Interdisciplinary Artist Elisa Jimenez
This episode features my interview with Elisa Victoria Jimenez – one of the most unique human beings I’ve ever met. I interviewed Elisa in New York in late 2019. My daughter, Danielle, worked with her as part of her internship with the New York Arts Program. A solo entrepreneur for more than 25 years, Elisa Jimenez decided at the age of 15 that her life would be her greatest work of art. She's interested in the relationship between art, life and humanity.
If you follow fashion - you might recognize Jimenez from her work with celebrity clients like Cher, Courtney Love, Sarah Jessica Parker, Serena Williams and more. She makes spontaneous… on-the-spot couture, sewing with monofilament or fishing line. Over the years, her designs have graced the pages of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Elle. Elisa is also a Project Runway alum. Her creative roots run deep - she’s the daughter of famed designer and fine artist Vicky Balcou and the late internationally known sculptor Luis Jimenez.
· Where you spend your money matters.
· Change is the only constant.
· Learn about business and then you tweak it so it’s socially relevant.
· Empathy is a lost art.
“Keep change as your best friend, Elisa, and the unknown as your constant lover. If you know this about life, you will be better for it.” – Words of wisdom from mother Vicky Balcou to daughter Elisa Jimenez.
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Judy Oskam: 0:03
Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. Throughout my career is a television journalist, video producer, PR professional and educator, I've always been drawn to stories, stories about people and how they deal with change and embrace creativity. Hope you enjoy listening.
Judy Oskam: 0:30
If you follow fashion, you might recognize the name Elisa Victoria Jimenez from her work with celebrity clients like Cher, Courtney Love, Sarah Jessica Parker, Serena Williams and more. She makes spontaneous on-the-spot couture - sewing with monofilament or fishing line, with minimal cutting and stitching. Then Jimenez blesses each creation with special oil. She's been featured on the show Project Runway, and over the years her designs have graced the pages of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Elle. Elisa is the daughter of famed designer and fine artist Vicky Balcou and the late, internationally known sculptor Luis Jimenez.
Judy Oskam: 1:15
Elisa Jimenez: 1:46
My name is Elisa Victoria Jimenez, and I am a trans-discipline artist or interdisciplinary artist, which means that I do many different things. I have a world called the Hunger World that came to me or I developed starting at 23 and is a world populated by marionettes that range from three inches to 30 feet high. And it now is expressed through art and fashion and installation, performance, writing, photography pretty much any of the arts, including life that you can possibly imagine. And when you say, how do I describe myself.. on the high and the low, I usually just say I'm a maker and a doer and a giver, because that seems pretty more honest.
Judy Oskam: 2:32
Well, and on this podcast we talk about change and creativity and your life. You came from solid roots,
Elisa Jimenez: 2:40
So I am proudly a fourth generation Irish Mexican French from the border of Texas and my Mother was a graphic illustrator in the sixties and a solo parent, which was incredibly pioneering for her and then eventually became the head designer for Fitz Floyd for the last - for 25 years. And now she is an active, showing fine artist in the Texas area. Her parents were both artists as well, and my father is - was an internationally known sculptor named Luis Jimenez. My mother's name is Vicky Balcou, and his father was a sculptor and a creative thinker. He had a sign shop in El Paso and my grandmother, Elicia Jimenez, who I knew as mejah, she taught me to sew from the time I was like two all the way up. And she would have to say was one of my early super fan girls and that she always encouraged me to follow my heart and to do what I believed in. And she knew that I was quote unquote different. I now say special in that I was always very voracious. I always desired to learn many things and know many things, and so early on I was pushed into the arts a lot. But I also felt very strongly about academics. So I did grow grow into being a five degree graduated cum laude kind of chick. And even the last week that I, my father was alive on the planet, he could still push my buttons by saying 3.8. That's all he had to say. And I'd be like, 3.9 Daddy 3.9, Um, because graduating from graduate school, I went on full scholarship all for my undergraduate and my grad, Um and that was because of grades and just general overachiever-nous. But I also was raised to be very humble and to believe in your community and your family and your friends so that you could do better work in the world.
Judy Oskam: 4:35
As far as creativity, talk about how you approach the creative process because we've just been fortunate enough to to go through one of your sewing circles or exhibition.
