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JOAQUIN CARTER: CATHARSIS & COMMUNION

Joaquin Carter is an artist who I recently met online.  His work is very organic and almost photographic www.joaquincarter.com.  Although he’s originally from Mexico, he’s a total New Yorker.  Read our cool chat and find out what’s making him tick these days.  

MICHAEL: Hey Joaquin. Your paintings are very cool. They're abstract, but they also seem to be organic and inspired by nature or naturalism. Am I right?

JOAQUIN: Yes, I have always been intrigued by how structure in nature keeps moving, expanding, dividing and merging. I draw loosely from space imagery, deep sea imagery and close ups. I am always looking INTO what I see and trying to figure out the structure of it.

MICHAEL: And yet I also see sort of a modern hipness and edge in the work. Some of it looks photographic. How do you achieve this?

JOAQUIN: I am very attracted to the artifice of photography; the texture- less, smooth, even surface of photographic paper.  As they say, "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." As an artist living in the center of Manhattan, my work space is a whopping 9' x 12' in size.  This here is a nice size space to dedicate to making art, but there is no space for storing my work, so I decided that I would start by making only very small paintings on paper.  Yet the compelling part of the miniature compositions were often invisible to the plain eye and I had to use a special macro lens to be able to enlarge what I call the 'process art' to obtain the end product in the form of larger photographs which I call my "Bifurcation" series. After experimenting with this for about a year, I started making smallish paintings which also expressed my fascination with bifurcation and decided to continue the flat texture-less 'feeling' in my paintings by using very little, well-dissolved paint and spreading it with pressurized air and water. This is my invention.

MICHAEL: Wow.  Interesting technique. Just imagine what you can do when you work on large scale works. Is that an eventual goal? I'm not saying bigger is better, but 70 inch versions of your "Hyperbolic Expanse" and "Falling" works would be SICK.

JOAQUIN: I want so much to start working on large surfaces.  I know all my paintings can be produced in large sizes to great effect.  When I am exploring new painting techniques I always have this in mind. The technique I am exploring for the piece "Falling" I did specifically with a very large format in mind. 'Bifurcation', 'Falling', 'Orgy', and 'Hyperbolic Expanse' (with a few others I have under my sleeve) are four different technical 'variants' and each of the four is meant to spur a whole and distinct collection of art pieces. Until now, I have been focusing on developing as many technical 'variants ' as possible and explore all the possibilities and potential of my techniques and the materials at hand.  This work is still in the process of invention. What you see on my website are samplers of what with time will become a complete body of work.

MICHAEL: When I look at your work, it makes me think about how the most significant changes in life come through evolution and process. It's as if you're capturing or creating this moment in time that could be completely different the next moment.

JOAQUIN: An underlying theme in all my work is movement; these are snapshots of 'something' which is in the process of change.  I cannot define what that 'something' is, but I am attempting to define it with structure. Perhaps this is my futile attempt to create order from chaos by the use of structure, except this keeps changing, so it’s impossible to pin down into a specific order. These are amorphous structures that keep disintegrating into chaos and back into a possible order only to disintegrate again.  Maybe I am trying to capture the intangible. I don’t know.  If I figure it out I’ll let you know.

MICHAEL: Aren't you also an architect? What role does it play in your art and vice-versa? Or do you intentionally try to keep them separate?

JOAQUIN: I have a B.A. in Architecture and practiced architecture for a number of years, but my end goal has always been to create art. In my approach to architecture, I have always focused in the sculptural aspects of a structure, but through analyzing form and then function and then form again, etc ... until the building takes shape. I think of designing a building like making a baby; my offspring has to be absolutely beautiful and to function as well (flawlessly) as possible. The biggest challenge to me as an artist has been how to create art which is free of what I call 'architectural mannerisms or artifacts'.  Until now, I have been avoiding the straight 'hard' line and avoiding geometry.  The only thing I have kept from architecture is the rigor of examination of the process and visually I do think (loosely) in terms of elevation, section, plan, etc.

MICHAEL: You live in New York City which many still consider the center of the art world. What do you think about this and the art world in general?

JOAQUIN: I suppose that yes New York City still is and will continue to be the center of the art world for some time to come. There are 700+ galleries here and the museums are always full. There are troves of people from all over the world looking to see art. There are many great artists living here all vying for recognition. The competitive spirit is very intense and I like it very much. I see other artists as my brothers; everyone does his thing and that is that. I find looking at art incredibly energizing. I sometimes need to see what my brothers are saying and doing if only to find out what not to do and say myself.  We all want to stand out!

MICHAEL: How are you doing there? Are you a full time artist? New York is an expensive place!

