Working with mixed media and paintings artist Emilio Maldonado seeks to bring about a discussion with regards to topics such as consumerism. He took some time out to answer some of our questions. Emilio talks about his favourite medium, the objects that inspire him and his favourite childhood treat.
How did growing up in the Dominican Republic shape you artistically?
My immediate family has always been a big source of inspiration as their living conditions always kept me in judgment of mine (who grew up in a middle-class household), I was always an emotional kid and regardless of the constant taunting, proper of Dominican culture, I tried to always remember and never forget; now I use those memories to trace parallels between those experiences and the world I live in, trying to point towards the incongruences between them.
Where do you source the materials for your pieces from?
I try to find objects that are not yet in the trash, but that maybe should be put there, everybody (as far as I’ve seen) has in their possession some object that does not have an active use, but is not disposed of (like that unpaired socks in our drawers, which we hope to reunite with its peer someday). Here in the United States it spawns Garage Sales and Thrift Stores, which I still find somewhat uncomfortable (in the Dominican Republic things are used until there is no possibility of fixing them again)
Do you already have a concept in mind before you start or does the raw materials at hand dictate the artistic direction?
Sometimes the environment dictates the piece, sometime I find an object that encapsulates something that I’ve wanted to say unsuccessfully, it all depends.
Do you have any favourite materials that you like to work with?
I love resin; it binds all together, its shine also references the plastic wrapping of toys and other objects (mostly dollar store ones). I also like working with toys; they are both a reminder of childhood as a critical time in our lives, as well as a microcosmic representation of the world at large.
What are your thoughts on the amount of material we waste as a species?
I wish the economy were not such a necessary and driving force; I believe de-acceleration could be a viable choice; nevertheless, it becomes impossible in a market-based society.
What does art mean to Emilio?
It has changed with time, at the beginning, it was literally what kept me alive, I was in a very dark place and had made the goal to create something meaningful before deciding on ending my life, that is why I try to say things as sincerely as possible. Thankfully that is not the case, art is another level of thinking, like changing a channel to play videogames, the perk is that I refuse to make art about the happy things in my life and always tackle the topics that loom my mind and make me feel uncomfortable.
Could you tell us a bit more about your painting titled ‘Motherly Frieze’?
It was a school project at Altos de Chavón in the Dominican Republic with Kamalky Laureano, Desiree Sosa, Rony Avila and Paolo Guerrero. My then-girlfriend discovered she was pregnant from her previous relationship and we all collaborated to make a composition out of her first sonogram images.
Are there any contemporary artists that you look up to?
From the Dominican Republic Jorge Pineda, I used to see his art long before I had an idea of what it could be and remember just thinking “WAO”, from the United States Paul McCarthy, his irreverence is always refreshing (also having a small army of helping hands), the rest is a mix of impressions of many artists that come out with brilliant but simple ideas, they force me to stay humble and understand that there are great people out there.
What would you say make the visuals from the Dominican Republic different from its surrounding countries?
That is a difficult question to answer, first of all, I have been away from the island for the last 10 years, with one exception of three days, and as we know, social media and Google searches can bypass much; also, as an island we tend to have a lot of connection with tendencies around the world (hurray for tourism) but in recent years the term “Insularism” has been used to bring up the discussion as to how living in a small geographical area (therefore the insular character/narrow) drives artist minds to think in big of ambitious ways. You can see this represented in the intent of its art (and sadly, in its political system).
When did you move to St Louis, MO?
In 2013, I moved to the city from Savannah, GA, where I finished my education.
A favourite childhood treat?
Gofio, it is basically ground sugared corn, packaged in a piece of paper rolled in a thin cone.