In what ways is art a universal language?
In terms of the need of humankind to communicate, it’s a way of communicating when words or sounds fail us. Art is the common denominator of humankind. In that sense, its intrinsic value comes from being a representation of an idea. Art is the process of taking an idea, that can’t quite be expressed in language, and physically manifesting that idea.
And I’m not just referring to the kind of “art” that hangs in a gallery. I have great admiration for the skill and mastery derived from years dedicated to perfecting a trade or “craft” like leather working, ceramics, or woodworking. Even cooking. I think that is absolutely an art form and shows our innate need to create, connect, and communicate with each other.
What are some cultural archetypes you feel more connected to and why?
I think we all have archetypes in our minds that tell us what or how a “Mexican,” or a “Latino,” or even a “beautiful” piece of art should look like. I have a lot of fun twisting and challenging those pre-conceived notions. I am Mexican, but I am also not only Mexican. I am Alberto, but I am also just a man, a citizen in this universe.
Archetypes that are so deeply rooted in our imaginary collective, much like “immigrant,” “war,” “justice,” “Mestizo” have such a deep connection to the history of mankind that they are often times difficult to separate from the actual piece that is supposed to represent them. That, to me, is a vast field of exploration and growth as an artist, especially with this project.
What is the impact of using clay to honor the memory of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico on the viewer looking at the piece? What was the impact of using clay on you as the artist?Using clay has been a life changing experience. I remember using clay as a child and have fond memories of it, but using it as a grown man really has transformed the way that I approach creating a piece. I cannot describe the feeling of connectedness to your hands, thoughts, and the soil, that sculpting with clay gives you. It’s almost therapeutic. You have to be patient and focused, but also firm and gentle. It’s something that comes from the ground, so simple yet so profound. I’ve yet to meet a master ceramist that doesn’t emanate this inner peace attributed to monks and religious men and women. Hopefully, something similar will happen to the viewers. It certainly happened to me when I looked at all a wood fired piece for the first time. My senses were overwhelmed, I was in awe.
The other day my girlfriend and I were at The Point Campus, working on the exhibit. A passerby saw that we had a small bonfire going and he asked us “What are you guys doing?” We explained to him that we were “firing” a mask. To which he replied "Why?… To get rid of it?".
It made me realize that for most people, fire only has the potential to destroy. But once you start working with clay, you realize that fire, or heat, is actually what makes a piece stronger. I think that’s a powerful analogy, about taking the difficulties that life throws at us and not letting them destroy us. Actually using them to make us stronger, more resilient. And that’s part of what I’m trying to convey with “Hombres de Arcilla.” Let’s not forget about the thousands of activists, journalists, men and women that have been murdered or disappeared in Mexico in the last few decades. Let’s not let the “fire” destroy them. Let the fire be what makes them stronger.
The "creation of man from clay" is a theme that recurs throughout world religions and mythologies, it is, in many respects, the first parent/child or family narrative. In what ways has your family impacted your creation/ creation process?
My family has always been very supportive when it comes to my art. And because my brothers and I are very close in age and were homeschooled by our parents, there’s always been this sense of collaboration. Especially when it comes to being creative. So Luis and Ernesto aren’t just my brothers; they’re also my classmates, my co-workers, my roommates, my biggest fans, my harshest critics, and above all my best friends. I know that I wouldn’t be creating this exhibit today without them.
Because it's always been there, like water and fire, clay is earth - an essential element for life. And since the beginning of time, cultures all over the planet have created masterpieces with just these three elements. There’s something very god-like in creating something out of clay. Because once it’s fired, it’s permanent. That fired piece of clay will outlive its creator.
How can we follow you & your work?
BxArts Factory, The Point CDC and Villalobos Brothers present:
Hombres de Arcilla / Men of Clay
April 22 to May 29, 2017
The Point Campus for the Arts and Environment
1391 Lafayette Avenue,
The Bronx, NY, 10454
"Hombres de Arcilla” (Men of Clay) showcases Alberto Villalobos’ collection of 43 hand-made clay masks. These masks honor the memory of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico. About his work, Villalobos says "for me, clay represents the fragility of life, yet the resilience of the human spirit. I hope that by giving faces to the disappeared, their memory may live on." Special guest artist, Miguel Angel Mendoza Melchor will also be exhibiting oil portraits of all 43 students.
