Cherisse Alcantara Interview - The Hopper Prize

Cherisse Alcantara

Cherisse Alcantara discusses drawing since childhood, new work that explores urban & architectural spaces, & a practice that requires deep focus.

How did you get into making art?

First of all, thank you for your interest in my art.

I’ve been drawing since I was a child like many artists. I spent my childhood in the Philippines and in elementary school, the girls were to take “home economics” class and the boys, “draughtsmanship.” I badly wanted to be in the latter. When I migrated here in my teens, it was difficult to adapt initially and I took refuge in my art classes, which was when I realized I want to be an artist. However, I tried a different field for a while because I was forbidden to pursue art in college by my family and other obstacles. I guess it made me want it more because you want what you’re not supposed to do, and that you had to disappoint loved ones. It makes me happy to be able to do it now.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a new series of paintings and works on paper which explores urban and architectural spaces around my environment. Some of them are included in the photos for this interview. They continue to explore positive and negative spaces within shapes and colors. I started with works on paper using pastels, pencils and markers while discovering the subtle tactility they bring. Also, I’ll be having an upcoming solo show at Vessel Gallery in Oakland (where I’m currently in a group show) early next year during which I get to show my works on landscapes.

I am working on a new series of paintings and works on paper which explores urban and architectural spaces around my environment.

Cherisse Alcantara

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

Having returned home to the Bay Area after being away for grad school at Pafa, I initially felt estranged from what was once familiar. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind especially with the movings, so in these recent works, I am reacquainting myself with my home and neighborhood. I’m observing the man-made, everyday spaces around me. Painting allows me to reflect upon the many changes like the new building constructions, and pay attention to the particularities, such as the worn-out bricks on a corner building. I am drawn to moments when the natural intervenes with the man-made. I always look for the collapse between the boundaries of the real and imagined; familiar and unfamiliar; logical and illogical; abstraction and representation because it speaks to the mysteries in life.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I always begin with a broad and open approach and as I spend time thinking and making, it becomes more specific. My recent projects are centered on certain locations so there is an intentional particularity in them.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

There are many ways to approach painting, but my practice requires a kind of deep focus that I can only do for 3-4 hours at a time. So during my studios days, I alternate that with other work that doesn’t require the same distraction-free and attention like emails, prepping or sketching. Perhaps, one has to arrange one’s lifestyle in order to have those moments, especially living in our hyperactive world. I live near the beach and the park so I love to take walks there.

Who are your favorite artists?

I have a wide range of inspiration in the visual arts and cinema. I’ve never met practicing artists until I was in college, so meeting artists in real life, such as my grad and undergrad teachers are inspiring. It was so refreshing to me and I’m like, “wow, artists do exist in this world!”

A group of artists or works usually inspire certain projects. For my present one, I am looking a lot at Ukiyo-e prints like of Tsukioya Yoshitoshi, and also early Italian frescoes. I keep studying the movie, “Gate of Hell”(1953) for its interiors and vivid colors. I have always loved Uemura Shoen’s colors, an amazing female artist. I’m a fan of Victor Man for his ambiguous paintings.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

On my free time, I love to browse independent bookstores and flip through lots of art images. Occasionally, I check out certain accounts on social media for interesting contemporary art and exhibitions. In San Francisco, the Minnesota Street Project and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are great spaces to see art.

Cherisse Alcantara is an artist based in San Francisco who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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