Inside The Art Of Erick Vittorino And Philanthropy Of Maria Ines Moraes
Finding the balance between art and inspiration has come easily to Erick Vittorino who has become the name in the Brazilian art world, and even more so globally. Pinning the work of a contemporary artist that has a traditional European edge, Erick brings life to his work and has caught the eye of many. One includes philanthropist and art collector, Maria Ines Moraes, founder, and director at Da Terra Brasil Foundation. Both Erick and Maria have become New York City's Brazilian powerhouses; paving the way for art and a non-profit to come together in an innovative way. We went inside Maria's luxury home located on the Upper East Side that housed Erick's radiant collection of works.
Interview by ENTIRE Magazine
Hair + Makeup by Otto Dutra
Entire Magazine: Who and What inspires you?
Erick Vittorino: Every painting is a revelation, both to me and to my viewers. I always try to approach each piece with the desire to capture a particular image or feeling and I follow this desire that comes naturally until I have perfected its form in paint. Whether I am enveloping a female figure in layers of my lines or allowing each stroke to move freely and abstractly across the white canvas. I commit myself fully to the emotional action of painting and that is why my art simple and complex exposing the contents of my soul without attempting to disentangle their nuances. Be it a goodbye, a new journey, a beauty, a person, an animal ...things that relate to me that eventually will inspire me.
The inspiration also comes from a 'happy place" where I have to be centered and extremely happy.
ENTIRE: How do you get to "your" place to produce your art?
EV: All the artists are famous for the melancholic or depressed mood...It's when most of them create the "Master Pieces".
That does not apply to my art at all. My art comes from a healthy and happy place. I used to say that I always give a long vacation to my demons, on that way I can produce and be creative.
To get to my painting/creative place I have to be centered. I like to meditate, to sing while I am driving and I talk to myself all the time and I listen.
I have to be in the piece and try to be my best friend and then the inspiration finds me.
ENTIRE: How have you evolved as an artist? And how do you continue
EV: My parents weren't ok with the idea of having an artist in the family, one of my aunt from my mother's side Geralda Vittorino always believed in my talent. Encouraged by her, she used to take me to the local churches to the restore sacred sculptures and murals from the catholic scene. I was only 10 years old and I didn't have any knowledge or even techniques to develop any project but looking at the Italian Renascence art books, cathedrals etc... I started to come up with my own techniques. I would spend hours drawing and painting unaware of the path that it would lead me.
At the age of 19 years old, I moved to the United States to the state of Connecticut with a dream of the ''big hit''. I started working on through the Tri-States area as Muralist and Decorative painter. Moving to Manhattan in 2003 was crucial to my career. It was when I found myself as an artist, that helped me a lot to explore all the diversity of the art world and kept me moving forward.In 2009 I received was awarded by the Brazilian International Press Award for 'Best Brazilian Artist in the US", been nominated years competing with the most prestigious artists such, Vik Muniz and Romero Britto.
ENTIRE: What happens when a piece is done?
EV: When a piece is done and ready to go, of course, feel extremely satisfied and accomplished but it feels like after all the hours, days and even months spending checking the particular painting, it is a beautiful process because it fades brutally from my mind. I do believe that is why I start another piece without thinking how frustrating and sometimes difficult to come up with a subject and elaborate a painting.
I personally consider my art done it is when I frame it. The painting might be signed and varnished but the feeling of accomplishing a piece its when its framed. I cannot see the final art without a frame.
ENTIRE: How has Brazil inspired your work?
EV: Coming fromanItalian family immigrated to Brazil, I was Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. Growing up in Rio was a cultural education that exposed me to one of the world's largest festivals, Carnaval, full of music, dancing and lots of art every way you go... The people are always smiling no matter how is the circumstances, it is the faith, the energy, the colors, everything is a reason to celebrate and that is contagious!
ENTIRE: How do you see your future and the future of your art?
EV: My art will play a big role in the Art World while having so many accomplishments so far. The results of succeeding in the field will help to emerge several projects that I would like to achieve. One of them that always catch my attention in a long term is to teach and take art for the impoverished communities, given them the opportunity to explore the vast world of art, sort of a art center, or art school where I will be able to take kids out of streets, making them grow professionals and healthier adults. The future of my Art will be changing people's lives and making a difference out there.
Entire Magazine with Maria Ines Moraes
ENTIRE: How does the Brazilian culture inspire your endeavors? How does family life play a part in everything that you do?
Maria Ines Moraes: Growing up, I was taught never to take anything for granted and that we are responsible for making the world a better place for those in need. I never forgot this, and I am proud to pass it along to my own children, who share in the same generous and mindful demeanor I was introduced to as a child.
In keeping up with family tradition, my charitable activities first began in Piranga, my hometown in Brazil. There, I grew up alongside my parents, who participated in a myriad of causes on behalf of the underprivileged population in our community. Unfortunately, there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in Brazilian society, which I was able to vividly observe at a young age due to my parents' charitable work and close interactions with those in need. These experiences taught me to love and care for individuals from all walks of life, and I continue to support the poverty stricken in Brazil to this day.
When I moved to New York, I realized there are countless ways to provide support to the ones I left behind. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of American people, and thus, I founded the Da Terra Brasil Foundation in 2010. The foundation's goal is to expand on the humanitarian work conceived by my parents. It is through this organization that their legacy lives on.
ENTIRE: Where does your creative and entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Maria: It definitely comes from my parents and my Brazilian upbringing. Poverty mandates resourcefulness and creativity in order to survive, and once faced with it, you naturally become an entrepreneur. Growing up, everything around me was scarce and nothing was guaranteed. This instilled in me a driving force that compelled me to act against the poverty I was surrounded by.
