Meet The Surrealist Artist Telling Latin American Stories Through Costume
Venezuelan multidisciplinary artist and recent graduate Victoria Ruiz has already enjoyed a varied career – from designing custom pieces for Brazilian TV sensation Sabrina Sato, to producing costumes for the grand Faena Theatre in Miami. But her latest project at PhotoVogue’s NFT Residency – a programme aimed to amplify the power of storytelling through photography – is her biggest moment yet. Alongside 21 artists from PhotoVogue’s community, Ruiz has designed an exclusive collection which explores issues of representation; a theme – inadvertently inspired by her early childhood experience – that takes centre stage in her work.
Ruiz was born in the heart of Caracas and is now based in London, but it was never the plan to seek a life elsewhere. “My family’s dream had been for us to live forever in our country,” she explains. Political instability, along with rising inflation, crime and mortality rates led her family to flee Venezuela when she was a young girl. They found their second home in Miami, a melting pot of Latin American culture.
Encouraged by her father to explore different cultural media, Ruiz participated in every creative outlet available. She studied fashion design in Florence at just 16, fashion communication at Central Saint Martins in London and completed a year’s placement in Brazil with costume designer Cláudia Kopke. It was then she realised being a multidisciplinary artist was a possibility, and was inspired to produce El Carnaval Que No Pasó (The Carnival That Did Not Happen), her thought-provoking graduate series exploring themes of social injustice. Through a carnivalesque approach, she cleverly juxtaposed majestically handcrafted costumes embellished with sunflowers and flamboyant spiky suits to “mimic bullets entering the body with the intense motion of being shot”.
Her latest project for PhotoVogue is no less political. Flying Rivers, in collaboration with VoiceHQ (a carbon neutral marketplace for digital artists) is a series of short films inspired by the ‘flying river’ natural phenomenon (the movement of vast quantities of water vapour through the air in the Amazon Basin). Each character is adorned in handcrafted costumes inspired by the distinct elements found in the Amazon Rainforest, and represents the essence of a place that faces ecological destruction. “[Flying rivers] play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem and biodiversity,” explains Ruiz. She describes her work as “fantastical, with a deeper, darker meaning”, with a mission to not only showcase her Latin American heritage, but to give voice to “a story that people just don’t speak about”.
Yelena Grelet is a freelance journalist based in London
El Carnaval Que No Pasó, photography Marcus Sabah; Sabrina Sato X Vogue Brasil, photography Fernando Tomaz; PhotoVogue X Voice – Flying Rivers, photography Marcus Sabah; El Carnaval Que No Pasó, photography Marcus Sabah; Sabrina Sato X Vogue Brasil, photography Fernando Tomaz. All artworks © Victoria Ruiz