Sunday, December 19, 2010

Interview with New York Abstract Painter Antonio Estevez

Antonio in his element.
New York, New York is a Wonderful Town!  God, I love it! And also miss it.  So I am going to get my fix by talking with someone who lives and breaths it every single day: my fellow artist and writer Antonio Estevez.  Not only is he a fantastic painter from the Big Apple, but he has a unique take on the whole scene which is colorfully splashed like paint all over his entertaining and informative blog, Lend Me Your Eyes.

Antonio has a way of making you feel like you are actually there, maybe strolling through sidewalk art fairs, rubbing elbows with the artists and fans and soaking up the local color.  (Some of the New York Art World even spills into New Jersey, too, you come to find out.)  He writes about museums, galleries, art contests, and takes you to exhibits from the lofty Guggenheim to the trendy LITM Little Wonders Art Show.  You will also find him spinning profiles of various artists such as the amazing Andre Martinez-Reed, and just generally immersing you in all things artsy and intellectual with his engaging chatter running alongside colorful paintings, drawings and photos.

The Queen

Antonio also showcases his own paintings on his blog, and we will talk about them and get to know him a little better in this interview.  His work is a rather neat counterpoint to the work of digital painter Helene Kippert, interviewed on Mavor Arts in October of this year.  There is a running "rant" as Antonio might characterize it, about Digital versus Traditional.  Silly, I think, but it persists, and I just love to show examples of both art forms whenever the opportunity presents itself in order to debunk the line of reasoning itself.

Helene Kippert's work is exciting, energetic and thought provoking and she creates it with a special program on her computer.  Antonio's work?  The same adjectives apply and he creates his paintings with brushes, pens, pencils and paint (throw in a little tissue maybe) on paper, canvas or wood.  Is either process more or less legitimate than the other? 

Absolutely not.

Detail from a recent abstract acrylic and mixed media painting on canvas, Today We Escape, where the artist experimented with tissue paper, creating lots of texture.  "I wanted to make a painting that looked as wounded, complex and chaotic as I was feeling." 

My article on Helene Kippert reveals the special philosophy she expresses in her paintings.  Here, we will take a journey through the mind of Mr. Estevez to reveal the same thing and lots more.

Elinor Mavor:  Antonio, your blog brings the New York Art Scene scintillatingly alive.  Are you a native New Yorker?  Give us a little personal history.

Antonio Estevez:  I actually was raised in Passaic, New Jersey, which back then was not much different from some of the tougher corners of Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.  It wasn't until I was about nine years old that I encountered the intimidating skyscrapers and bustle of Manhattan during a ride to meet relatives I didn't even know existed.  I wouldn't necessarily characterize my family as being poor, but to give you an idea, it was a luxury for my parents and me to have dinner at Burger King.

As a child I would have never imagined that I would be working in Manhattan and enjoying fine dining, wine and art exhibitions whenever I wanted.  Just the other night I was walking down a block in the East Village and I recognized a little Italian restaurant I saw as a boy, and remembered how I thought I would never be able to eat there.  And although I was in the mood for something Asian, I chose to go inside for the sheer pleasure of indulging the broke kid inside of me.

Nothing Seems to Satisfy

I recently moved to downtown Jersey City because of the growing art community there, but unless there is an event, I basically just sleep there and spend most of my waking life in New York ... working, attending shows, eating and networking.

At times the New York art scene might all seem the same, but  lots of talent goes relatively unrecognized, especially in places like DUMBO and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Not to mention awesome artists across the Hudson like Ken Bastard, Bonnie Gloris and Kayt Hester who live and work in Jersey City.  My aim is to give my readers a tasty, healthy balance of art news and commentary, while introducing them to emerging artists.  I'm still figuring out that balance.

EM:  You rub elbows with fascinating people.  Tell us about a typical day in your life when you are out and about.

AE:  Well, it is actually nighttime when the fun begins!  I get to hang with some amazing people like artist/gallery owner Andre Martinez-Reed, photographer/director Georgine Benvenuto, and artist/sculptor Michael Alan, who is best known for creating the Living Installation performing series.  All of these folks are accomplished and dedicated.  I also live within a few feet of some gifted neighbors like painter Grace Carrero, photographer Ilsi Molina and my surrealist buddy Erica Radol who has an upcoming show in New York.

EM:  Do you think you may be opening a gallery yourself one day?  What would your gallery be like?

AE:  Wow!  I would absolutely love that!  If I were ever to hit the lottery, this would be on my top three list of things to do (after saving the world and paying for my brothers' educations).  I would likely make it a non-profit and exhibit emerging artists who had a unique non-realist style.  Although I am open to all kinds of work, I am partial to painting and sculpture, so I would probably show these art forms in the styles of abstraction and expressionism.


EM:  Tell us about your studies with Professor Lloyd McNeil.

