Sofia Hefter-Smith: Artist

Emerging artist, Sofia Hefter-Smith, is working to make a name for herself as a female in the art world. Her vibrant colors, use of mix-media, and dreamlike Picasso-esque figures makes her pieces extremely unique and interesting. We got to sit down with Sofia in her studio to learn a little more about her:

How old were you when you started making art?

I mean both my parents are artists so, my mom always said I was holding paint brushes before pencils. I can’t even tell you… since I was a baby.

What are your favorite mediums to work in?

I love painting. Recently, though, I’ve been really getting into gouache on top of photos. I’ve been using it to paint on top of books and magazines and old photographs that I find.

I know that you are typically painting, and you just told me about painting on top of old photographs, but what are some other art forms that you do?

I really really love collage. Ever since I was little, I was ripping up my mom’s magazines and she would always complain about how I was messing them up. Her cousin was visiting and I forced my mom to buy me a Nat Geo. After, her cousin filled out the slip and bought me a year subscription, which was the best thing in the world! I have a massive collection of ripped up photos. Now I buy my own magazines and have for a while; I would use my chore money (laughs) to buy them. So yeah, I love collage a lot. I get a lot of inspiration from photographs.

What does it mean to you to be able to pursue art as a career? 

It’s honestly a dream come true. I’m fully baffled. I’ve gotten so much support from the guys that own Shit Art Club, which is the gallery I’m going to be showing my art in at this group show. Even my friend Alai, she put on this show called “That’s Just Reality” and she rented out this space in LA called Ghost gallery for the event. I got to install my own room for my art. It was really awesome, and I even did a live painting on some posters. The guy that owned the gallery saw my work, and we rented his space but he curates his own shows, and he told me he really wanted to do a show with me. He asked me to come back to do a show at his gallery. Just the feedback I’m getting and the fact that I can affect people like that, is just the craziest thing to me. Still being so young, the only validation I’ve had is from friends, and my parents and sister. I never really understood [until now] that I could actually do this, and it would somehow impact people to want to see more. And that’s just the craziest shit to me. It’s so empowering! It’s really inspiring and makes me want to just keep on doing more. 

What do you think is the general perception of artists?

I think a lot of people see artists as bums or creatives that opted out of an actual job. But that’s funny, because it’s an actual job. I put in just as much work, or more, into my career as the person with a 9-5. I’m in the studio every single day from the morning until sometimes 1am, working on stuff. It’s not all fun, it’s really fucking challenging. There’s a lot of self doubt. I have to hold myself accountable because I’m not showing up to work for anyone else but myself. I have a deep-rooted connection, it’s something I have to do or else I’ll explode. I was talking to one of my friends who’s also an artist about how hard it is for people to actually buy art. They’re just seeing the finished product instead of all the effort of what goes in to it behind it. 

Do you see yourself as a business owner or entrepreneur?

I do see myself as an entrepreneur. You know, as an artist you’re your own boss. I have to make a CV which is like a resume of all the shows I’ve done. I have to photograph and catalog all my work, I have to make a website to display my work. I have to submit myself to other galleries, and I have to push my work like crazy because no one else is going to do it for you. That’s what being an entrepreneur is, it’s pushing whatever you’re making and making sure people are seeing it and receiving it well, and then wanting more.

What’s your favorite part about what you do? 

I think for me, it’s the reaction I get to my work. It’s super out there, but this is my universe. I’m putting my universe that’s in my head down on paper. So I get to share that with people, and getting the feedback from that is always really funny and really awesome. It’s not people who I would expect, either. The things that I put down are always in relation to what’s going on in my life. Most of my work is a self-portrait, as weird as the creatures are, it’s all a self-portrait. To have people connect with my weird creatures and come up to me and just have a conversation with me about my work, and ask questions, and having them see the little details I threw into a painting and have them notice it, that’s fucking awesome! 

It’s really important that people get to see the process. People need to see the work that goes into the art because otherwise, they’re not seeing the whole thing. I want to be able to share that process with people so they can get a better understanding of how it works. It’s not just the doing of the painting, or whatever you’re working on, I sit for hours with a little sketchbook on me. I’m always putting something down on paper. Always drawing something, always working on something. The whole entire process is so long! I might make something that takes one day, but that same painting could have taken me a week to figure out. Even a year to get to that point of getting on a canvas. People are always like, “you drew this in a day, why would I pay this much money for it?” But it actually took me three years to learn how to draw the hand on that fucking drawing. You’re paying for all my education, to how I got to this point. It correlates with any other job. 

Do you feel that women have a hard time getting their foot door in the art world, compared to men? 

Oh 100%. I think just recently there’s been a lot more kickass female artist beating down the door in the art world. There’s this book we have in the studio that shows 3,000 years of art history, and we looked through the whole thing and there are only like 3 female artists in the massive book of influential artists over the last 3,000 years. So we drilled a huge hole in the center of it, and now it’s our little “fuck you” art piece to the art world. A lot of emerging female artists over the years ended up being assistants to male artists, and definitely didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

 But you think there’s been a shift?

I think there’s totally been a shift. It’s really awesome. It has a lot to do with, as weird as this sounds, the internet. There’s more opportunity to be seen and heard by others. It’s not about being male or female anymore, and I think that’s how it is with everything right now relating to a woman’s place. I feel really lucky to be a female artist right now, because people are just giving less of a fuck. There’s still obviously a lot of men in the art world, but there’s more and more female artists getting recognition, which is really awesome.

Tell me something you want people to know about you

Something important to know about me, that’s also important for me to know about myself, is that I can’t stop making, creating, producing. It doesn’t matter if I “make it big” or get a lot of recognition for my work, or if I totally fail and nobody likes my shit. I will never stop. It’s seriously the reason why I’m still here, and I owe it to myself and to art (laughs), to keep on doing it. It’s my lifeline.

Follow @cleosmacktr.a and @reeta.kahlo on Instagram to see more of Sofia’s artwork

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