Interview with Emil Alzamora

Posted by on Aug 29, 2008 in Interviews


Click the below thumbnail for photos of his beautiful home and studio  visit on 10-20-08 in dreamy Beacon, NY.

Slice of Heaven

I know you from Florida State where we were in the BFA program together.  I lost track of you after that.  Can you briefly trace your path since graduation ten years ago?
I left FSU and spent a couple of months looking for a position on a sailboat in the Mediterranean. i had had enough of art and just wanted to get away from the confusion of art and academics.  I didn’t find a boat but while in Spain I met a woman who’s father worked with one of the world’s biggest sculpture foundries (Polich Tallix near Newburgh now) in Beacon, NY.   It was an hour outside of NYC and I thought that might be a good place to be able to continue casting my work in metal. I worked there for 2.5 years (1998-2001). It was boot camp for sculpture, often 60-70 hour weeks in the dusty inferno. I learned more about sculpture there than at school and left with a good sense of materials.  I had a couple of shows that I put on myself, followed by several local gallery shows.  Then David Findley gallery on Madison Ave decided to show the 4 life-size works I had made while at Polich.  That started a series of commissions and sales and further gallery representation (Santa Fe , Boston, San Francisco,Atlanta, Maine, Barcelona and most recently Bath,UK). Ive been happily living and working in Beacon with my girlfriend and her 10 year old daughter.

I’m truly amazed by your mastery of sculpture.  It seems you can bend materials to fit anything within your imagination.  You mentioned you worked at Polich Tallix, www.polichtallix.com,  in Beacon, NY for a few years.  How was that experience and did it get you to the technical level you are currently?
Thanks!  I always dreamed of being able to push a material around until it went right where I wanted it.  One of the materials I used for an enlargement at the foundry was Structolite, a gypsum based cement. It gives me the flexibility I need to get where I want.  The experience at Polich has been critical in this respect. I notice on your web site you use Gypsum in a lot of your work.  Can you describe working with that material?  It is technically Structolite from Home Depot.   Ok the secret is out,  but it took me quite a long time to figure it out.  It requires just enough water to get a thick consistency. I then apply it over a welded steel armature.  th sky is the limit, if you are patient enough.  You can then wax it any color you want.

You also work with bronze.  How long does it take to make a life-size bronze sculpture?  Can you briefly describe the steps in the process?
To sculpt the form it usually takes a couple of months.  Then the foundry will take another couple of months to finish it up, though I do most of the metal work.  So about 4-5 months.   Basically you have the initial sculpture made of plaster, clay, wax, wood etc.  A mold is taken from it, usually rubber.  Then a wax is cast from the mold.  It is hollow and reworked to look like the original ,cut up if necessary, gated with more wax, that means the plumbing for the metal is put into place.  It is then dipped into a ceramic shell slurry wet and dry about 14 times.  Then autoclaved, this removes wax via steam, then kiln fired to burn out excess wax.  Then placed in a sand pit connected to a vacuum which assists in pulling the molten metal through the mold without cold shots or mispours.  It is then cooled, broken from the shell, sandblasted, welded back together, ground and chased to reapply the texture, fitted for mounting, then patina for the color, then wax.     Pretty simple really.

When did you realize that you wanted to focus on sculpture?
I grew up around a ceramic studio and always liked “playing with clay” though sculpture became really interesting for me at about 16, and was solidified with my first casting at FSU when I was 19.  I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil though.

Did you move to Beacon to work for Polich Tallix specifically?  Can you describe the art community there and the location?  How has having Dia Center move to Beacon change the town or has it?
I first moved to Newburgh across the Hudson River.  Tallix used to be in Beacon, but it merged with its rival Polich Art Works a few years ago in Newburgh. I actually worked at Polich Art Works founded by the same man (Dick Polich) that had started Tallix in Beacon.  They were sort of like the Capulets and the Montagues of the foundry world.  Being close to NYC is very cool.  There are a bunch of artists in town, but hard to meet them really as none of us go to church or have a nice cafe in a town plaza to mingle about in.  I prefer town center to Main St. DIA has certainly put Beacon on the map, and draws crowds still.  Im glad it is here.   Many people placed to much hope in DIA and started businesses that just couldn’t be sustained, so Main St. has quite a lot of business turnover. Damn realtors!

Where were you born?  I know your mother is an artist.  What materials does she work with and how has she supported you becoming an artist?  Can you describe the experience of growing up as the child of an  artist.  When did you realize you had creative talents?

I was born in Lima, Peru in 1975.  My mom works with clay, etching, painting, fabric.  She has done nothing but encourage me, showing me to never question the reality of making a living at being an artist.  It became second nature as opposed to something you have to discover later in life.  I had always loved drawing and thought I would work for a comic book  when I was a kid and medical illustration in my later teens.  The BFA Program combined with an art history minor at FSU really helped me to see the fine art path more clearly.

Do you have a day job or are you a “full-time” artist currently?

