Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Cuba and I came when I was 24. I didn’t begin college until I was 30 and got my Masters when I was 35. I majored in Spanish Literature, with a minor in Philosophy and Art. I did this at night while I was working in restoration during the day. I’m married with a son who is a freshman in college.
Besides making art, what do you do, do you have a day job?
I’m a restorer. I was trained in 1967 in NY. When the flood of the Arno River in Florence occurred, most of the restorers in the city were of Italian origin, and were sent back to Italy. So the companies needed trainees and the rest is history, I never left. When I began, I worked on canvases but when I left to be on my own I went to paper. There were less restorers of paper so there was more demand for me.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I work better in translating, not thoughts but emotional characteristics. I need parameters, a little bit of a ground, a bridge to stand on.
I have paintings I call flying chickens. I have restored Marc Chagall paintings. When he was in Russia he painted the flying tailor, when he went to France he painted flying chickens which became a trademark, everyone wanted his flying chickens so he would paint them when he needed money. After a while I felt I was painting to not spoil the canvas and I call it my flying chicken. I will add something to the painting, some strength, something sharp and unexpected, and I’m tickled pink.
Has any advice influenced you?
I don’t listen to too much advice, but try to be yourself. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s the only way.
How would you describe your creative process?
The creative process is surreal, it is unavoidable, it happens in spite of myself. I don’t separate my thinking process from my creative process. I can be creative in the train, while I’m cooking, anywhere, anytime.
How do you get out of your creative blocks?
I don’t have creative blocks, I have frenzies. If I’m doing a series, I think about it for awhile and then I create it all, On my Suite Yoruba series it took 6 months to prepare myself of the content, provenance, how I should do it… The execution on the canvas took 10 days.
What is the most difficult thing about having a creative profession.?
Politically, as a culture we give attention and time to many things that cost us a fortune, but never have enough money to pay for artistic expression and music and things like that. Nobody cares that much about what you do, It makes your life a little difficult but you love it because you cannot be any other way.
How do you balance work and family?
I buy the food, I cook it, I take care of the dog and I work.
What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you handle them?
The biggest challenge is being conscious of the aesthetics that have come before us. In the painting culture it is very accumulative. With the information that exists now, I can paint a great cubist painting but I will not be adding much to the story. So I think for any new artist now it is always harder and harder not to be derivative. Finding your own language is the most taxing thing. Either through color, form, shape or content.
If you could visit the studio of any artist or designer, who would it be?
I would get a big kick if I could visit Soutine. He was figurative, post expressionist. He managed to pick up elements from many painters, Franz Hals, Velasquez, Sergent. His paintings are very direct. Soutine may not give me the strongest embrace but he’d give me the warmest embrace.
What are your main goals for 2012?
I’d like to have a series of paintings that I’m totally, totally happy with, without reservation. When I was a young man I became fascinated with doors, portico’s, and thresholds. It had to do with when I left Cuba, I left my Aunts house and I knew I would never cross that door again. It’s a symbol of life, always entering and leaving. I’d like to do a series of paintings with a door as an opening in the canvas.
Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?
Do the art that is meaningful to you; your eyes and your mind shall completely understand and admit your images. You can not be complacent with yourself. The young artist shall always look for new routes, once an aesthetical problem has been solved by him/her on a canvas. You shall have a direct line from your mind and your heart flowing onto your working surface. The rest will come; even the noise.
Do you have a blog or website?
alvarezfas.com is my restoration studio
ninosantaeulalia.com is my artists webpage
Antonio will be on the Riverarts Studio Tour April 28 & 29. For more info riverarts.org