do really well in warm weather!  I’ve also been to Japan and that was a crazy fun experience! It’s so clean and beautiful there and the people are just awesome! Traveling around the world inspires me. I hope I can continue traveling.
DE:  Where do you create most of your work?
VZ: Most of my work is made in my little studio apartment in Boyle Heights. My kitchen doubles as my workspace. I rarely ever use my kitchen to actually cook! If I’m not making art stuff in my little home, I’m at school, East LA College, making art stuff there!
DE: What’s the last book you read?
VZ:  The last book I read was Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
DE: What are some of your goals for the coming year?
VZ: Top three goals would be to finish my E.P., start my first comic zine, and be consistent with my wheel throwing.
DE:  Anything else you’d like to share?
VZ: This may not have anything to do with any of the previous questions but throughout most of my life I have struggled greatly with my mental health due to continued mental, emotional, and physical abuse. I always felt like my life would never improve or that I would never know what it feels like to be stable or content.
To this day I still don’t really know what it feels like to be completely stable as my anxieties, sadness, and regret continue to follow me but with much inner work, following my passions, self-care, and the ability to be self aware I have finally found a road to recovery and have accomplished so many goals through that! To anyone who is struggling with trauma from abusive family, peers, or significant others, you are not alone!
Things do get better and there is a way to improve your life. Surround yourself with things you love, people you love that love you back, go out and experience the world as much as you can and most importantly, give yourself the chance to discover who you are beneath all the bad things that were out of your control. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help in times of need! I stand in solidarity with survivors of abuse and just want to spread a message of hope and love to all who need it!


Valentina Zapata is a Boyle Heights based artist. Her constant growth, discovery, creation and change can be found through her various social medial platforms. This is Valentina’s instagram. This is her soundcloud.  Check out her etsy shop to treat yourself to some of her creations. This is her Flickr.  For an overall view of Valentina’s work and check out her website here.