nycARTscene Interview: Michelangelo Alasa’
Michelangelo Alasa’s “Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict” runs through August 9th at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), 62 East 4th St., NYC.
nycARTscene’s Hannah Krafcik leads us in conversation with the writer/director/producer/artist:
HK: Confessions depicts your personal narrative through imagery and performative tropes. Can you elaborate on why you’ve chosen to do this sort of work featuring interactive and visual art components at this point in your career?
MA: The creation of Confessions began with my need to bring to life the interior safe place I had created in my mind since the age of 8. After a failed suicide attempt, I decided to fight my abusive parents back using style, wit, intelligence. I became a button pusher…a provocateur at an early age. At that same time, I found art, film, and theater and used it as an escape as well as a way to fight back. From an early age, I used collage as a way to bring disparate images into a homogenous whole that spoke to me deeply.
There was always a duality to my early years, which has continued into late adulthood - a tightrope dance of balancing a very strong sexual impulse with an even stronger passion to share my story. I think this came about from being sexualized at such an early age. The performative nature of the work stems from the fact that, for many years, I have been working in theater. It was natural for me to tell my story using actors along with a physical representation of the home or “House of Terror,” where I grew up, and the “safe place” in my mind, where I disappeared to when life became too trying or painful. As the work has progressed I came to the realization that what I had created was a classic self-portrait and that it would be important for me to embrace my own story and tell it as only I can tell it, without artifice or performance.
HK: Tell us a bit about the mediums and artistic practices you’ve intertwined to construct Confessions. How have you used collage throughout the work?
MA: I see myself as a 21st century muralist. I use video, still images, and found objects to create the two worlds that I have inhabited all my life. I use the power of word(s) in conjunction with the visuals to bring to life and to explore the complexities of feeling and thoughts that have challenged me since the age of three when a rather delightful sexual relationship with my father began. At the age of six, when the sexual relationship with my dad ended, I lost my mother and father emotionally for ever, and art and story telling helped me survive. The work is still very much in process and progress, and it grows on a daily basis. My feeling is that I will know when the canvas is complete.
HK: Confessions tends to be catharsis inducing for viewers, and particularly those from the queer community. How do you hope viewers will interact with and experience the work?
MA: The piece is about redemption, healing and about moving on. I am using gay social media such as Manhunt, Adam, Daddyhunt and Grindr to reach out to the queer community. I am astounded at the number of men who, on a daily basis, reach out to me to tell their own stories of sexual abuse. My own frankness and directness in speaking about and bringing to life my own story of pain using visuals and words within in a physical space seems to raise questions in some concerning their own abuse. My belief is that abuse, whether it is sexual, physical, or emotional, is rampant in our society. I created this piece for myself because I needed to physically inhabit and experience the safe place. Only when my nephew walked through the an early version of the “safe space” discussing my tale of abuse, did I see the impact it could have on others. After each performance, I am approached with words of encouragement and support as well as people who need to share their won stories with me. I created a wall of “confessions” where audience members are able to share their won thoughts with the world.
HK: You have a long history with Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), where Confessions takes place. I’m specifically interested in your connection to Andy Warhol and his previous occupation of Duo Theatre. As you continue your work in the space, Duo seems to be taking on a modern “Factory-eque” atmosphere. What do you envision for DMAC after Confessions?
MA: In 1969, I went to 62 East 4th Street and saw Andy Warhols Boys To Adore Galore series of gay porn film screenings. It is amazing to me that 40 years later a company that I run, DMAC, is co-owner of the very building where I first met Andy. DMAC, is like an artistic “complex” where I provide free space to dancers, film makers, theater and visual artists in which they can create. These works sometimes are presented at DMAC and other times they are premiered at other venues. Although Andy continues to have a profound influence on me, other mentors have also influenced what I do, e.g. Cocteau, Chanel, Picasso, Arthur Janov and, of course, Gertrude Stein whose Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas I stole from the local library (it was a first edition). This opened a new world to me, leading me to Diaghilev and The Ballet Russe and the expatriate world of Paris at the turn of the century. I myself am an expatriate of sorts, as I was born in Havana Cuba mid-last century. I have plans to next explore the pre-Aids NYC and the golden age of unprotected free-for-all world that I experienced in the early 1970’s, in particular the Continental Baths. I plan to open that work for Pride 2014.
HK: Why do you believe it is important to tell this story in the way that you do?
MA: I tell my story for myself every Friday evening. I bring into being and I inhabit fully my own world for that hour. People come and witness. It is served raw and freshly as a plate of oyster nightly, as I am still making breakthroughs during each “performance.” I use the word performance as I don’t know what else to call it. At the end when audiences applaud, I am very uncomfortable, but I understand their need to applaud, and I accept it.
Duo Multicultural Arts Center (DMAC), 62 East 4th St., NYC.
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nycARTscene Interview: Michelangelo Alasa’
nycARTscene Interview: LNY
LNY’s latest outdoor mural, “The Golden Hour,” is located at 22 East 2nd Street (between Bowery & 2nd Avenue) in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The new artwork launched the 2013 season of Fourth Art Block’s Public Art Program.
nycARTscene’s Hannah Krafcik leads us in conversation with the artist:
HK: Your previous public art features an array of creatures—usually hybrid creatures—that are often constrained or engaging in struggle. Can you describe the dynamic between humanity and nature in your work?
