Chattanooga Workspace welcomes their newest resident artist
One of the newest members of the Chattanooga Workspace community, Mercedes Llanos, has just returned from a triumphant adventure in South America.
After visiting her hometown of Mar De Plata, winning a design contest, and painting some murals, she embarked on a journey through Argentina, Patagonia, Chile, and Peru.
With her paintings and drawings stored in tubes on her back, she walked through the jungles and hitch hiked, creating incredible art as she traveled.
Mercedes draws and paints with a soulful introspection that seeks to visualize the intangible. She has been drawing for her whole life, for as long as she can remember. Growing up, she drew on the walls of her house, with chalk on the streets, on tables, and anywhere else she could.
She has always loved art, and believes that it is a very intuitive action. She went to college to study graphic design, but found in her courses that the process of painting felt more natural to her. Her professors and everybody told her, “You’re a painter.”
She graduated from UTC with a BFA in painting and drawing, and started her first major project working on the AT&T building mural on MLK Blvd. with Hollie Berry. She has always been interested in painting large, using her whole body to make marks. She was chosen to be one of 6 people who worked on the monumental mural for 6 months.
With the money from that job, she went back to her home country of Argentina, which is where her adventure started. She painted a mural by the ocean, won a design contest, and then headed north.
When she arrived in Peru, she had the opportunity to live in a small village, as an artist-in-residence. Living simply, swimming in the river every day, and being immersed in nature, she found her passion for painting.
“I learned a new perspective on happiness, and what we need,” she explains. “When I was in Peru in the jungle, there was almost nothing. Not even running water. We were in little mud houses with mosquito nets. There were no streets, and people didn’t wear shoes. There was no internet, no phone service. This is where I started to get into the idea of this energy that we carry. Coming back to Chattanooga, arriving in Atlanta, I saw that people don’t need all of this. So many things, so many cars, so much stuff that they don’t need. People think they need it, but they don’t.”
Her work speaks of this simplicity, and has the tranquil feel of a beautiful day by a river in the rainforest.
Back in her studio here in Chattanooga, Mercedes is making a lot of paintings about inter-relations between people, about things which we cannot see. Her work is less about telling a story, and more about evoking an abstract feeling.
“When I’m painting, I think of not thinking,” she says. “I try to lose my head. To forget my mind. To get into a state in which it’s so intuitive that I become a vehicle of creation. Instead of me thinking what I’m doing, I am transferring some sort of out-of-this world energy. I have never been spiritual, but I am becoming spiritual through my art. It is my way of believing that there is more. There are things we hold on to, memories that we don’t know of, that we are always carrying with us, things that we are not aware of. Sometimes through painting, you can let it out, without knowing what it is.”
She is currently applying for grants to create some new murals for Chattanooga. She has a strong vision of what murals could be, thinking of them as a means to share thoughts and emotions with abstract images. She wants to bring fine art to the street.
“There is so much that words are not capable of saying,” notes Mercedes. “Each one of us has different energy. Traveling is amazing, but I really want to focus on these things that are inside, to let it all come out. Each person has a different energy. When I paint more than one person in a painting, it’s more about the space and energy connecting the people than the actual people. We all share something.”