The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind. — E.B. White
Elijah Nieto, an emerging contemporary artist, was in Mountainair for his first gallery exhibition at La Galeria at the Shaffer, which opened on June 2, 2023.
Nieto sat down for an enlightening conversation with the Mountainair Dispatch. Discussing his inspiration, artistic process, and future aspirations, Nieto provided insight into his creative journey and gave us a glimpse into the world behind his unique, multi-dimensional, mixed media artworks.
Raised in Carlsbad, Nieto first began developing art during the pandemic. He drew creative inspiration from science fiction, mythology, and fantasy as he developed his work. Nieto’s creative work is essentially a deep exploration of what he refers to as “portals” — visual representations of transition points between various dimensions, realities, or states of consciousness. He defines his portals as windows into alternate realities, places where the laws of physics no longer apply.
Nieto, slyly, does not discuss the portals as fictional things. He cautioned Rebecca Anthony, who organized Nieto’s exhibition at La Galeria at the Shaffer, that he could not work with many portals in his studio because of their gravitational pull. He also warned attendees at the opening of his exhibition that there are creatures in his portals, looking back at those who look at them.
Regarding his creative process, Nieto believes in the power of raw, unedited creativity. He doesn't predetermine his work's path, instead allowing it to organically evolve. In Elijah Nieto’s case, the concept of portals has been evolving since his childhood, as he found himself repeatedly expressing the desire to just “go,” to teleport away from his everyday surroundings.
Discussing his inspirations, Nieto initially thought he was influenced by Tim Burton. However, he later realized it was the unsung creators behind Burton's work who truly inspired him, like the sculptors of "The Nightmare Before Christmas." He also draws inspiration from the "Dark Tower" series by Stephen King, Salvador Dali's surrealistic art, and the texturally rich pieces by Anselm Kiefer. Nieto sees a connection between his work and Dali's exploration of dreams and subconscious imagination, which echoes Carl Jung's theories about the collective unconscious.
Nieto's vision for the future involves creating larger "portals," inspired by church doors and the idea of interdimensional travel. He plans to construct larger installations that could make the viewer feel as though they could walk into another dimension. This idea of transformation and journeying through different states of consciousness is a persistent theme throughout his work. It's a deep exploration of our internal worlds and an invitation to engage with broader questions about reality, consciousness, and the transformative power of creative expression.
Nieto hopes his art pieces will have an impact on their environment, regardless of whether they're viewed individually or collectively. He believes that art can transform a space's energy, echoing Anselm Kiefer’s idea of each individual carrying their own "dome of heaven."