Maria Imaginário is a Lisbon-based artist whose work reflects her peculiar vision of the world. Using light, pastel colors and memorable characters, like Coraçãozinho de Merda (literally, Shitty Little Heart), her work invites us to connect with ourselves in a playful, sweet way. She has been a constant presence on our photo shootings, helping us with picking the perfect backgrounds. We talked with her in her two favorite places - by the sea and in the countryside - and discussed everything from personal style to how to avoid buying clothes on a whim and loving practically all the animals in the world.
Les Filles - You have a very peculiar color palette that happens to have everything to do with the Les Filles universe. Was this palette a natural choice, or did you experiment with color until arriving to this results?
Maria Imaginário - I don't know how to explain where this palette comes from, I think it's one of the few things I can't explain where it came from. I have always worked with these colors, which are getting more and more personal. I am always trying to introduce new colors, but my starting point is always white and light colors, which is what I like.
LF - Do you think that influences the way you dress?
MI - Yes, I think so. Most of my clothes are in light colors, I don't wear a lot of black.... sometimes I pull an all-black, but it is rare. All my clothes are in brighter tones. I never paid it much attention, but I realize that I dress more and more like my artistic palette.
LF - Perhaps you have some key-pieces that stray from that palette?
MI - Yes, I like to switch it up, I don't always feel like dressing in pastel colors, sometimes I feel like putting a red jumper. And by principle I wouldn't buy a red jumper, but I fell in love with one and I think I will be wearing it all the time this Winter. I don't usually wear red...
LF - Despite your Coraçãozinho being red.
MI - Yes, but it is a strawberry red, a light red. Almost salmon, sometimes.
LF - Do you have a key-piece in your wardrobe?
MI - I try to distance myself from the concept of key-pieces, because I think "it's clothes". To me, a key-piece is being with my friends. I try to avoid those "I need this, I got to have this" feelings regarding material things.
LF - So you rather invest on experiences?
MI - Yes, but this year I got this amazing yellow dress, I had never spent that much money on a dress. But my key-dress this Summer ended up being a cheap red one I got at a vintage shop. It was the one I wore the most, that easy piece to wear all Summer long.
LF - What about dressing in the Winter?
MI - In the Winter... I have a lot of trouble getting dressed during the Winter.
LF - You are more into Summer?
MI - I am a Summer person and a Summer clothes person. In the Winter it is harder for me, but I am trying to change that this year. I go from being a very colorful person in the Summer - sweet floral dresses, never wearing trousers - to wearing trousers and wool jumpers all Winter.
LF - You have a very peculiar style, meaning, you don't seem to pay too much attention to trends as you have such a personal approach to fashion. You dress a lot in vintage and second-hand clothes and "inherit" a lot of old clothes. Is it just about your preferences or also to some point an environmental consciousness?
MI - Well, not so sure about the environmental issue, but it is about my conscience. I don't like the thought of having a lot of clothes, clothes you don't wear... I never bought something because "it's only €10, if you don't wear afterwards it's fine".
LF - Do you prefer to make a special investment? To buy conscientiously?
MI - Yes, I avoid buying on a whim. And if I do it, it's a controlled whim, because I take what I bought home to think about if I really need it or not. I think that during the Winter it is important to have a good coat so, for instance, this year I wanted to avoid the basic black ones, so I bought a light pink one and a light blue one.
LF - Which are your colors.
MI - Yes, and I really love having a coat nicely fitted. When I am buying clothes, I really take in consideration what I already have. If I want another white jumper (I wear a lot of white tones during the Winter) it has to be a very special one.
LF - Your work is tightly connected to emotions, feelings, life experience, love. When choosing what to wear everyday, do you think about what it reflects regarding your state of mind?
MI - No. Maybe in those days when I am feeling a bit low, that's when I really value being comfortable. For me, comfort is more important than looking cute.
LF - Do you pay any attention to fashion or you don't care?
MI - I don't care. I might pay more attention to the things I like, I think I have an aesthetic basic knowledge and fashion is a part of it, but I am not a fashion victim.
LF - Do you have a style influence?
MI - Well, I am able to look at Leandra (Medine) and think "wow, she has guts", but it is not like I admire her. I think I look up to my friends, it's in them that I get my inspiration. It's in everyday life. I don't have an icon at all. I think fashion is something to have fun with and not to be taken too seriously. It's about doing whatever you feel like doing. Some seasons I feel like dressing super clean and others when I feel like trying new things. And maybe this year I will wear my red jumper all the time, and that might not happen next year.
LF - What do you do to your clothes when you don't wear them anymore?
MI - I give them to friends who want them, or to an institution. And later I regret it.
LF - Yes, that happens, as fashion works in cycles. You spend years without thinking about it and one day you wake up and wonder where that purple jumper is.
MI - But then I think "it made sense at the time" and I try not to give it much importance. After all it's just clothes. When I rarely reach that "I really need that skirt, it's gorgeous, I need it" point, I try not to go into that line of thought. I try to avoid that "despair", not to be taken by those urges.
LF - You love nature, the countryside and its elements. As you live in Lisbon, do you have a refuge where you like to go to get in touch with nature?
MI - I don't think anything compares with being in the countryside, but I love to go to the Gulbenkian garden.
LF - What are your influences?
MI - I love the later pre-Rafaelites, I love Kusama, despite not having anything to do with me, I love what she does to spaces... A lot of my work comes from my imagination, from the stories I hear, from my friends, from the things I read, from things that fascinate me and then I get very interested in them... for example, the narwhal and the unicorns, I never did anything with unicorns, but I have done with narwhals and at the time I investigated a lot because I was fascinated by their history.
LF - Your work evolved from street art, that was how it started.
MI - Yes, but nowadays many people who know my work don't have any idea about my street art past. They knew my street art work, the cakes and everything, but they don't know I am the same person.
LF - Nowadays you are more recognized for your work with Underdogs Gallery.
MI - Yes, I stopped painting walls because when I was doing graffiti, my work on the wall and in paper was the same. As I dedicated myself more and more to painting, I started to distance myself from my street art, which was quicker and more graphic. I started losing that graphic side, the plain colors, and started working on degradées, details. There was a huge gap at the time, I didn't identify with my street art anymore, and at the time I wasn't able to find a language to represent me that I was able to do quickly on a wall.
LF - Your work shows a fascination with fauna and flora. What are your favorite plants?
MI - Ravenalas! I am very fascinated (by flora), I am able to be in the countryside and be fascinated by the details in nature, with leaves, their degradées, with moss...
LF - What is your favorite animal?
MI - Dogs! Unicorns! Pigmy Goats! Narwhals! Kittens! Caterpillars!
LF - Is there any animal you don't like?
MI - I don't love centipedes.