Domingo Zapata: Falling in Love with Expression

Describing Domingo Zapata as a man of passion would no doubt be an understatement. Although, this may also be the artist’s favorite way of describing himself. Seen frequently amongst the company of A-listers such as Johnny Depp and Leonardo Dicaprio, Zapata’s lavish lifestyle has earned him almost as much attention as his Expressionist paintings, which these days, go for an average of $70,000. And while Zapata credits both his artwork and celebrity clientele for his rise to stardom, his road to acclaimed artistry is one paved from hard work.

Growing up in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Zapata decided that when it came time to go to college, he would use this as an opportunity to see the world. After enrolling in London’s Regent College where he studied Political Science, he later moved on to American University in Washington, D.C. to pursue his degree in art. Infatuated by the abundance of inspiration nestled within big cities, Zapata would eventually set up studios in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Venice and Paris.

Referred to by The New York Post as “the next Andy Warhol,” Zapata’s paintings are a rebellion against conceptual art, oftentimes poeticizing motifs such as sexuality, opulence and vitality. Utilizing both oil and acrylic paint, Zapata creates bold and vibrant designs that combine graffiti, mixed-media and collage applications with nods to his Spanish heritage and American pop-culture. A lover of layering colors and textures, Zapata is also known for exploring the limitations of one’s imagination, creating his own world in which fact and fiction can coexist simultaneously. Due in part to his own personal eccentricity and genuine poetic vision, the praise Zapata has earned thus far is nothing short of well-deserved. VUE recently had the chance to catch up with Zapata, discussing everything from his life, artwork and his most recent project, a debut novel expected to be released in July 2017.

Growing up in Spain, did you always envision yourself as an artist? How did moving to the U.S. affect you? 
Honestly, I don’t remember a day in my life where I wasn’t drawing or painting or messing something up. I have always loved it. I went to college at the American University back in ‘96 and I’ve been traveling ever since. I get inspired by everything—-beautiful things, things that speak to me, things that I like, things that I’m attracted to. Being able to travel and experience different cities like Paris, New York and Barcelona had a big influence on me.

Where do you think your passion for the arts stems from? 
Well, my mother was a tailor and my dad was a car painter. So I think for me, from the beginning, I was already involved in something creative. Even if it was in a different aspect, that’s where it all started for me. And I guess it just never ended.

Domingo ZapataYour 2011 series, “Polo”, was responsible for kickstarting your career. How would you describe your style of painting? How do you think it has evolved? 
I’m a Figurative Expressionist so my style of painting hasn’t really changed. I work in themes and specifically themes that I am passionate about, especially women. As I grow and as I experience life, my themes and artwork change with me.

In recent years, you’ve developed massive recognition amongst celebrities, oftentimes incorporating them as the subject of your work. Why is that? What’s the fascination?
When we talk about musicians and we talk about actors, at the end of the day, they’re artists themselves. The same way that I’m passionate about their movies or their music, they’re passionate about my art. We live in a very small world and everyday it becomes smaller and smaller so I think that if you have a relationship with someone, and you already love them as your friend, you’re attracted to what they do. I want to keep listening to my friends’ music and they want to keep supporting my paintings so I think that’s a fair trade [Laughs]. And if every now and then you share a kiss, that’s good too.

Do you ever find it difficult to balance fame and taking time to yourself to create?
There’s a time to show and to celebrate, and then there’s time when you have to hide, concentrate and work. For me, I know how to find that balance. I try to present things that are going to be fun and that people are going to love. I like to surround myself with beauty and parties but at the same time, I can hide in my studio in New York or the Hamptons for weeks, not talk to anyone, turn off my phone and just focus. It’s those times when you’re out there, living, that you can get inspired and you can learn and show your work. And then there are the other times where you can explore yourself and read, research and just paint.

Domingo ZapataAside from being a painter, you’re also an experienced songwriter, collaborating with artists such as the late Michael Jackson. Do you view your artistic talents as being universal, extending beyond just painting? 
I think as an artist if you’re given the opportunity to explore other mediums, you have an obligation to just go for it and see what happens. Over the years, I’ve done a bit of film writing, and right now, I’m doing a lot of artwork for a new musical on Broadway that will be out soon. I like to be able to create in more ways than one. It’s a challenge.

You’re going to be debuting a novel in July of 2017 entitled, “The Beautiful Dream of Life”. What made you want to put out a book? 
I have always loved writing and I wanted to write a story about an artist that has all this success, but still feels an emptiness inside. But then he falls in love with this beautiful woman and one day he wakes up and that emptiness is gone, but he realizes that this woman only lives in his dreams. So it’s a romantic story about an artist that is trying to find true love but struggles being in the spotlight and controlling everything that’s around him. He has to make a decision about what it is that he truly wants in his life. I’ve had this idea in my head for over 15 years and finally had time to put it on paper with help from a friend who’s an amazing writer and Simon & Schuster, of course, who loved the concept. And now here we are!

Your paintings are known for toying with the idea of realism, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Do you feel your novel does the same? In what ways does it resemble your personal life? 
I’ve always thought a lot about what’s real and what’s not. What’s a dream and what’s not a dream? It’s still not clear to me, to be honest with you. Is my real life a dream or are my dreams real life? I don’t know. In the book, obviously I’m talking a lot about the life of an artist which is very similar to what I’m used to because this is my life, it’s been my life forever. So there’s a lot of factual information and situations in there. Except for the part about the artist being tormented! [Laughs]. I am a very very happy person.