Q: You had a terrific interview published in the July Issue # 44 of “Art Market.” How did that happen?
A: You know, my business strategy is to get my work onto as many websites as possible in hopes of eventually reaching the right collectors. ArtsRow has not gotten me a sale yet, but wow, what press! The print copy of “Art Market is gorgeous.” I was stunned by the quality of the reproductions, the layout, and the fact that the publisher did not cut any of my 18-page interview!
This is how it happened. I cannot remember if Paula Soito found me or vice versa. Somehow we connected, I sent my work for her ArtsRow website, and shortly after, she asked to interview me for her blog. Paula deeply connected to something in my work or my bio. I may be mistaken, but I do not believe she asks many artists for an interview.
As I do with every interview request, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” Paula proceeded to ask great questions. I prepared my written answers to her questions as though I were writing an article for “The New York Times,” because once an interview is published, you never know who will read it. And we had no word limits since the interview was being published on her blog, not in print.
So last spring my in-depth interview was published on Paula’s blog. Sometime later she let me know that she had met Dafna Navarro, CEO and Founder of “Art Market,” and was arranging for our interview to be published there. I thought, “Gee, that’s nice,” thinking there’s no way they will publish the whole article. When I received my print copy in the mail I was thrilled! Not only did my interview look great, but it was sandwiched between a piece about an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum and one at The Whitney Museum of American Art! So, of course, I am sharing it with everyone and encouraging people to purchase a print copy.
Q: Would you talk about how the Judas figures you depict in your pastel paintings function in Mexico?
A: Here’s a good explanation from a website called “Mexican Folk Art Guide”:
“La quema de Judas or the Judas burning in Mexico is a celebration held on Sabado de Gloria (Holy Saturday). Papier mache figures symbolizing Judas Iscariot stuffed with fireworks are exploded in local plazas in front of cheerful spectators.
The Judases exploded in public spaces can measure up to 5 meters, while 30 cm ones can be found with a firework in their back to explode at home.
In Mexico la quema de Judas dates from the beginning of the Spanish colony when the Judas effigies were made with hay and rags and burned. Later as paper became available and the fireworks techniques arrived, thanks to the Spanish commerce route from the Philippines, the Judases were made out of cardboard, stuffed with fireworks, and exploded.
After the Independence War the celebration lost its religious character and became a secular activity. The Judas effigies were stuffed with candies, bread, and cigarettes to attract the crowds into the business [establishment] that sponsored the Judas.
Judas was then depicted as a devil and identified with a corrupt official, or any character that would harm people. In 1849 a new law stipulated that it was forbidden to relate a Judas effigy with any person by putting a name on it or dressing it in a certain way to be identified with a particular person.”
This is why whenever I bring home a Judas figure from Mexico, I feel like I have rescued it from a fire-y death!
Comments are welcome!
Q: Would you speak about the practical realities – time and expenses – involved in making your pastel-on-sandpaper paintings? What might people be surprised to learn about this aspect of art-making?
A: I have often said that this work is labor-intensive. In a good year I can complete five or six large (38″ x 58″) pastel paintings. In 2013 I am on track to make four, or, on average, one completed painting every three months. I try to spend between thirty-five and forty hours a week in the studio. Of course, I don’t work continuously all day long. I work for awhile, step back, look, make changes and additions, think, make more changes, step back, etc. Still, hundreds of hours go into making each piece in the “Black Paintings” series, if we count only the actual execution. There is also much thinking and preparation – there is no way to measure this – that happen before I ever get to stand before an empty piece of sandpaper and begin.
As far as current expenses, they are upwards of $12,000 per painting. Here is a partial breakdown:
$4500 New York studio, rent and utilities ($1350/month) for three months
$2500 Supplies, including frames (between $1500 – $1700), photographs, pastels (pro-rated), paper
$2000 Foreign travel to find the cultural objects, masks, etc. depicted in my work (approximate, pro-rated)
$3000 Business expenses, such as computer-related expenses, website, marketing, advertising, etc.
This list leaves out many items, most notably compensation for my time, shipping and exhibition expenses, costs of training (i.e. ongoing photography classes), photography equipment, etc. Given my overhead, the paintings are always priced at the bare minimum that will allow me to continue making art.
I wonder: ARE people surprised by these numbers? Anyone who has ever tried it knows that art is a tough road. Long ago I stopped thinking about the cost and began doing whatever is necessary to make the best paintings. The quality of the work and my evolution as an artist are paramount now. This is my life’s work, after all.
Comments are welcome!