ODD ONE OUT | Interview with Emil Alzamora

Artist Interview 067

ARTIST INTERVIEW 067: Emil Alzamora


 

Emil Alzamora, a British Citizen, was born in Lima, Peru in 1975 and grew up in Boca Grande, Florida and Majorca, Spain. He attended Florida State University where he graduated Magna cum Laude in 1998 earning a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts. Alzamora harnesses a wide range of materials and techniques to deliver unexpected interpretations of the sculpted human figure. He often distorts, elongates, deconstructs, or encases his forms to reveal an emotional or physical situation, or to tell a story. Alzamora's keen interest in the physical properties of his materials combined with his hands-on approach allow for the process to reveal and inform at once the aesthetic and the conceptual. 

 

Alzamora started his sculpting career in the Hudson Valley of New York working with Polich Tallix in the fall of 1998. Since his departure from the art foundry in early 2001, he has produced his work full-time and shown regularly throughout the world. Alzamora's works have been exhibited in multiple solo and group shows, many national and international art fairs as well as the Knoxville Museum of Art, The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, the United Nations Building, Pepsico World Headquarters, The Queens Museum of Art, The Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas. His work has been reviewed by publications such as The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, The L Magazine, El Diario, Boston Metro News, Juxtapoz, High Fructose, ArteFuse and Cool Hunting. He currently lives and works in Beacon, NY.

 

Q1. What does your typical day look like? 

A typical day would be as follows: wake up anytime between 5 and 7 am, usually between 5 and 6. It's not the best habit but I have always loved the morning.  I take care of my two dachshunds the  check in on the studio to see what I did the day before. I put the coffee on and then harass my wife to get up and have coffee, each with a dog on the lap. Then it's off to the studio after the morning briefing and emailings. I will typically work all day breaking for lunch and to take the dogs out. I am in the studio on average for anywhere from 8 to 10 hours a day. Then it's dinner, Annie loves to cook and more briefing and possibly a glass of wine then maybe an episode or two of Schitt's Creek or something more informative. 

 

Q2. What is your background (where are you from, education history, past/current location, etc.)?

I was born in Lima, Peru in 1975. My mother is half Peruvian and my father is English. That's a long story but ultimately I grew up in Florida and Spain. I am an English citizen but have lived in New York for over 20 years. I studied at Florida State University where I had a very well rounded education (I wasn't interested in going to a strictly art school) and where I earned and BFA and learned how to cast bronze while minoring in art history. I moved to New York in 1998 to work at a leading fine AR sculpture foundry about an hour north of NYC. I worked there for 2.5 years and expanded greatly my knowledge of making sculpture while meeting and working alongside some of the world's top sculptors. I left there as an employee in 2001 along with a large body of work and have been showing my work ever since. 

 

Q3. How did you get started with what you do?

My entire family seem to be artists. My late grandmother Jeanne who had Ann enormous influence on my brother and I. She was a highly skilled sculptor and ceramicist. My mother Mariana is also a sculptor, ceramicist, printmaker and painter. My aunt Grace is also a working artist in similar mediums. My late uncle Victor was a NYC based painter who studied at SVA in the late 70s and who's paintings to this day surround and inspire me. As a teenager I thought I would draw comic books but that interest in drawing evolved toward the end of high school and starting college into an interest in classical works of art, heroism and storytelling. That continues to inform me to this day although through a more contemporary lens as being in New York one is made very aware of current trends and focuses in contemporary art. 

 

Q4. What does your creative process look like? What are you motivated by?

I love to experiment. Both with ideas and with materials.  Often the materials I work with inform and shape the idea of a sculpture.  It is a dialogue or a conversation with both the material and the feeing or emotion or concept.  For me this is a very important part of creative expression. Making, doing, being a very critical part of the execution is critical for my approach. There is a popular approach to making sculpture in which a concept is hashed out ahead of time and the work is hired out to be executed. My wife calls this Hire Art. For me this process abandons discovery and makes the magic submit to the dictatorial mind of the artist. I am far more responsive and submissive to the possibilities and limitations of the materials I work with. For my work, much of the mystery and magic happens in the shaping, mixing, molding, casting, firing, melting and sanding etc. 