Schedule of events:
Saturday, April 22 - 5 to 9 p.m.
Sunday, May 7 - 1 to 3 p.m.
Community Action Day
Saturday, May 13
Collaborative Workshop after the Bronx River Alliance Flotilla
Tuesday, May 16 - 4 to 6 p.m.
Clay Art Workshop with Alberto Villalobos
Saturday, May 27 - 5 to 8 p.m.
Closing Reception - Writing/Poetry Night - Remembering the Missing
Wednesdays – 4:30 to 6:30 pm
Saturdays – 3:00 to 5:00 pm
Sundays – 3:00 to 5:00 pm
I've been drawing since I was a little dude in a seaside town in Honduras, where I was known as the boy who wouldn’t talk. Because my brother was born deaf and couldn’t speak, I had decided to join him and not talk either. But my silence didn’t last and once I began talking I became the boy with a thousand questions. I moved to New York with my parents. They wanted a better life for my brother so they moved to the states and found a special school for kids like him.
Growing up in the Bronx in the 70’s and 80’s, when most of the buildings were burnt or burning down, was difficult. It was a time when corrupt landlords paid people to burn down apartment buildings for the insurance policy. These slumlords left a once proud borough looking like Europe after World War II. Crime rate went up, and my very over-protective parents did everything possible to keep my brother and I busy in our apartment and out of the streets. My brother and I collected comic books, graphic novels, built models and went to the movies. While watching the old TV shows like “The Adventures of Superman” and the Adam West “Batman and Robin,” I drew. Of course, school was very important, and before we got to do all these things, we had to have our schoolwork done.
As I grew older, my teachers at All Hallows High School often caught me sketching during class. Instead of becoming upset with me, they encouraged me to join the poster club where I could draw all I wanted. I did, and alongside another talented artist in the club, we became the official artists for the poster club. I never thought of art as a career. However, I couldn’t hide the fact that art always left me satisfied and somehow centered when I did it. When it was time to pick a career I talked to my advisers and realized that I didn’t want to live a nine to five life, sitting at a desk. There’s nothing wrong with sitting behind a desk, you just must want to do that and know you’re going to enjoy it. I knew that I wasn’t.
So, I chose art and enrolled at The School of Visual Arts in New York where I majored in Fine Arts and Film. I learned a lot at SVA, not just from the great teachers, but also from my fellow students. We sat at the SVA lounge and sketched away. We looked at each other’s work and shared drawing tips, which I still use today. I also met my beautiful wife at SVA; she studied writing. I always joke that I didn’t just come out of SVA with a diploma, I also left with a future wife. After graduating from SVA, I went to work for The Remco Toy Company. Simultaneously, I decided to study at The Arts Students League of New York. There, I majored on Anatomy drawing and painting.
During that time The Disney Studios came to recruit at SVA. A friend of mine at Remco, was also a SVA alumnus, told me about their talent search for their growing animation studio. At first I wasn’t interested, I wanted to be a painter and do book jackets, and I didn’t consider animation an art form, but he talked me into it. A few months later I found myself in Florida on a 3-month internship. An amazing twenty-four year career in the animation industry followed, most of them as part of the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Orlando Florida and Los Angeles, California.
My work was featured in eight studio's films, among them: "Lion King," " Pocahontas," "Mulan," "Hercules," "Tarzan," and "Treasure Planet My work can also be seen in the Warner Bros. film "Looney Tunes: Back in Action." Around that time, I also reconnected with my illustration roots as an Art Director and Character Designer for several independent animation studios and as Merchandise Designer for Disney and comic covers for DC comics.
After thirteen years in California, my wife and I decided it was time to come back home. We wanted our first born to grow up around our family. Now, I’m back at SVA teaching animation and anatomy. I am also illustrating and co-publishing picture books for my company, MoonBear, where I get to combine my formal drawing skills with the principles of acting and dynamic poses that are the hallmark of animation art. And I’m having a great time doing it. I’ve continued my work with major companies, working with studios like Warner Brothers again on “Tom and Jerry” films.