JOAQUIN: I am a full-time artist in the experimental stages of my career and I am trying to stay at this stage as long as I can.  For me, it’s extremely important to define my own strong artistic vocabulary with art that is relevant and furthers the narrative, but is different from everyone else's. New York is very expensive and I am looking for an art patron so I can go into big production, but that will come in due time. Do you know anyone?

MICHAEL: Funny. Aren't you originally from Mexico? What do you think about the immigration issue? I see so many people of Mexican descent here and they always look afraid ... as if they're anticipating being attacked in some way. I feel very sympathetic.

JOAQUIN: I was born in Mexico and grew up first in an isolated desert ranch and later in a very small rural town named Ures in the state of Sonora. I grew up literally surrounded by desert animals and occasionally had to kill, skin, dry and eat rattlesnakes. It was a very hard life. I feel a very strong connection to where I come from.  Living in isolation in the middle of nowhere gave me a very strong sense of self. I only had nature to contemplate; at night I would look at the sky and wonder ‘What else is there out there?’ In a sense, I am still doing that. I have a strong impression that Americans are feeling threatened by an ever-growing Latin community everywhere in the U.S.  It is inevitable that the country will be more and more 'Latinized' Then, my hope is Mexicans will no longer have to walk in fear.

MICHAEL: I find that Latin American art is really driving the entire contemporary art world right now although not many would admit to this. It's so warm, innovative and human. What do you think?

JOAQUIN: Around 16 years ago when I was collaborating with Emilio Ambasz, he used to tell me, "The greatest talent is now coming from the South." Latin American art brings back an element of emotion to the scene and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to do my part.

MICHAEL: Since you live right in Manhattan, what role would you say New York City plays in your creative process and work?

JOAQUIN: In New York, one can create whatever one wants, people are free to express themselves however they want, look however they want and nobody will bat an eye or look twice.  With nobody around telling one to conform to a point of view, it’s a perfect environment in which to create. I love to live life with intensity and that intensity is imbued in my work. I feel that New York is NOT the U.S. New York is the WORLD. I feel that here there is a sense of something bigger than ourselves and try to represent that bigness in my work. New York is home for me. From the day I arrived, I felt that this is the place for me. I feel relaxed in the frantic intensity of the city and cozy in the hugeness of it all.

MICHAEL: The life of an artist today seems like such a tough road. People have been conditioned to think that the only worthy artists out there are Picasso and Monet. What do you think it'll take to change this?

JOACHIN: Those would be very big shoes to fill. Picasso and Monet came to be at times when a single mind could press pause and change the narrative altogether.  Now art 'movements' are being done collectively and I don't know that any one person could pull this off. These two geniuses drew from yet untapped wells and now we collectively are tapping from the same sources.  We have many little geniuses rather than one big one. Time is the ultimate judge of who (if anyone) will rise to the pantheon where these two artists sit. Let me give you a quick flash of the future. Museums are the new cathedrals where people will go for communion with the art that speaks to them and they most identify.  Think of the artists as surrogate saints and Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet and Picasso are sitting at the front center top. Maybe Warhol will join them, but only time can tell.

MICHAEL: What does art do for you personally? Many people don't consider art relevant to their daily lives.

JOAQUIN: When I see art, I see catharsis and communion concentrated in an object. I was born with 'the bug' and art is my life. I see art in food, fashion, architecture, science, mathematics and nature.  To me, if it exists it is art. People don’t consider art relevant to their lives because they do not realize how art affects them. It is the source of inspiration for the shape of the plate they are eating in, the design of the chair they are sitting on, the clothes they are wearing, the building they are living in ... you get my drift... when it’s all around you it’s hard to recognize it as such.

MICHAEL: Where would you like your work to fit in the world? Does your body of work have a message?

JOAQUIN: I don’t know if my work has a message.  Maybe I am saying, ‘Look deep, far and beyond!’ However, it does have emotion. My intention is to touch a primal nerve.  In a world where everybody seems to be distracted by what I call 'art light’ (things like) puppy dogs and colored dots - I am not afraid to go as deep as I possibly can to a place where only I am able to go and pull out what I find. Every time I find 'something' I literally shrivel up and cry. I choose to make this an intensely deep emotional process. Then I have to take a breather before I go back in again. I usually do this by going to a museum and even appreciate the ‘puppy dog.’

MICHAEL: I understand. Finally Joaquin, Where do you think or hope contemporary art is going in the future?

JOAQUIN: Michael, first I want to say thank you so much for this interview. It was great fun.  Of course, one cannot predict where contemporary art will go, except that by definition, it will be contemporary and whatever one says about the future will most likely prove to be naïve, but here it goes … I believe that in the future, art will not have to be intentional and most may see everything made by man as art.

MICHAEL: That’s definitely the world I want to live in.  Thanks Joaquin.  This has been great.

Check out Joaquin and his work at his website, www.joaquincarter.com.



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