Vedrana Pinjo came to America 23 years ago as a refugee from war-destroyed Sarajevo. Her story is bold and colorful - the embodiment of the American dream. If you’re seeking a dose of inspiration, Vedrana’s story will give your day, maybe even your life, new perspective.
In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, PlumpJack collaborated with artist Vedrana Pinjo to showcase four pieces at White Rabbit Bar for the month of March. Don’t miss the chance to come and see these stunning pieces in person at 3138 Fillmore St at White Rabbit.
“I chose my narrative, what’s yours?” Vedrano Pinjo
Q: Your life story is so inspiring, from your early days fleeing the war in Sarajevo to thriving in the U.S. as a refugee. In the wake of all of the controversy surrounding refugee status, what is the one thing you want people to understand about people fleeing a country due to war and destabilization? What does being a refugee mean to you?
First of all, thank you for asking that question with such kindness and empathy. Some people envision a refugee as a person who is illiterate, involved in all kinds of illegal actions, less worthy. I think that being a refugee is like becoming a cancer patient, we all think it happens to others and it will never happen to us. The truth is, life is so full of surprises, and finding yourself in political conflicts that result in war is a probable reality. I greatly value my experience of having lived through the war, and for being a refugee. Being an immigrant means being a person who experienced deep hardships, means we have stories, means we are capable to leave our old life and start a new one. We keep going, we choose our own narrative.
Q: Was there a pivotal moment where you made the decision to pursue your art and leave your former career behind?
There were three life changing events that intertwined at the same time. And like with all change, new possibilities open up. I came back to painting after 20 years. It felt like finding a long lost treasure, but having a wisdom of a mature person. Having a second chance, a late start in life is an incredible gift, you can never ignore it!
Q: Have you always been an artist that specializes in Pop Art, or did your art evolve into what it is today?
I have not, I evolved with my art into this style. I was always a representational artist, and I especially enjoy painting portraits. I am fascinated by people’s eyes, being able to conquer them is like being able to see through their personality. I started painting famous individuals from our past, but I wanted to put them in the context of today. I noticed that this style does something in my stomach, makes me chuckle and excited, so I continue.
Q: I love that your art seems to have these hidden messages, like Sophia Loren's tattoo with the middle finger that signifies her rebellion against being a typical size 0 model/actress. How do those pieces of the art manifest? Before you start, or does it come to you during the process?
The role and duty of art is to tell a story, to make a statement, to take a stance. And I love making a statement with my art. Sometimes with color, with subjects, with symbolism and metaphors, but every piece has a meaning. In the context of today’s desired body image, women are obsessed with being a smaller size. Sophia Loren is an epitome of femininity, her beauty is timeless, although she was never a size zero. I have a teenage daughter, it is important to me that I raise a self-confident, healthy young woman that loves being in her own body.
Q: Do you come up with collections and then execute as a series, or do you create different pieces interspersed?
I don’t wait for my inspiration, I just paint. Listening to my kids music, listening to radio shows and books, talking to people, paying attention, listening carefully, watching everything around me, expecting to be surprised, that’s where I draw my inspiration. That’s how my series get built. I always work on two pieces simultaneously, they feed off of each other. I painted Jackie O and Tina Turner together, while I listened to Tina’s new audio book, to only find out that she had a huge admiration for Jackie. What a crazy coincidence! If I see and feel something that intrigues me, I will paint it, there is not much planning.
Q: What would you say to someone who wants to pursue their dreams, but is feeling stuck in their current situation?
Oh, I’ve been stuck so many times, in so many situations, I am not sure I am the most qualified person to give one universal advice. Different things pushed me out of those situations; sometimes it was an inspiration I found in another person, or someone else held my hand and guided me, or I simply got fired. However, the most rewarding feeling, the craziest feeling of all is finding strength in yourself and doing what you want to do for you. Shedding that self doubt, any insecurity, escaping that loop of thoughts of “what if” is the greatest gift one can give themselves. Because, you know, we will all die, there is no way around it. So, if not now, when?
Vedrana is a Bay Area-based artist who creates in her studio in the small Marin community of Sausalito. Her collection of oil-based paintings can be viewed online at vedranapinjo.com.