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
LAN Project (Local Area Network) is a collaborative art production created by Melanie Gonzalez & Tyler PSwitch Dow. Launching in June 2016 with an art exhibition and closing with a music festival, the LAN creators are bringing multimedia art from the walls of the internet to their hometown in The Bronx, NY.
The LAN Project Exhibition showcases the works of 8 millennial artists (including the two curators) of diverse backgrounds: digital media, photography, sculpture, painting & live performance. This exhibition features artists from different neighborhoods, art scenes & industries celebrating the experience of constantly undergoing rapid change. The opening featured a live performance of Frac/King KOO, a live action mixtape from Tyler PSwitch Dow.
The LAN MIND FEST is the musical extension of the project, presenting art that cannot be contained to a canvas or sculpture setting. This closing festival features a comedy set and music performances by artists from a multitude of genres.
The closing festival will be held at the Bronx Music Heritage Center on Saturday, June 25th , 2016 from 2pm-7pm. Suggested entry donation is $5. This exhibition was made in partnership with BxArts Factory, BMHCLab & WHEDco.
Photo Credit: Ignacio Soltero
Saturday, March 26
From 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Bronx Music Heritage Center Laboratory
1303 Louis Nine Boulevard
Bronx, NY, 10459
BxArts Factory, in partnership with the Bronx Music Heritage Center, collaborated with the Neighborhood Shopp Senior Center La Casa Boricua to bring you the stories of a group of senior citizens from our community.
Poets Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Bonafide Rojas, El David & Andres Chulisi Rodriguez will present original works inspired by their stories, including their journeys to the United States and their lives in the Bronx.
Additionally, artist and videographer Melanie Gonzalez will present a series of short video-stories/documentaries created to further highlight their stories. This event will also be the culmination of our art exhibition, Memories Un-Remembered: Thinking of Home (Longing).
Join us for an evening of art, musical performances and community discussion centered on the immigrant experience and Bronx love.
Artist Not4Prophet will perform original songs inspired by Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant, songwriter and labor activist, and recount stories from his own life experiences in the Bronx. Following the performance, all attendees are invited to share stories, memories, and ideas in a story circle, and contribute a love note to the Bronx on our “South Bronx Love Letter” interactive station.
This event is presented in conjunction with BxArts Factory ‘s exhibit “Memories Un-Remembered,” a collection of visual stories exploring immigration, nostalgia, displacement, adaptation, and gentrification.
The Bronx Music Heritage Center Laboratory is located at 1303 Louis Niñé Blvd. Take the 2 or 5 trains to Freeman Street, or the BX 19 bus.
"South Bronx Love Letter" is a series of workshops and community events that showcase storytellers, artists, and community members sharing their love for the Bronx through true life stories, poetry, and art. This series aims to affirm the stories of people who have been living in the South Bronx and pouring their love into it, putting forward an image of the Bronx as defined by the people who live there.
Visit www.fiveborostoryproject.org/south-bronx-love-letter for updates on upcoming events!
This is a Free Event Open to the Public
Saturday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The Bronx Music Heritage Center Laboratory
1303 Louis Nine Blvd, Bronx, New York 10459
Join us to talk with the artists of Memories Un-remembered: Thinking of Home (Longing) - Francheska Alcantara, Stephanie Mota, Lazarus Nazario and Edwin Torres accompanied by curator Alexis Mendoza.
Our conversation will focus on the inspiration behind all the pieces and personal stories related to the topic of longing and nostalgia for home.
This is a free event and open to the public.
This event is brought to you in partnership with the Bronx Music Heritage Center Laboratory
BxArts Factory in partnership with the Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHCLab) presents:
Special Photo Project Screening and Panel - Close to Home: Mi Familia and the Diaspora by Edwin Torres (BRIO Winner) will be presenting his project as part of Memories Un-Remembered: Thinking of Home (Longing) sponsored by the Bronx Council on the Arts.
BxArts Factory in partnership with Bronx Music Heritage Center present our 1st project of 2016!
Memories Un-Remembered: Thinking of Home (Longing).
This Arts Exhibition/Community Project was curated by Alexis Mendoza and include artists Francheska Alcantara, Stephanie Mota, Lazarus Nazario and Edwin Torres.
