Rarely does a commanding presence posses such warmth. At 6"5 he'll dominate a room with smooth conversation in a black silk moo-moo. There really is no one quite like this one. His work is made to be enjoyed over whiskey and late-night trespassing tales.
Foul South: Describe yourself and your background.
Alex Zastera: "I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew up in the suburbs next to a marsh land where I would spend my time exploring the woods and wading through waist-high waters. At night raccoons would play on the jungle gym in my yard, while deer grazed on the lawn. I've never really reflected on how those moments shaped my work, but I see strong ties to my interest in dark places. After high school, I attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, with its own kind of swampy magic. My work mostly focused on Ecstasy and Anxiety, manifested in coiled masses of snakes and euphoric, masturbating simians. I moved to Miami after I completed an internship on South Beach in 2014 where I've been ever since.
As for my self, I don't really know how quantify locations, people, experiences into what encapsulates "me." I guess I would rather describe myself by the values and mantras I live by which include: 'yes,' 'always offer someone a drink when they come into your home' (its the southern hospitality in me,) and 'go out of your way to make someone's day better.'"
FS: Those are great mantras to live by. You do a lot for others in the Miami art community-- could you expand on that?
AZ: "I think first and foremost I consider myself an artist and educator. I've been teaching in some capacity for the last 10 years. With that in mind I've pursued work and fulfillment through a career that combines art and learning. In the past 3 years, I've worked with the Bass Museum of Art on their Creativity in the Community project, where Ambassadors go out to different partnership sites and provide free workshops and books promoting early childhood literacy. The program also buses participating families on field trips to local museum and community centers. I current work at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) where I am a teaching artist and facilitator of the PAMM Teen Arts Council. Through these modes of community engagement, I have gotten to know the broad spectrum of not only the Miami art community but the larger communities that make up the city. Besides teaching you can find me at gallery and museum openings, house shows, and my studio."
FS: How does gender and sexuality play into your work?
AZ: I'm not really sure how to approach this question because I'm still trying to find that out for myself. My previous series of Ecstasy and Anxiety had much more overt references to my sexuality. My current body of work Nocturne Surveys doesn't easy lend itself to exploring gender and sexuality, unless you reflect on my paintings through that lens, which in that case I'm sure you can find something. Identify myself as queer, the paintings can hold that queerness, as all art is an extension in someway of the artist. It becomes not a matter of forcing queerness in my work, but rather how you define and identify the word queer. I think in all ways art is queer, it communicates a in way that can be interpreted as "not-straight" or direct.
FS: Your Nocturne Surveys reveal a firm understanding of light vs. dark-- how does that play into the state of our country today?
AZ: I have to give kudos to this question. Art is always political and I don't think that is grasped often enough. The job of an artist is to reflect on the times in which they live. To approach art and politics it only takes applying another lens when looking at work. In the Nocturne Surveys there is already political statements woven in productions of the paintings which are first done as plein air studies, meaning that I paint them outside at night. Some of the homes in my paintings have since been torn down to make way for luxury housing -- while I am acting more as an archivist in many regards, there is something to be said about how and what I'm choosing to paint. Now to actually address the question. I am interested in light as a means of attraction and a means opposing intrusion. In my work I like to use light to build space and environment, while leaving most of the surfaces black. I think this reflective of the state of the country in the ways that people have constructed their own spaces and don't tend to look beyond them. Though the dark might be frightening and their might be things lurking, most of those things are just projections. Progress can only be made in the dark and unexplored places outside our own comfort zones.
FS: What led you to pursue art, specifically painting?
I have always had an attraction to art. I can still vividly remember receiving a 64 pack of crayons (with the sharpener) when I was 5 years old. I really didn't start painting until I was in high school. Up till then I had focused more on music, having played flute since I was 12. I can't really say what has led to me pursuing painting, but I can expand on why I have continued. Painting is a meditation for me. I find when I working on a piece for several hours straight, I lose my sense of self. Special moments arrive in your work because your not the one painting them anymore. It feels like you are a conduit for something else. I love waking up the next morning (afternoon) and seeing something that I can't claim ownership over.
FS: Drink of choice?
AZ: Craft Beer and/or a Whiskey Ginger
FS: You will die happily knowing..
AZ: I've made a difference through my actions.
FS: I have to give kudos to you. What are some projects you're currently involved in?
AZ: Well as I a responding to these questions, it is Miami Art Week so I am neck deep in projects. This week I will be showing work at Superfine! Art Fair in Midtown Miami. During the week I will also be with PAMM Teen Arts Council presenting SHORTS! a mobile teen festival we have been working on, which will feature films created and curated by teens. The films will be played on a trolley outside of Superfine!. I am also moderating a panel on queer artists for Superfine!'s Art 101 Panels. So needless to say, I'm a bit busy. After all this has calmed down, I want to work on a musical/video project to give myself a break from painting. A friend told me that I "need to stop being a painter and start being an artist," and that is informing how I manifest future projects.
FS: Working at the PAMM you experience all kinds of exhibits. Describe your dream show-- how would your work be displayed, what would the atmosphere entail?
AZ: I don't know if I could ever claim a "dream" show because I don't know how my work is going to evolve in the future. Eventually I would love a survey show of all the work I have produced in my lifetime. Currently though, I'm interested in doing a show involving building a environment-- taking some of the emotionally driven atmospheres of my work and creating an experience that carries some of those feelings into transforming a space is a goal of mine.
FS: If you could collaborate with any living artist in any medium, who would it be and what would you produce?
AZ: I would say in lieu of the last question, I would like to work with the artist duo Guerra de la Paz. I became familiar with their work when they did a project in Tallahassee while I was in school. I'm interested in how they manipulate spaces and materials. They take materials like used clothing and transform the history and the physicality of the material.
FS: List the top 10 songs on your playlist this month.
In Aeternam Vale - Valium Water
Unicorn Hard on- Persian Cats
Beach House - Irene
David Bowie - Blackstar
Count (Demo)- Selective Abstractions
Jay Thomas - The Sun will Open
Kraftwerk - Tour De France (Full Album)
Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart
Dionysos -Flamme A Lunette
Alaska Thunderfuck- The T