LNY: Struggle is definitely a recurring theme in my work, not only because conflict is part of our everyday, but because I find something incredibly beautiful and empowering about overcoming obstacles as part of the human condition. This tends to generate progress. I often like to complicate the depiction of this conflict through the concept of hybridity—animal and human, or machine and animal—because of the romantic and powerful archetypal connections we naturally have to these symbols. Also, hybridity is a big part of my multicultural background—being both Ecuadorian and American, speaking mixed languages, working inside and outside the law, and living in transit.
HK: How might this come into play in your most recent mural with Fourth Arts Block in the East Village? Can you elaborate on the concept?
LNY: This mural, and most of my recent work, has become the long tail result of research, intuition, and improvisation, which is all driven by location, the people I meet and the inherent conflicts the environment offers. The recent mural was born from reading about a dead sperm whale that washed ashore in the Aegean Sea. The Scientists who examined the whale’s corpse, which was both bloated and emaciated, were surprised to find its stomach full of plastic bags. So I imagined that experience of stumbling upon a gigantic whale’s dead body, and how it must feel to have this mountain of dead flesh in front of you…I wanted to replicate that awe and, at the same time, point to the magnitude of this problem: Humans intervening with natural ecosystems and creating climate change.
The narrative of the mural goes on to include a double headed tricolored heron being invaded by nature and technology, which happens to the whale as well as they both struggle to survive. I eventually titled the mural The Golden Hour after the medical term for the window of time following trauma or injury, during which treatment is most effective.
HK: How would you like your work to engage or activate the people who see it?
LNY: Well, this is one of the most important questions, but also one with the less defined answer. Of course I would like for communities and viewers to either engage the work as an intervention of color and form in architectural space, or to take something positive away from it. This can affect people by simply making them smile, or by even inspiring someone to create something of their own. But it is very hard for me to gauge that reaction because it usually happens long after I’m gone. So, in this case, I’m just left with good wishes and an invitation to participate.
While making this mural, I brought over my growing collection of plastic bags picked up from the streets. Wanting to somehow use them in the mural, I finally decided to have their materiality speak for itself and, along with other trash from the site, I placed them at the entrance of the whale’s mouth. The fun part is that the bags and trash are only flimsily stapled to the wall. You could technically go to the site, like right now, and clean up this metaphorical ocean I painted. Or, you could actually clean a real ocean, upcycle your trash, take some form of action, or become aware of how we are affecting our environment before whales start swimming down alphabet city for brunch.
HK: What kinds of environments and geographic locations attract and /or inspire you?
LNY: Like most of us, I grew up in the middle of the urban sprawl, from the small and colonial in South America to the immense and complex geography of New York & Seoul. These environments shaped me and gave rise to the language and processes I use to make art today. But what I find most amazing, and what fills me with joy, is being able to imagine a future beyond our current state. To see the possibilities afforded to us by the same technology that can do such harm to the planet and understand that we can create our own healthy and sustainable environments. To me, making free public art, both legal and otherwise, is part of this effort and inspires me to make more and more. In a way, my quest is to prove to myself and others that this ideal is possible and that art can be an integral part of it. Some days this is way easier said that done, but we move on.
HK: Where are you planning to paint next? Where would you like to put your work next?
LNY: I have a couple of overarching projects I’m working on right now, specifically another collaboration with the Brooklyn based non-profit Young New Yorkers, a show with Newark based Solo(s) Project House during Fountain Art Fair and residency there—plus other surprises for New York and some upcoming trips. What all these projects have in common is the drive to create and interact with people and public space so they all revolve around that idea, even if paint is not involved. I find this more interesting sometimes, as it involves a different approach, collaboration, and new challenges. The question for me its not where would I want to put up work, but where do I need to put up work. Where does it need to exist, and what makes it necessary to manifest there?
photography: Luna Park http://lunapark.tumblr.com/
location: Ideal Glass http://www.idealglass.org/
Dorian Grey Gallery, 437 East 9th St., NYC
new paintings and works on paper. Robinson’s work visualizes the idea of indulgence, both in terms of contemporary consumer appetites and in reference to the religious practice by which sins can be forgiven. A member of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” Robinson took part in the historic “Times Square Show” in 1980. He had his first exhibition of romance paintings at Metro Pictures in 1980, and also exhibited widely in the East Village during the beginning of the decade. - thru Mar 31
Opens Tuesday, June 26, 6-8p:
“Our Ladies of Infamy and Grandeur”
East Village Visitors Center, 75 East 4th St., NYC (bt 2nd Ave & Bowery)
The exhibition of five gilded paintings will honor the exploits, undertakings and legends of lost cultural heroines from Manhattan’s historical Five Points neighborhood.
Preston arrived at the concept for this series through numerous conversations with his friend and mentor, Tom Sanford. Additionally, in the artist’s words, “I came up with the initial idea for this series of paintings while reading ‘The Blackest Bird’ by NYC author Joel Rose. I wanted to explore the lore of embellished accounts from Manhattan’s early days […] The implied iconography in these paintings calls our attention to narratives which, in some cases, have managed to live on through time as mere sentiments found within a few sentences in a couple of books […] I wanted to make small paintings which glorify small events by rather insignificant and even infamous individuals within the context of our written histories.”