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 6th from 6 to 9 pm
1303 Louis Nine Boulevard, Bronx NY 10459
For more details please visit our FB event page:
Francheska Alcantara’s body of work transforms a vacant space into something unique and beautiful without any outside materials, metaphorically speaking to the way immigrants arrive at a new, unfamiliar place with minimal material possessions, and transform the existing area into a beautifully unique neighborhood laden with culture.
Who am I? Where do I come from? How do I place myself in society? These questions are just the start of Alcantara’s internal dialogue dealing with identity, feminism, psychological states, and cultural background.
The relationships, dreams, hopes, and cultural values that support the series of mixed media sculptures created by Stehanie Mota titled “Mi-Pietā” es nothing less than a personal exploration in which the portrait take a form of a domestic object, a sentimental/conceptual expression of identity. Every material she used in the series (wood kitchen cabinets, stovetop coffee pot, rice, etc) are a further representation of the nuances of her nostalgia associated with her mother. Lazarus Nazario mixed painting with other media such as: printmaking, and found objects to confront social practices concerning her ancestors’ homeland that celebrates cultural differences while underscoring our shared history and humanity. Whether in public spaces or intimate settings, her painting explores the human figure from the intimate osmosis between essences and appearances. Her work shows the fusion of many languages to point out a clear reference of a sense of belonging.
In the same reflection Edwin Torres use as a subject his own family. "I am certain that in conclusive form, this work will have multiple layers of meaning for my family and will serve as a document to the Puerto Rican diaspora. This work is a journey of self-discovery and careful looking, where I will clarify my cultural identity and reconnect family together". In the on-going series “Close to Home: Mi Familia and the Diaspora” we can feel the overwhelming reflection of two aspects “memory” and “place” negotiating the physical and psychological aspects of acculturation built into immigrants’ daily lives through adaptation and integration. For the past year, Edwin Torres have focused his work on documenting traumatic events and daily life in his immediate family
BxArts Factory presents BORI-CUBA 2x2 Art Exhibition at
Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center
November 6th to December 6th 2015
107 Suffolk Street, New York
Alejandro Epifanio, Alicia Leal, Annex Burgos, Carlos Mateu, Clara Morera, Diogenes Ballester, Elizam Escobar, Frank Guiller, Ibrahim Miranda, Ivelisse Jimenez, Jesus Rivera, Josue Guarionex Colon-Rosado, Juan Fernando Morales, Juan Si Gonzalez, Juana Valdes, Juanita Lanzo, Lissette Solorzano, Luis Stephenberg, MarcosDimas, Maria Dominguez, Nelson Alvarez, Nestor Otero, Nitza Tufino, Rafael Velez, Raul Villarreal, Renelio Marin
BORI-CUBA 2X2 seeks to provide an overview of how visual artists in two contemporary Caribbean cultures, Cuba and Puerto Rico, address the continuous dialogue between island and diaspora. For different reasons, a sizable sector of both islands’ populations has become diasporic, and the ongoing dialogue between both sectors has come to define their identities. It has been repeatedly said that both islands are “wings of the same bird” or mirror images of each other. To begin with, they share a strong Taino strand in their pre-Columbian history and a common Spanish colonial heritage. Both islands were, in fact, the last remnants of the Spanish empire in the Americas and were administratively treated in much the same way. The two islands’ culture was also shaped by a strong African presence and both have acted as ciphers of geopolitical brinksmanship since colonial days. Around the mid 20th century, this situation was reinforced by the relationship each island developed with the United States during the Cold War, with each one assuming a diametrically opposite relationship to its northern neighbor. Cuban visual culture, both that of the Island and that of the Diaspora, has had an overt political tone according to its pro or anti Cuban Revolution stance, reflected in its pro or anti U.S. position. The visual culture of Puerto Rico, on the other hand, has frequently displayed a covert political undertone, frequently addressing its colonial relationship to the United States. Are contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican artists aware of this common tradition or are they distancing themselves from those concerns? Given the no less contrasting situation of the latest U.S. attitudes toward both islands (while there is a definite rapprochement with Cuba, there seems to be a great indifference toward helping solve Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis), it is certainly pertinent to study whether those attitudes are being addressed in the current art production of both countries, both by the artists who live on the islands and those who are part of their diasporas.
Bringing Art to Every Household.