Emil Alzamora

Emil Alzamora – Masochist, 2004. Image courtesy of the artist.

What’s the major influence on your work? I mean anything, art or non-art, internal or external.

Influence…I guess I would start with internal influences because that’s where it begins. Maybe the easiest way to express it is that moment where you slip out of sleep in the early morning and the first conscious thought is “I want to make something”. It sounds weird, but its true. I have this almost subconscious pull toward making and wanting to make things. Or draw things.  Early days, drawing was what pulled me out of bed at 6 in the morning on a Saturday for example. Now, its whatever I am working on or wanting to get closer to be able to work on in the studio.  The impulse seems innate, not willed or conscious. But the discipline it takes to actually get work done is a different story. That is a process of management and prioritizing tasks, which can ultimately set up roadblocks that have to be overcome through sometimes agonizing uncertainty and hesitation. But at this point I recognize it as part of the creative process and I trust it more now and accept it. External influences? It seems infinite. Broadly speaking, atomic bonding is inspiring. The turbulence of matter in the “vacuum” of space is inspiring. Patterns in both inanimate material as well as in plant life and animal  and human behavior (we are definitely animals), this too is inspiring. These are all things that inform and inspire and influence me. Ultimately what really gets me through the hesitation is the thought that somehow what I make might help bring order and beauty or curiosity in some form or another to my fellow earthlings.

Emil Alzamora – Waveforms. Image courtesy of the artist.

Many of your work appear to be anonymous and androgynous. In your recent shows you seemed to push that even further. With such kind of fluidity in human bodies, are you aiming for evoking familiarity or detachment?

Good question. Maybe both? I have been accused of panning out too much. My defense is that I care enough to do just that. We are ultimately human. We cant really change that, at least for now. That’s one of the reasons for my attraction to sculpting the human form in its many manifestations. It is a language that transcends culture and ethnicity, race and gender, and hopefully time and space if I can get my act together. My best work is always just beyond the day’s (studio) tasks, and sometimes I reach something that makes me feel like I did it, and I want to do it again but better. It is a yearning, a pull, a reach. I think the best analogy is: simple as a plant or tree reaching for the sun. Creativity should be that simple. That easy, that uncomplicated yet miraculously unlikely (compared to –459.67 degrees F of apparent nothingness which is far more the status quo). In the end, I think the anonymity helps to emphasize my interest in the everyhuman. We are everyone and we are ourselves. It is a subconscious thing that happens for me, driven by my interest in helping humanity see itself more clearly for what it could be: a compassionate conscious capable superorganism comprised of healthy, integrated, individuated cellves (that’s a first).

But when you created them, did you imagine different personalities on individual figures or compose narratives for them, or are they all one collective character?

I think the everyhuman I mentioned above might help to answer that question. Even the more “rendered” works have an anonymity to them despite their features being more defined. Some sculptures do have more of a narrative, though I try to keep that open ended to be able to have a broader conversation with those who are moved to look or feel something from the works. There is probably some autobiographical inevitability to them as well, but I will leave that to the psychoanalysts, friends and family.

Emil Alzamora’s work Afterlife Afterthought (left) and Voluptuary (right)

While most of your figures are quiet, humble and primarily in a position close to real life, there are pieces like Voluptuary and Afterlife Afterthought that hold a strong surrealistic impression in an ethical or philosophical manner. How did the ideas of those more exaggerated and abstract works come to be?

Drawing for me is like a scout. Almost all of my works start as a sketch, with some exceptions. One often hears about creativity “happening” to people, like it didn’t necessarily come from them but from somewhere else or it came through them not from them. That of course only works if you have labored on opening up that gentle portal through practice and in my case I refer to it as “artistic fitness”. I don’t plan a drawing, ever. They happen and I follow. I also love the line drawing. For me, everything else (the shading, crosshatching or the watercolor) is just the supporting detail. The line, especially as it relates to sculpture, tells all and reveals all. So I follow it, having learned a few tricks over the many years to guide it.

I’ve heard that your studio is a lab and you have a penchant for experimenting with different materials. Do you have a primary material to work with so far? Anything new that interests you lately?

I would say my breakthrough material (from 2003) was a slow setting plaster. It has its own weight and body to it that resembles flesh. This was a real game changer and it opened up a door to sculpting that I felt was immediate and easy. For me, it was the sculpting equivalent of what the pencil is to paper. So that is one of the core materials that I always return to. I do experiment with all types of materials from wood, to ceramic and resins, to mixed media and combinations of things you would not necessarily expect to combine. Lately I have been really interested in what 3D Printing and scanning offers, both bringing existing work into the computer via scanning as well as sculpting virtually then printing them into existence. The back and forth really intrigues me because I see it as an apt metaphor regarding our relationship to technology and how it is changing everyday life.

Emil Alzamora at his studio. Image courtesy of the artist.

This might be a typical metropolitan question. How do you think the environment of the workspace effects you as a sculptor? Since to sculpt is to build a relationship with space.

Great question. It is critical.  It is intrinsically linked to artistic fitness. For example, I cannot commute to a studio. I tried it for 18 months many years ago and it was maddening. I know for a fact that I am my most productive and happiest when there is a seamless transition between life and sculpting. I liken it to creaturing about, letting what happens happen. Not unlike drawing on a page, the studio is the (rarely) blank page that you never know what might come out of it. As for the actual nature of the studio itself, I find myself teetering between just enough order and too much chaos. I would love to have a blank room that resembles more a blank page, but alas that isn’t possible with my current studio setup. I also like the efficiency of being able to reach for something when I need it.  That can make for speedy execution of tasks. So somewhere between order and chaos lies creative fertility. The trick is finding the optimal balance.

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