AE:  Well, I could write a book on how much I learned from this man.  In short, he taught me everything I did not teach myself:  drawing, color, line work, symbolism. Professor McNeil studied a short time with Picasso, learning so much that influenced his style and philosophy and I am so grateful that he passed this on to me.  All the success I have achieved or ever will achieve in my career, I attribute to him.

EM:  Who are two painters who have influenced you the most, present day and now deceased, and why?

AE:  Aside from Picasso, I would have to say Dali and the surrealists.  This might seem a bit strange to people who have seen my work but don't know me, because most of my work doesn't look anything remotely close to Dali's, but I'm the type of guy who is more influenced by ideas than the paintings themselves.  I've read almost everything there is about Dali and the surrealists plus the psychology and philosophies that guided them.  The idea of automatic writing and drawing as an expression of the unconscious mind particularly drives the majority of my paintings.

Call me old fashioned at the ripe age of 30, but there aren't any present day artists who directly influence my work.  Apparently, I am fixated on the dead such as Kandinsky, Basquiat and Munch.  Although there is a graphic novelist I admire named David Mack I have had the honor of meeting.  He writes and paints a beautiful series called Kabuki using a variety of media

Within Her Inner Chapel

EM:  Your expressive way with color and composition are very exciting.  What goes through your mind while you are creating a new painting?

AE:  Contrary to what you see in my work, I am possibly the least emotionally expressive person I know.  I internalize everything, so painting is often my only opportunity to instantly express my emotional state.  It is a safe way of letting go, being naked, and actualizing a sense of personal freedom.

Music dictates almost everything I do, guiding my color choices and paint application while ridding my mind of non-essential clutter.  The inherent drama, rhythm and movement in the music is the perfect fuel to feed my creative fire. 

Also, I often create my strongest work after an argument, a bad social/political development, a nightmare or other issue that strikes a strong, negative emotion.  I have been well-known for using my art as peace offerings: I'm sorry I was an ass, but here is a nice painting for you.  Sometimes it actually works.

Addicted to Lies

EM:  Tell us the story behind your most favorite recently completed painting.

AE:  The painting United We Stood was born out of my reaction to the downturn in the economy and the lack of support many of my fellow Americans have been receiving from the "bickerers" elected to serve them. The impoverished, unemployed and underprivileged have always struck a chord with me because these are most often the groups of people who are taken advantage of and neglected.  The colors converge in the middle in the shape of a deteriorating sphere:  a symbol of the growing rift between the social classes in our country.  I was both pleased and sad when a buyer nabbed it at a recent show in New York.

United They Stood

EM:  You work in several mediums and on different surfaces.  What determines your choices?

AE:  I'm always looking for other mediums to experiment with, but I have grown accustomed to working with certain materials depending on the project I happen to be tackling that day.  Most of my work involves building up thin layers quickly while maintaining a fluid look, which is why I am partial towards India ink and light watercolor on Yupo paper.  For my large scale wood paintings, I find acrylic paint works best to cover the unprimed surface without mixing and muddying the colors.

EM:  What are your plans for the future?

AE:  I have so many ideas, sometimes I have to check and make sure my little head hasn't exploded!  My main goal is to have a solo show in a prominent gallery next year featuring large scale watercolor paintings I'm currently working on.  Besides that, I will continue to expand my arts blog, possibly merge with another one and add another writer or two.  And last but not least, I've been toying with the idea of getting back into music and putting together a demo, perhaps play a few shows.

Antonio with his painting, The Wait, at the After Sputnik
Exhibition at the metropolitan Building, Long Island City, Queens.

EM:   Now,if I forgot to ask you about something you want to talk about ... fire away!

AE:  At the risk of ranting, I just would like to add a few encouraging words to my fellow artists.  It's normal to become discouraged or distracted, especially when you don't have positive, supportive folks around you.  You will stumble a few times, maybe even lots of times, but don't you dare give up.  Falling is one thing, but staying down is quite another.  Let your passion drive you past the BS, and keep creating work that satisifies you first.  And finally, take absolute advantage of the internet where you can promote your work for free, network, ask questions and find information on everything you need to succeed as an artist.

EM:  Thanks so much for talking with us, Antonio.  Whenever I need a touch of New York, I will drop in to your gallery of paintings to see what is new and read some articles in Lend Me Your Eyes!

Antonio Estevez is the editor of the awesome art blog, Lend Me Your Eyes, where he features his work and the work of other artists he admires.  In addition to displaying artwork, the blog also features articles on topics helpful to other artists such as marketing tips and obtaining exhibition opportunities.

He has exhibited his work throughout New York and New Jersey.  His recent exhibitions include showings at the Galapagos Artspace, Gallery 364 and the Manhattan  World Culture Open Center.

Antonio regularly donates artwork to raise funds for a variety of causes.  He has worked with various charities including Room to Read, Whole Foods Nation and the NOLA Preservation Society.

All artwork displayed in this article is under copyright protection by Antonio Estevez 2010.