A Conversation with Grimanesa Amoros
October 31, 1992, by Quincy Troupe
A Conversation with Grimanesa Amoros
October 31, 1992, by Quincy Troupe
Quincy Troupe: Let’s talk about the name of your recent show and what you were trying to do with the paintings. You said that the name of the show was Voyage?
Grimanesa Amorós: The relationship that I had with the title of the exhibition, The Voyage is that my paintings are constantly changing. I once heard that the only thing that never changes is change itself. We are always in constant change and we have to accept hot to approach every new challenge. If we are at peace with ourselves, we can accept living in the process of continuous change. So I call this series of paintings The Voyage, because it reflects all the things that I have done previously. It is also a voyage because many souls have travelled between Africa and South America. All the people and animals that can be seen have migrated millions and millions of years ago from one continent to another. The voyage is the reflection of the feeling I try to portray.
QT: I see that in these paintings you are using strong primary colors, reds…blues…yellows…greens… and, some shadings of white. Can you talk about the use of color in these paintings?
GA: The use of colors comes very natural to me. I am a colorist by nature. I would say the excitement of the painting’s themes brings out the colors in me. I am not interested in work that portrays myself, I try to project my paintings away from myself. I laugh a lot when I see these paintings. When you laugh at something, it is a very elegant way to feel; you are defeated.
QT: The paint is applied very thickly. Can you talk about how you worked?
GA: I have been always interested in sculpture, but I haven’t made the time yet to dedicate to it. So I think this is a start. I have always been interested in textures because your eyes do not get tired just looking at one part of the painting.
QT: From time to time, your paintings have been sensual and erotic and in these two, you have men showing their penises, and you have symbol of fertility in the fish not to mention these people in certain positions. Can you talk a little about that?
GA: I love it. I think that part of our life is an encounter with sexuality. I just love to be able to paint exactly what I feel. Sexuality is in everything we touch; everything we see. I think that it is funny the way I put sexuality in my paintings. It’s done in a very playful way. If I make a big penis and someone is touching it, it makes me feel great. I really love it, because I think it is wonderful just to do it. Sometimes I put animals, because they do it too, so why not incorporate them.
QT: How would you say your paintings have changed over the last three years?
GA: I am freer. When I get into the canvas, I don’t have any fears or limitations. That’s something I was scared of before. I use to have a lot more fear than I do now.
QT: I have heard a lot of talk that the next wave of painters who are going to be big in the world, are Latin American painters, and not western or European oriented painters. What do you think about that?
GA: I think you are right, actually. I think that Americans are no realizing the importance of Latin American Art. They see something really fresh, full of colors, very honest, and not just following patterns of style just to please art critics. This is very important. Most of the Latin American painters I know paint, but they also Live! They have a life, they have fun, whereas Americans are most concerned about their careers and they don’t spend time dreaming. I believe that dreaming is crucial if the painting is to be magical.
QT: Do you feel more comfortable now that you made a full circle? Is your work more complete?
GA: Yes, absolutely.
QT: From here, where do you think your paintings are going to go?
GA: I play it day by day. I have no idea what I am going to be doing over the next three months; I just do it. Each painting is completely different. I don’t know where I’m going to be in the next 10 years. Maybe I’ll be dead, but I think that death is in each day, because when you are living, things are dying at the same time.
QT: I want you to talk a little about the application of the paint. How you put the paint on and how you layered it.
GA: I start from a watercolor base. My paintings are completely abstract at first, then I see forms moving and I begin to draw with black acrylic paint. I add thick color in some parts, while leaving the transparencies just the way they are in other areas. I use a lot of mixed media, gels, salt and other kinds of material, sometimes paper. Sometimes I put so much in a painting it’s hard to see that it’s a real collage.
QT: In this painting, there is a red man with a blue woman holding his penis, I guess a green background and another little red man off to the side with his penis up. Do the colors of the figure have any significance?
GA: Not at all. When I start painting, I just start putting colors and that’s how they come out. I have no intention, for that man holding his penis to be red. It just comes naturally.
QT: I was thinking that he was aroused or something. So it’s the relationship of the blue against the red that you’re interested in.
GA: Yes in this particular painting. I make my composition based in the color, more than in the forms, so it just happens to be that if I put blue in a certain part, that painting will require yellow against it, in another area, that’s how I play with color.
QT: That white figure in the painting there is almost like a figure that came out of some of your older paintings. It’s interesting, I like it, but it seems so incongruent with the rest, which seem primitive in a sense. Can you talk about that?
GA: Yes, I have had a very strong drawing background. Sometimes I like to put something very figurative against something very primitive. Why not?
QT: The last thing I want to talk about is the painting of your deceased aunt. Can you tell me her name and talk about its significance?
GA: My aunt’s name is Luz Celeste. Celeste is the name of a color, which means blue. And Luz means light. So the name of the painting is “The Power Of Light”.
QT: What’s the male figure? Do the heads on each figure have a significance to you?
GA: Yes, she’s holding on to his penis, which is alive! That’s the way things start. This is a painting of what we are going through right now in New York City and in the whole world. Because if you look behind that man, there’s another man, so it’s a gay relationship, and there is a woman also masturbating another woman right? So this is a lesbian/gay relationship. It’s hard to explain. It has to be something about our times, because we live in a time when we feel so out of control. I think art can lead us to another state of mind. Anyway, what you see, or what I see, in the paintings at any given time depends on our current emotional state. I like my paintings to evoke new and positive thoughts, I want people to feel a sense of spirituality and vibrance. Can these contradicting terms accurately describe our current world, for reality is an illusion, but it is also Life…