Since coming back to The Bronx, it’s been amazing to see how much it has changed since I was a kid. From a place with burned buildings and empty lots, to a beautiful town of growth, with new homes and businesses sprouting everywhere. I’m proud to be a Bronxite, where I can bring my experience and share it. I feel so fortunate to be part of a great organization like BxArts Factory. I can now give back to fellow Bronxites, the young and the seasoned, who also want to express themselves as artists.
*Edited by Rosemary Rivera and Natalie N. Caro
Love & Friendship: Paint Nite!
Saturday, February 11, 2017
From 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
884 Gerard Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452
You don't need any experience in painting to become an artist for one night and have fun in the process. On this night, we I host a painting class so you can learn how to recreate the art piece I created just for this event.
This time bring your partner, best friend or date and create an image using both canvases. You can display them together or separate... whatever your heart tells you!
Ticket includes a FREE drink and all art materials! At the end of the night you will take home your own creation on a canvas! At the Draft House you can order a variety of cocktails, beers and get a taste of their delicious dishes. Come with your partner, your friend, or on your own to meet other great people and network!
This month we have a special treat! During our summer months, adults and children in the community have created designs on the aprons that you will use. It is a way for them to thank you for your financial contribution! You can have this specially designed aprons! You can purchase the apron you will use this evening for only $5!
All funds collected by BxArts Factory will support our 2017 FREE programming. With your contributions we are able to purchase materials, support the artists facilitating workshops or performing and provide free of cost opportunities for community members.
BxArts Factory is proud to collaborate with Mi Gente Latinx Bronx Music Festival and The Point CDC to present Mi Gente! Unplugged. This is a live acoustic show featuring the Bronx Spoken Word Artist Lorraine Currelley and the undeniably exciting band, Underground System.
We want you to share an intimate space and celebrate Black History Month on Saturday, February 18th, 2017, at The Point CDC Theater located at 940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx NY 10474. Advance Tickets are $10/Door $12. Theater doors will open at 7PM.
See you Saturday, February 18th Mi Gente!
We are beyond thrilled to have the amazing Gabriel Chakarji and Carmela Ramirez playing and singing live at our anniversary!!! Their album Vida/Life will be also available for purchase!
Buy your tickets today: www.2anniversarybxaf.eventbrite.com
The young music talents Carmela Ramirez and Gabriel Chakarji get together in a creative period of their lives, where they decide to undertake a project based on their commitment to the Venezuelan and Latin American music. His constant search for new musical horizons led them to compose music thinking on the traditions of their culture approached in a contemporary way which quickly made up the personality and the sound of this duo.
After successful performances in his hometown Caracas, producer German Landaeta offers them the idea of recording an album. Combining his expertise and technical excellence with the passion and creativity of the young duo it was finished in just one day of recording. That's how "Life "was” born.
Recorded live entirely in Chacao Cultural Center Theater, "Life" presents 12 compositions by Carmela and Gabriel inspired in their direct influences, traditional Venezuelan music, Latin American folk and Jazz. The album also features a peculiar drum/percussion sound created by two percussionists Yilmer Vivas and Orestes Gomez that blends ingeniously with the voice and piano. It also features special guests Rafael Greco and Andres Barrios, famous venezuelan composers and instrumentalists.
"Life" presents a picture of a unique moment where art, creativity and sincerity were the only rule.
By Natalie Caro
With only few days left until we blow the candles out and make our big birthday wish, BxArts Factory is hard at work fashioning what will be a fascinating night.
Ruddy Mejia a self taught Bronx artist, a place that for him, "provided the perfect blend of influences.. to translate his passion into pieces of artwork that document, question, and demand deep observation[,]" will be converting collaborative pieces that move art from frames that live on walls to work that can be worn in the form of hard-pressed buttons.
Rudy is currently the Art Specialist at Bronx House Inc. and has most recently participated in “Outside the Box,” an event curated by Lady K. Fever. Also joining Ruddy we will have Eric Mendoza who is a local Graphic Designer.