 

Q5. Is what you're doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?

Oddly, I have far exceeded my creative expectations from childhood. I knew I wanted to draw and that took on various shapes for me at the time as a future possibility but life presented higher callings and I stepped up. That calling to be a "fine artist" can be attributed to the wonderful people and serendipitous occurrences in my life.  My family, my teachers and mentors, my wife. This has been a huge and unexpected factor in my life and something young people just can't comprehend before it happens to them. But it is easy to miss. I always tell aspiring artists to pay attention! Be present and responsive to yourself and to your surroundings.  My biggest motivator however is to somehow make work that might impact young eyes the way powerful art impacted me as a youth and as it continues to do so to this day. 

 

Q6. How have you dealt with any criticism you have gotten because of your creative endeavors?

I always trusted that my impulses and my inner drive was worth something. Not out of ego or hubris, but more from a deep sense of obligation and love. I love what humanity has been able to accomplish regardless of our serious shortcomings. I believe we can be more aware and act more consciously to better not just ourselves and each other but all living and nonliving things. I always say I am Alive in the Miracle. This deeply constructed personal take on life, creativity and love is fuel enough to blaze through and negativity. Criticism is also very helpful if it is coming from a place of growth and love as opposed to "haters". I'm not sure if I have blinders up, it I am rarely on the receiving end of harsh criticism. Thankfully. But I am a little under the radar too. My work is a deep base note, a low Hz that doesn't show up on a lot of mainstream art radars.  That's probably a good thing as far as having a relatively small impact on what I make and how I am able to make my art. 

 

Q7. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?

I'm not sure I would frame it in that light. Sacrifice implies that something of value was given up. I am fortunate in that I find myself in a happy long term relationship, I am a step-father to my daughter, I have wiener dogs. I make my art all day and am fortunate enough and organized enough (thank you Annie) to make a living at it for almost 20 years. I am immersed in a very creative community outside of one of the world's leading art scenes. Maybe my lower back and right shoulder. There.  That's the sacrifice. But I am finding ways to manage that too. Hello inversion table and pull-up bar.  I'm pretty sure my lungs are in good shape because I can sprint up our hill with ease. 

 

Q8. If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?

There are times where I wonder if I would have benefited from someone saying that I should think of going to a top tier art school.  I have learned in life that people are people and even in what is supposed to be an edgy counter culture society like the art world there is conformity, elitism and exclusivity. A who's who sort of attitude. It's actually worse than real life (non art world world). Also, being an hour plus north of NYC puts a damper on much of that schmoozing but I know that is ephemeral and nonessential to producing great art. There are plenty of real people that recognize and see value for themselves and these have been my biggest supporters over the years. Would I do anything differently? No way. The path to where I am is magical and hard to explain without sounding mystical.  That's the stuff. Not what MFA you got from where. I jokingly say I got my MFA at PAW (Polich Art Works art foundry- Dick Polich is a sculpture legend and my hero). 

 

Q9. Why do you create? 

As I said earlier, if my work can inspire curiosity in the mind of both young and old, myself included, that is the most powerful motivator. I know the feeling it generates in me and how important that is to my daily life. If I can contribute something that reveals a bit of our humanity to ourselves, that is a major thing.  

 

Q10. What's next for you? Any exciting future plans/goals you would like to share? 

I am having a solo show at Krause Gallery September 6. That's the next big push. It will be a new approach to curating and presenting my work.  Otherwise, stay tuned for more art!

 


 

ODD ONE OUT is a creative magazine based in New York City whose goal is to open up further opportunities for emerging artists and mid-career artists all over the world.

September 4, 2019
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