It is this human instinct to survive that explains the existence of fascinating inventions in the depths of the poorest Brazilian slums. These include soccer balls made out of rags, flip flops made of old rubber tires, chess pieces made of soda bottle tops, old rugs that are used as doors, and even mud piles that are flattened to become pool tables once they dry. There are remarkable business trends developing in the Brazilian slums that would leave most of us spellbound. If only the entrepreneurs responsible had the financial resources to grow!
ENTIRE: Tell us about Da Terra Brasil Foundation?
Maria: Da Terra Brasil Foundation is a 503 (c) non-profit organization which mission is to improve the lives of impoverished communities in Brazil, providing care and resources to the elderly and the disabled who desperately need our help. Our current programs include:
Brasil on Wheels
In partnership with local organizations in the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, the Da Terra Brasil Foundation distributes wheelchairs to people with physical disabilities who lack the means and resources to acquire one on their own. Through a careful and selective process, we provide not only the gift of mobility but also that of dignity for countless Brazilians in need.
During our many visits to Brazil throughout the years, we learned that there are thousands of people who have been confined to their beds for most of their lives, and we became aware of the numerous health and rehabilitation institutions for the poor who are in desperate need of wheelchairs.
The Da Terra Brasil Foundation believes that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in society and live a dignified life, and this new campaign is a natural extension of our original work.
Lar Dos Velhinhos
Since its launch, the Da Terra Brasil Foundation has significantly added to the quality of care and the housing conditions of the residents of the Lar dos Velhinhos, our very first undertaking. Because of the great
generosity of friends and volunteers, we were able to purchase the institution’s very first washing machine, repair walls that were severely damaged by mold conditions, replace old and broken furniture, replace old curtains for new wooden doors throughout the building, bringing a sense of privacy and dignity to the Lar dos Velhinhos residents, and we have just finished building a beautiful outdoors resting area, which was totally destroyed, and now it is safe and secure, which will bring another sense of independence to all the ones who live there. It is our goal to ensure that all who come through their doors in need are given a place of safety, care, and belonging.
ENTIRE: Explain your aesthetic to us and how has Erick helped with that? What does art, specifically Erick's art, does for you? Does it inspire you as well?
Maria: A few years ago, I read an article about Erick Vittorino on Brazilian celebrity chef Letícia Moreinos Schwarts’s blog. He was featured in her kitchen sharing one of his favorite recipes, Bolinho de Chuva (Brazilian Beignet). On the wall, one of his paintings was pictured, and I absolutely fell in love with it! I contacted Letícia immediately who connected me with Erick, and he is now a dear friend of mine. His artwork quickly started to populate the walls of my apartment since then. I always tell him his art is addictive, and the truth is, his art speaks to me in a very profound way. It takes me to a beautiful world available to all.
Erick has an intimate relationship with his Brazilian roots and demonstrates a lot of flexibility in his style. His paintings combine a traditional European edge with colorful linear compositions in refreshingly contemporary styles. I particularly love his silhouettes of women, his black and white collection, and a recent four-set painting of the Copacabana Beach boardwalk that brings me back to my early days growing up in Brazil.
Erick Vittorino has impeccable taste, and we both share the predilection for clean and minimalist styles. I keep telling him that one of these days I will turn my apartment into his gallery because I can live with any and all of his art!
Erick has generously used his art to make a difference in many philanthropic programs geared toward promoting Brazilian culture and supporting its impoverished population. Earlier this year, he actually organized the event A Brazilian Affair to raise funds for the Da Terra Brasil Foundation and our Brasil on Wheels campaign. Because of him, we were able to continue to provide the gift of mobility to the physically disabled, as well as freedom and dignity to those who would most likely be destined to a constrained and limited life.
Erick enables a fusion of art and philanthropy – such an inspiration!
ENTIRE: What do see in the future for yourself and/or Brazilian culture or endeavors?
Maria: Thanks for the help and generosity of countless individual and corporate donors, the Da Brasil Foundation has certainly come a long way. However, though we have grown considerably since we first launched in 2010, we have only scratched the surface of what needs to be done to improve the overall standard of living in Brazil. The current state of the nation's wealth distribution and the living conditions of its impoverished are truly disturbing. The Brazil of vast potential and natural resources is only available to very few. For the majority of the Brazilian population, there is no prospect of reaching one's full potential amid the misery and scarcity inherent in poverty. Research says that Brazil is one of the unequal societies in the world with the richest 1 percent of the population earning 12 percent of the country’s income - meanwhile, the poorest 50 percent contributes to a mere 10 percent of the national income.
To continue to paint the picture, approximately 32 million people in the country are starving. Education, if even available, is lacking in almost every regard. The country's health care system is completely unreliable, accessibility and resources for the physically disabled are rare, and housing conditions are no better.
My goal as the Founder and Director of the Da Terra Brasil Foundation is to promote human welfare and promote awareness of issues such as extreme poverty, the struggle of the physically disabled, and the negligence of the elderly in Brazil. In turn, this brings happiness, not only to the ones in need but also to those with the opportunity to lend a helping hand.
Currently, we have partners in four states in Brazil: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. Our goal is to stretch out our arms and embrace those in need, instilling in them hope, love and the opportunity for a dignified lifestyle. No individual person should exist in isolation, as existence is an interrelated conglomerate of energy. Humanity is an interconnected family, and the survival and well-being of each of its individual components are essential to the success of the larger whole.
Find Erick Vittorino on Instagram @Erick.Vittorino
Find Maria Ines Moraes Non-Profit on Instagram @DaTerraBrasil