Supporters will walkout with a hand made piece and make our birthday wish come true; contributing to our fundraising goal for the evening.
Contributions collected this night will directly fund our 2017 free programs such as Nesting the Arts Project, among many others!
Purchase your tickets to our anniversary party today and help us celebrate.
By Natalie Caro
In a time where big box stores threaten local economies, holidays have become the battle ground for sustainable growth in our communities. Instead of gifting iPads and other popular branded store- bought items, what about gifting hand crafted art? Our anniversary event, will provide an opportunity to gift a one of kind present.
For the last two years, BxArts Factory has held on exhibition an amazing collection of 12x12 pieces created by talented artists from the Bronx and beyond. We are fortunate enough to have a few pieces left, but we must return unsold pieces to their creators soon.
Our 12x12 pieces will be available for purchase during our Anniversary event. Each purchase not only supports a local artist and a local economy, but it also contribute to our fundraiser goal for 2017 and bringing arts programming to local community members.
Do something sustainable.
Buy something beautiful.
Bring art to your home and to homes of your neighbors.
Karen KayLove Pedrosa: Graffiti and Miniature Trains
We have so many things to look forward to! Our anniversary is revved up to be another amazing birthday. Today, we introduce you to one of the many wonderful entertainers whose live artistry will be featured before we cut the cake, KayLove. Karen KayLove Pedrosa is an Advisory Board Member and a "Bronx born and based, first generation Puerto Rican artist who draws her inspiration from the vibrant, gritty, soulful streets of New York City, the lush campos of Puerto Rico and all the places in between." Her medium of choice is graffiti, "A child of the 80's, she was inspired by the museums that the trains provided, the roof tops murals, tags and colors that brightened up a once dirty and dingy Bronx." At our birthday party, she will be bombing* the tags** of supporters that purchase the experience, on the side of miniature trains.
Supporters will have a unique, KayLove piece and contribute to our fundraising goal for the evening.
Contributions collected this night will directly fund our 2017 free programs such as Nesting the Arts Project, among many others! Purchase your tickets to our anniversary party today and help us celebrate.
*Bomb: to paint on many surfaces
**Tag: stylized signature
When I reflect on the presence of Art in my life, I can only say it was always there. My mother is an artist and my father is a scientist who loves art. Our vacation consisted of always visiting old historic european places and museums. We appreciated art as a family.
Growing up, everyone always encouraged me to use my imagination and participated in my crazy inventions, theatre productions, ballet choreographies and costume making projects. They encouraged the development of my imagination and creativity by empowering me.
My community involvement began at fourteen. As a student in high school, I spent an entire summer of environmental volunteering, riding bikes through my hometown in Spain, trying to stop uneducated farmers from starting fires that would burn the forest, and identifying illegal spills. Later, I went on to France to work on a project where we built a recreation park out of an old castle and restored a historical washing place at a little lost town in the middle of Normandy. When I look back, I realize I’ve always been involved in some kind of community-advocacy roll.
Living life is a traumatic experience for most of human beings. If you find the way to channel frustration, ideas, creativity, imagination, fears, instead of burying them in the depths of your soul, you can overcome everything.
Whatever kind of Art form that attracts you, that’s the one is going to save you from being angry, frustrated, or incomplete.
I landed in New York eight years ago and never imagined that I could be a part of something like BxArts Factory, a project that brings together both of my passions, Art and Community. I believe Art means nothing without Community and vice versa.
By bringing art to Bronx households, I hope that everyone we work with feels as empowered and free as I felt growing up.
Bringing Art to Every Household.
Chief Editor/House Blogger
Natalie N. Caro is an editor, writer, and professor. She graduated from Lehman College, Magna Cum Laude, with double major in English Literature and Philosophy. She earned a fellowship and an MFA from City College. In 2013, she was awarded the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Fellowship by the Bronx Council on the Arts for excellence in Poetry. She was nominated for The Pushcart Prize, one of the most honored literary projects in America, in 2015. Currently, she's a doctoral candidate in CIAS- Center for Inter-American Studies, Bielefeld, University, where she will pursue a degree in Philology. She keeps forties in her fridge, because it still ain't nothing but a G thing, baby.