Jessica Alazraki | United States

Mexico City-born, New York-based artist Jessica Alazraki’s figurative portraits convey everyday stories through bold, hyperreal color schemes. The characters confront the viewer without interacting with one another. The effect is both emotional and isolating. The narratives draw from American and Mexican cultures, investigating the spaces between the two.

The Bathers 1, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018

The Bathers 1, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018

Contemporary Art Station: Tell us about how you got started. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I started drawing after I became a Mom when I quitted my job at an advertising agency. I immediately fell in love and knew that I was going to be a fine artist.

CAS: What is your process like, from initial idea to the creation of the piece? Do you usually develop the idea for a project before you find the "canvas", or vice versa?

I usually start with a photographic reference that inspires me, but I don't previously sketch or plan too much. I instead let the painting speak, and I try to make it as I go. The effect of collaged images it's delivered.

CAS: What do you love most about your creative process?

I love the act of painting itself.

The Bathers 2, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018

The Bathers 2, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018

CAS: What role does art and the artist play in the broader social conversation today?

I think as an artist we want to talk about relevant topics and either make a statement or try to create awareness. I feel it is essential to have something to say.

CAS: Name a few of your favourite artists and influences.

My influences ranging from Renaissance chiaroscuro to the twentieth-century social realist painting, from Holbein to Renoir and particularly the German expressionist. I am fascinated by the spontaneous, agitated expression, the simple gestures of sensation and instinct. Distortion and exaggeration became an equivalent for rendering the material world transparent to the psyche.

Overexcitedness was characteristic of many fields of Expressionist
activity, and that is something I recognize on my work as an artist. They also had the desire for supposed primitiveness. I am particularly interested in Chaim Soutine who does not count as an Expressionist; I love his very impasto painting and impressive color structure. Artists such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh,
Paul Cezanne, Henri Matise are constant references in which I found answers in pictorial language.

I am also very influenced by Mexican muralists; I like both the impressive size and how they applied modernism toward a social moving epic art in their time and place. I admire female Mexican easel painters like Kahlo and Izquierdo, who intentionally made choices that responded to the artistic and nationalist discourses
of modern Mexico, and they employed their art to establish a more dominant role for the woman. That is a true inspiration for me.
Another artist whom I will study deeper during this fellowship will be Alice Neel, in her work there is a tension between the realistic and the expressive. Between the naturalistic and the distorted. I am interested in the dialog between the mark as material and as a signifier. No matter what the rules are, when one is painting
one creates one's world. I plan on using an art-historical toolbox to create my very own contemporary narratives.

CAS: What is the best advice you received as an artist?

Listening to the painting, instead of imposing an idea. Understanding all pictures, regardless of figurative or abstracts, are judged by how well every piece works next to each other.
To be your teacher, being able to criticize your paintings.

CAS: When did you discover your voice as an artist?

When I started working on my self-directed work, I started with a few critical paintings I did during my MFA studies.

CAS: What advice would you give to emerging artists trying to find their own?

To be consistent with themselves.

The Bathers 3, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018

The Bathers 3, Oil on Canvas, 60x72 inches, 2018