Elisa Jimenez: 4:46
Well, in all truth, um, starting a very young age when you're an art brat, which I'm very actively will say I'm an art brat, You grow up drawing and doing and drawing in making. So I had a sketch book from the age I can remember, and, um, when I was in high school. I went to the Arts Magnet High School in Dallas, Texas. Um, proud graduate. And we just had a book that came out last year. So I had to kind of mention that, um, but incredible ideas. Um, I got introduced to the concept of the art is life, life is art movement. And so probably around 15 I decided that my life was going to be my greatest artwork and that I was choosing to live a creative life both economically and morally, um, aligned with philosophies that I thought were good or would help people think about how to be better. And and so my mom did raise me a great deal with a lot of ideology that's very popular now, like Law of Attraction language, Longer for law of attraction. My grandmothers were spiritually and also very religious people. So I definitely grew up with the idea that we had an inherent responsibility to evolve and be better and higher vibrationally as we grew even from the time we're like children.
Judy Oskam: 6:02
I love how you inspire young people and your apprentices. And over the last few months you've Ah, we've had the pleasure of you working with my daughter, as a matter of fact. And I think I hear some of her language that she's learned from you. How do you... what is your role and how do you take that on to really pass things on to the next generation and connect with people? You have a way of connecting in a magnetism.
Elisa Jimenez: 6:32
Thank you. I'm all like chili right now. I feel like I might want to cry. I have been very blessed by so many people who have believed in me my whole life that each place of excellence that I have gotten that other people from the outside could see as a huge achievement always reminded me that I didn't do it alone, That it was, you know, all these people, whether it was family or friends or even just people you meet for five seconds on the street. That inspired me that the way I was was fine, even if it was like we used the language of unicorn now. But even if it was like I was a unicorn with like a whole like herd of ponies like ponies are great too. But like you, your a unicorn, it's a little rough because you're like it was like, What's the horn for? You know, like, well, it's a weapon, and an ornament. But in all truth, um, I just as I got pulled into fashion, I felt this way about the artwork, for sure. And that's why I did go into, like, performance and installation . I really desired the Hunger World's philosophy is that the heart's hunger all can understand. So early on, I desired to do artwork that would create some sort of transformation. I was really inspired by the transcendentalist movement in the Surrealist, and the Dada es somehow where you know, we were early. We were talking about art and its relationship to, you know, people who don't do art. I was sort of under the philosophy that as an artist, you have 50%. The other 50% is your audience. Do you have no control over that 50%? But that is also like life. You only have control over your you you don't really have control over the other. And when I got into the marionettes, you know, I heard and felt things like, you know, it's not how we break how we mend. That's important. And because of that, when I got pulled into fashion, which was basically like someone saying like the universe put me in that position, of course, been Vogue said yes, which obviously is really helpful. And then, you know, I got represented by Holly Solomon during the last, like, 8 to 10 years of her life and being, you know, being represented by one of the three heavy hitters of the eighties art world was like a dream come true. And she was an incredible mentor. Um, what I realized was that if I was gonna be brought into this larger platform, a fashion which I just see is fashioning, we're fashioning a life we're fashioning a dress. Then I had to be ethically aligned with every part of what I was doing, whether it was fashion, whether was art. And then I also got pregnant with my daughter, at 29 or 30 ish my first year here in New York, and so that also really honed my I must be a good example, even if I'm faulty, to be able to say I am faulty because I'm human, but I still strive to be a better person So that is always my initiative. And even when I did the you know, the non reality reality show Ah, Project Runway and Project Runway all stars my pride in doing it was....I was chosen for the very first, the very first episode, the very first filming. And even those people were like Elisa, What are you doing here? Like we know ethically like you're against, like overseas production and mass and all this like, what are you gonna do if you win? And I was like, Well, that'll just have to be part of the dialogue. But I was also involved in all these bigger projects. So I went to London for these bigger projects. I got hit by car, died and came back. And that was a thing. We call it the Lazarus here. I mean, not to be light of it, but you know, like, you know, I'm a bit cheeky, and but I'm extremely grateful after that. Even doing that, I felt like when I was being interviewed by them, they were like, Why do you want to do it now? Three years later, etcetera, I was like, I just I would like to talk to the 10 year old girl. I was in Texas where I felt like no one understood me and that I read things that nobody was interested in and that if I was lucky, I maybe had like one really good little child friend. But most of my friends were like older people who understood that I was concerned about pollution and global warming. But I was only like seven or eight, so always to be a good example, even in the fact that I'm faulty and that advice goes beyond artists. It's good advice for everyone, right? Yeah, there's nothing worse than arrogance. I'm sorry. I have, like a little like I'll be like, I'm not judgmental except about people who are judgmental, which I know is a bit of a document. But but in all truth, it does go beyond that, because we especially now and I will get on my little sit box for a second. We are at a pivotal time in humanity's evolution. Where are conscious choices from where we spend our money to who we have its friends to, who we partner with, including ourselves, who should be the first partner that we have um is going to be crucial and critical for the future of the planet and of the population. And so I'm a huge advocate of, you know, where you spend your money is how you have a voice who you give your money to, like, you know, buy from your friends. Support your friends. I'm always telling young people start their own companies. Learn about business. Um, it's a little Machiavellian, you know, learn, learn your enemy well so that you can fight with integrity the way you choose to.
