From early childhood, Natalia Del Pozo’s bad behavior was attributed to the name Pandora.
“It kind of just got me out of trouble,” she tells me at a bar next to an art store she frequents in Brooklyn. “When I was younger people would say, ‘Oh that girl Pandora was setting this Christmas tree on fire,’ or something like that; and God forbid I was blamed!”
In the late 1990s, Del Pozo was one of the only children in Miami exploring the bar scene. Her father was a blues musician and she’d watch his sets and the patrons, enamored by the way dim lighting and booze permitted adult misbehaviour.
She kept quiet and focused around one person, and then eventually around one precious thing: a Singer sewing machine. Nelly, a Colombian relative on her mother’s side, helped raise Natalia and her siblings, and mending their clothes on a Singer came with the territory.
“She taught me everything I know about sewing,” Del Pozo praises Nelly while searching through her phone for a picture of her senior prom dress. When the picture loads up I see a teenage Natalia, without any visible tattoos, in Bjork’s swan dress from the 2001 Academy Awards.
“In my opinion, it was the only good thing I did in high school,” she says in regards to the Bjork tribute dress she made under Nelly’s trusted guidance.
After high school, Del Pozo moved out to Colombia. Her parents hoped the distance from Miami would smooth out the chip on her shoulder.
“Bad idea,” she tells me. Soon after arriving in Cali, Colombia, she landed bartending job at a New Orleans nostalgic bar called, Bourbon St. She made the commute alone on weekends, from mountainside to the city and back again.
“Pandora” stuck with Natalia in Miami, even after moving back from Colombia. By day, Natalia worked as a retailer for Miami Twice, a consignment store off Bird Road. By night, Pandora was part of By The Mouthfuls, a macabre fashion brand she co-founded with artist and friend, GT Smith.
“By The Mouthfuls is very much associated with Pandora, because it was such a cryptic name, and it had to deal with mythology.” The two artists became self taught in designing graphics, burning silk screens and printing shirts directly out of Smith’s home in Coral Gables.
“A lot of my work is reflective of things that I’m fucking horrified by, that I don’t understand,” Natalia says, bringing up the aesthetics of Dario Argento to describe her love for the collision of horror and the theatrical. “[Argento’s] art horror style has always been so reminiscent of dreams…The amount of care taken into each still, color and sound – it’s heart-wrenching.”
In 2012, Bjork’s Biophilia tour was the driving force behind Del Pozo’s final push away from Miami. Without much time in between, she attended two Bjork concerts in New York, while crashing at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn.
By January 2013, her name was on the lease.
“You have to be a bit of a masochist,” she tells me when she describes her relocation from Miami to New York. “There’s a sense that you’re always suffocating, but the stimulation is unparalleled.”
While living in New York, Natalia has become a proper bartender at an upscale bar hidden in Midtown Manhattan and a freelance art handler for well-known New York companies, like Superchief Galleries and Vice Media.
As far as constructing anatomical art horror, Natalia has transitioned from working in a partnership to working solo, towards a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree with a focus in sculpture.
“I was working on small scale works,” she says of her first projects in Hunter College’s art department. She started off whittling wood and sculpting wax into blobs of flesh that had a glaze over them. “[They had] pink undertones that made it look natural, but you couldn’t identify what part of the body it was.”
In Summer 2016, Del Pozo was left dealing with the crumbling of her own form. On one of her days off from work she was struck by a car that left her with a broken leg and a severe concussion. “I couldn’t even draw, I couldn’t even watch TV. I couldn’t do anything.”
“Creatively, I felt like I got a second chance, so I feel that I’ve worked even harder than I have before,” Del Pozo tells me in regards to her recovery.
“I worked on a piece that was plaster and rebar and nylon. That was called, ‘Te veo afuera’
“That is actually a mold of my leg that got hit. It exploded in the accident so it’s like three compartmentalized pieces of my leg. My knee, my calf, and my foot.”
The sculpture rests on top of a pedestal. During critique, a classmate asked Del Pozo if the pedestal was meant to place ‘Te veo afuera’ in the category of trophy sculptures.
It’s an eerie piece – a sense of gore without the blood – but the classmate was spot on.
“Yeah, I guess this is my trophy.”
After recovery, Del Pozo enrolled in an Introduction to MIG Welding course where she met her material match.
“It was love at first spark,” she told me, a phrase she uses to describe the sensual element she feels while welding. The way Del Pozo talks about the human form fusing and manipulating steel makes the craft sound sultry.
“It’s very sexy to me for some reason. I’m very, very attracted to melting and fusion of steel.”
Amongst the sculptures she has completed, the most mathematically challenging piece she’s made to date is an untitled, 6”4 cage skirt. It can be seen as an amalgamation of Del Pozo’s artistic interests, the intersection between the Delicate and the industrial.
I ask her if she’s aware of the contradiction between the fragility of fabric and fashion and the forcefulness of welding.
“Absolutely! That’s why I say silk is like a dragon force.”
“I started from the bottom,” she describes her process. “Whereas, suppose I am sewing, I would have done waist first and then worked to the bottom stitching between.” Despite silk being “a dragon force” the weight of steel is a different monster entirely.
The contradiction, then, is not a point of tension or fickleness, because Natalia Del Pozo’s artistic mind isn’t bifurcated. She is not a welder at school and a seamstress at home, but a unique fusion of the two.
“I was bending the steel tubing, or steel bars with an antiquated machine we had on campus, some outdated shit and it moves around while you’re working on it. It doesn’t have any gauges on it, [and] no measurements. It doesn’t tell you degrees or what you’re eventually going to get. So it was a lot of trial and error and eventually I got it to be a 6’4 sculpture that became something you could be immersed into. It had an opening and it was referential to something that I had seen on stage before at the Nutcracker…the name of the character is Mrs. Ginger, something like that…she houses all these little kids under her skirt and that was something I was really inspired by: just the comfort of a feminine form.”