Full-time

Can you describe your creative process, from sketches to the final product?
It does usually start as a sketch, but not always.   The drawings are sort of a blueprint that I rarely refer to when actually sculpting.  It is the easiest place to wander, whereas sculpture is so physical and final in some ways,  though I am moving more toward a merging of the two. As I understand my materials more, maybe the sketches will be the sculpture.   That’s already starting to happen.  The sculpture is then hammered out until I am happy with it, and usually it is just a matter of messing with it until I am there, though once in a while I have to abandon a piece, cut my losses so to speak.

What are some of the underlying concepts you are working with in your current projects?
I have been working with ceramics lately and that has led me to making life-size busts.   I am also incorporating other materials , wood, glass, steel.   The concept has something to do with extrasensory communication,  the brain as a receiver and transmitter of info.

Where have you shown your work and where will you be showing in the future?
I have shown in the galleries mentioned above in the bio and a number of other group shows as well as many of the art fairs. I’m showing in a 2 person show in NYC next week and another solo show in Boston in November.   Atlanta gallery is planning a show sometime in the spring/summer of 09.

If someone wanted to view your work where could they do so?

Krause Gallery, Turner Carroll Gallery, Wolfe Contemporary, Mauger Modern, Lanoue Fine Art as well as my website, www.emilalzamora.com.  Also, Boca Grande, Fl has two large bronzes available for public viewing in the Old Theatre Building.

What are some of the artists that have been a big inspiration to you and your process?
My mom, Michelangelo, Rodin, Bernini, Antony Gormley, Kiki Smith, Salvador Dali

What are some of the underlying concepts you are working with in your current projects?
I have been working with ceramics lately and that has led me to making life-size busts.   I am also incorporating other materials , wood, glass, steel.   The concept has something to do with extrasensory communication,  the brain as a receiver and transmitter of info.

What do you mean by something to do with extrasensory communication, the brain as a receiver and transmitter of info?
It is based on the theory of entangled minds,   on  a quantum level atoms have been found to be communicating and responding to each other at speeds faster than the speed of light.  I am interested in how this relates to Psi, telepathy, precognition, ESP etc.  I think it is the tip of the iceburg of understanding our minds and their potential.

Are you just feeling your way working through this concept?
Yes, it isnt science at all when it comes to my interpretations in the studio, it is more an exploration of the images that could support these theories.   The potential of thought.

Do you make projects in a series usually or is it one piece at a time?
Usually one at a time.   And sometimes a series will emerge,  i don’t like to be to aware of a series, as it determines so much of the content ahead of time.

I’m an artist trying to eventually become make art full-time.  Do you have any advice for artists like myself who are trying to break through?   I sure feel like I need some advice on the matter as it’s such a mystery.  I have this theory that he who lasts the longest wins.
HAHA,   yes persistence is key,   but making art is like taking a crap, or it should be,  though it should be slightly more graceful .  In the end you just want to make things, and if you can sell what you make then it is a sustainable practice. the business should stem from a desire to keep making your work as much as you can.  The basics apply:  good digital images.  show in local venues.   present your work to midlevel galleries.   Try to go to the art fairs and meet galleries that look compatible.  Don’t be a wallflower. And know it is in the name of your own personal progress.

What projects are you working on right now?

I’m gearing up for the NYC show and the Boston show.  My hands are pretty full with those two.  Making the busts.

What’s a typical day like for you in your studio?  How many hours do you work on your projects daily usually?
Typical day is : up by 7:30 or 8.  breakfast.   Studio from 830 to 1 pm or so,  then lunch.  back to work by 2 till about 5-6 pm.   Usually there is some chopping wood here or trimming some trees there of a drive to the ceramic studio (25 min away)  So on average actual studio time is about 6-10 hours.  I guess if i’m awake and no family is in town, and im not doing home improvement or yard work,  im working, because its fun and it makes me happy.

Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass down?
Obama O8. Don’t believe the hype. Do unto others… don’t kill people. Don’t do things that make other people miserable (that includes consumerism).  Be nice.  Floss. Rock and Roll.  Play Xbox. Consider evolution and your part in it(preferably in the forward direction unless you are an archeologist, scientist etc.).

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7 Comments

  1. Globatron.org
    August 29, 2008

    New blog post: Interview with Emil Alzamora http://tinyurl.com/5lra3c

  2. :dz: / Visual Artist / Orlando, Florida.
    August 30, 2008

    Emil Alzamora’s work is so captivating. Modern sculpture tends to let me down most of the time, but this is great work. Monster kudos!

    Reply
  3. Slice of Heaven | Globatron
    November 7, 2008

    […] beautiful home of artist Emil Alzamora on our visit to see his studio on 10-20-08 in dreamy Beacon, […]

    Reply
  4. SUPERLUMINOUS | Globatron
    November 23, 2008

    […] folllow up post on an interview with artist Emil Alzamora.  Below are pics from his one man show “SUPERLUMINOUS” at […]

    Reply
  5. Pablo F. Rivera
    November 26, 2008

    Very exciting work, I would like to see more. Anything in North florida? Probably not

    Reply
  6. Aegis | Globatron.org
    April 18, 2009

    […] Globatron did an interview with Emil several months ago in August of 2008 here: http://www.globatron.org/interviews/interview-with-emil-alzamora […]

    Reply
  7. Tania Soares
    March 21, 2011

    ripping art – Emil Alzamora

    Reply

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