Judy Oskam: 11:43
And you had talked with us earlier about not just do fashion but understand the business side of it. So I think a lot of our listeners might have that creative spark. But why is it important to know the other side of it to succeed?
Elisa Jimenez: 11:59
Well, I don't know if I've succeed so that I get a little wiggly on that one because, you know, I have no 401K. If anything I've learned is that I have to evolve my concept of non permanent because I believe very strongly in it. Um, but I was very fortunate. My mother raised me. That change is the only constant and the unknown the only constant, like you know. So she would say, You know, keep change as your best friend Elisa and the unknown as your constant lover. If you know this about life, you will be better. You will be better for it. Fashion is changing right now. This next wave of fashion hopefully will be seeding some of the things that I was fighting for in the late nineties and at the turn of the century, which is was cold calling like 3 a.m. and DuPont and asking for biodegradable stretch fabrics. And I was fighting with people. I mean full on fighting with people that one of the kinds were just fine because, you know, we're all divine or small. Additions were important because not everybody got tohave me. You know, these were artistic ideas that are now being embraced by an industry that is understanding that the way that we have evolved it's an industrial society is not sustainable. It is just not sustainable. So my learning the business along with the art is a way of ensuring your value so I don't come from it. From the point of view of like, oh, business is bad and you shouldn't know about it. I have been a solo entrepreneur for 25 years, legitimately meaning that like doing it consciously. But I have been doing it since I was, like, seven years old and like hand drawing T shirts or like up cycling and painting on clothes. Or, you know, getting paid by people to trick out their T shirts or trick out their pants or, you know, and trick now is that was the word I use because, you know, I grew up in Texas and New Mexico, the car boy term, you know. So I was always attempting to adopt language that was very masculine, to apply it to what I was doing, because I'm also one of the first wave of feminism, and I it felt like, you know, this is important. We need to think about how to survive and thrive in what we do. And so you have to know the business because we live in a world that is business. But more importantly, that's how we change business. So you learn about business. You learned about corporate and then you tweak it so that it's conscientious and it's socially relevant. You might even be able to create a situation where every person that works for you has stock in your company. What a shocking idea. Every person that works for your company has stock in your company, and then they also get an automatic, you know, so all these things can be applied. But business has to change for the planet as well.
Judy Oskam: 14:43
You talked about empathy, and we'll kind of, uh, why? Why is there a need for more empathy? People might say business is business and,
Elisa Jimenez: 14:52
Well, you hit on the tone because, you know, I'm like, super cheeky. All my friends are everything that so I'm always about saying empathy is a lost art, and it is because my grandmother's really raised me. My grandmother's had been through depressions and wars and racism and gender isms and all the ism's that will tie you down like a terrible fetter. And, um, I think that empathy is the lost art. If we don't, you have no empathy. People without empathy, is actually, the definition of a psychopath. And so we have to evolve as a planet to understand that empathy is one of the core next comes compassion, because if you don't see someone else as like you, then you treat them terribly. But if you see another like you, you treat them like you would like to be treated. That goes beyond religion. That goes beyond a lot of every kind of dogma
Elisa Jimenez: 15:45
That's just kindness. And last I checked we're called Human kind,
Judy Oskam: 15:46
Great way to end it, Thank you very much.
Elisa Jimenez: 0:00
You're so welcome....thank you.
Judy Oskam: 15:53
Thank you for listening to stories of change and creativity. Check out the show notes. For more information about this episode, you can find this podcast on any of your favorite streaming platforms. Please subscribe. Leave a review and share this podcast with a friend. If you have a story to tell or know someone who does, reach out to me at judyoskam.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. That's d. R. Judy Oskam at gmail dot com. Thanks for listening