When Art & Life Collide Magic Happens: A Conversation With Evita Tezeno
by Dr. S. Alexis Anderson
Talking with Evita Tezeno feels like the first day of spring after a long, dismal winter. Even though she’s been earning a living through her art since the 80s, she talks about her life, her journey, and her art with the enthusiasm and excitement of a new artist fresh on the scene. Her calm energy and smooth storytelling make an interview feel like a conversation between friends. Because understanding the foundation of a thing always helps to put it all in perspective, the convo kicks off with a look back at Evita’s early years. A few minutes into the conversation, and it’s clear that Evita always knew that her life would be a fairytale. Not because she’s arrogant or overly cocky but her laid, back confident attitude is one of someone who’s always been really clear about how she wanted to make her mark on the world. “Even as a very little girl, I knew I wanted to travel the world and do art,” Evita says. And even though her parents and both sets of grandparents tried to nudge her to pursue something more traditional, more stable – like medicine, she never let her dream go. Evita laughs a little as she points out that she wasn’t really good at math or science anyway. Even though her loving parents and grandparents just couldn’t see Evita earning a living as an artist, they supported her passion anyway by encouraging her gifts and talents and making sure she always had all the art supplies one little girl could possibly need.
It doesn’t take long to see that the fairytale theme is a recurring one in Evita’s life. Evita proudly talks about selling her first piece of art while in high school, and pauses for a moment before going on to say that her dream was to pursue visual arts in college, but found herself taking a different path. Just a subtle hint of the angst she felt as her dream veered a tad bit off the course she had mapped out for herself could be heard in her voice at that moment. It was only for a split second, and the story flowed on. Ultimately, she left Lamar University with a B.A. in Graphic Design because it was a better guarantee of a stable job – perhaps one working at a magazine or newspaper. The irony is, graphic design in the mid 80s just wasn’t’ what it is today. Not only was it a very limited field technologically; there weren’t a lot of women in the field and even less minority women – so employment in that field would be challenging as well. But, of course, any good fairytale has a few bumps in the road here and there. Undeterred, Evita kept following the path that was unfolding for her. Not long after graduating from Lamar University, she fell in love and got married. She and her husband were easy going, free spirits with a great work ethic, so working as house parents at a home for children was the perfect job for the young newlyweds.
Evita never did pursue those graphic design gigs, but life would have bigger plans for her just around the corner and she hadn’t even seen a fraction of a fraction of the fairytale life that would soon unfold. Good timing and a little bit of heartbreak are also a couple of the other elements all good fairytales are made of. While attending an event at a Dallas, TX art gallery owned by friends – Evita was introduced to a huge name in the art world- sculptor, painter, and collagist- Mr. Frank Frazier. Before continuing her story, she pause as if reliving a life changing moment before going on to say that Frazier was known by many as “The Grandfather of Art.” Frazier took a look at some of Evita’s work, asked to see more, loved what he saw and, without hesitation, invited Evita to travel with him. The timing was impeccable as Evita’s marriage was no longer working out, and it was time for a shift. Frazier was the metaphoric night in shining armor who showed up with his van full of artists and swooped Evita up at just the right moment. During the time spent traveling the country with Frazier and other young artists, Evita realized that she was right in the midst of the fairytale she had always dreamed of. She now knew that it was possible to make a living from her art. Without the benefit of the exposure and networking opportunities now offered by social media, creatives in the 80s had to travel, network, and build their audiences from the ground up – literally. Followers were gained one city, one introduction and one conversation at a time.
Traveling and mentoring young artists was, and continues to be, a passion of Frazier’s. He never charged for the mentoring and exposure he offered young artists but simply asked that they pay it forward. Today, Evita does just that. She mentors teenage girls who come from broken homes and troubled situations and serves as an anchor for them and helps them to see there is hope beyond the seemingly dismal circumstances right in front of them. The interview turned conversation between friends wrapped up the same way it began – with more talk of fairytales. With the excitement of that little girl who always knew she would travel and “do art,” Evita’s breathless response when asked to talk more about her dreams, she said, ”My life is absolutely a fairytale. I am living the life I always dreamt of. I’m working and earning a living from my art. Sometimes I just cry. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!” It’s safe to say that dreams definitely do come true. This princess turned fairy godmother is still “doing art,” living her best life and giving back by helping to make magic happen in the lives of young women who aspire to be artists or realize some other dream that may feel as though it is out of reach. What better person to serve as living proof that fairytales don’t just exist in the storybooks? Be sure to catch Evita’s upcoming show Love, Life and Fairytales at the Black Art In America Gallery 1506 6th Ave unit #115 in Columbus, GA on March 3, 2019 from 1pm – 5pm.
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