Jessica Alazraki Interview - The Hopper Prize

Jessica Alazraki

Jessica Alazraki discusses drawing as a gateway to her career as an artist, inspiration derived from Mexican arts & crafts, how color plays an important role in recent work & finding inspiration and critque through close ties with her children.

How did you get into making art?

Good question, I use to work in advertising as an Art Director and I quit my job when my daughter was born in 2003. I freelanced as much as I could but it was hard not to get a true creative outlet, so I decided to take a class and the only visual art class that I could found that wasn’t critique based (like all the graphic design classes that I took prior to that) was drawing. I was really bad at it, but immediately fell in love with it and knew I needed to persuade that.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on Portraits of Latino Immigrants that focus on domestic family life. Color plays an important role in my paintings, I use traditional Mexican tablecloth and include de decorative pattern, integrated into my composition. Tables are important because it’s when family it’s together sharing meals, games and just daily moments. It also leads itself to a very organic composition.

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

I am inspired mainly by Mexican arts & crafts. I love the fact that its the art of the people and it has a very unique hand made quality to it. The bright colors are my main inspiration and I am trying to borrow some decorative pattern to bring that feeling into my paintings.

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

It depends. I do have a strict studio practice, I do paint all of the time and it’s usually about portraits of Latinx Immigrants, focusing on family. I also paint dog Portraits sometimes in order to get some commission work. I mix both, but I do paint all the time. In this case, I did focus on a specific project since I got a grant, from the Queens Council for the Arts. So I was committed to create an Exhibition with those funds. But usually I paint first and then I try to show it and sell it however I can.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Well, I am not sure how to answer that because with the pandemic I had to say BYE to my studio as I knew it. I painted at home with my kids and my dog around. I started with a corner in my living room, had to switch to a smaller format, that also helped a lot but became challenging at first. Eventually I took over the entire dining/living area. It was very hard because I am a very messy painter and I am not messy at home and that was like two me’s fighting. I had to clean my brushes in the same sink in which me and my kids brush our teeth. That didn’t made me happy. On the good note, having my teenage kids around became a wonderful experience. I discover there critique is outstanding. They are not trained artists, but have a very good instinct. They are old enough to have good taste and honest enough to say what they feel. Also, they are exposed to social media way too much so they really know trends and what’s consider “cool”. They push me to be braver and changed my practice all together. My son has the soul of an artist and has a great sense of color. My daughter is very good with Drawing and can catch drawing problems immediately. She’s also an outstanding writer and its my official proof reader. My son, wants to be an actor, so he trains me to speak about my work. I am so grateful to them. My dog just walks around with paint all over all the time. But she’s an inspiration too. I enjoy painting kids and pets so much.

Who are your favorite artists?

It is hard to say because that changes all the time. I think my favorite life artist is Cecily Brown, but she paints abstract and I don’t. I also like Portraits mainly fo African-American artists like Kerry James Marshall, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Amy Sherald, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Tschabalala Self, Jennifer Packer, Henry Taylor and others like Dana Schutz, Jenny Saville, Nicole Eisenman, Peter Doig and more. In terms of influence, it depends what I do who I look up. Sometimes something I did reminded me of an artist I love and I will look it up. Or sometimes I need a reference and instead of looking for a photograph I look up for a painting and literally copy that. Now I am more into Matisse that anything else. I use references of Alice Neal sometimes. I use Instagram as a tool for open calls and other opportunities so I follow many, many artist so I see a huge amount of random contemporary art all of the time. That stays on my brain a lot unconsciously. I really follow Aliza Nissenbaum closely, since she has a very similar background from mine. So I try to do something different, but it’s hard sometimes because I love what she does.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Mostly Instagram. Sometimes I go to Chelsea or the lower East side to see a specific exhibition. I end up going to the main museums a lot more, and to art fairs when I can. To be honest, I really dislike the Art-Fairs a lot because I start getting “FOMO” (Fear of missing out). I feel sometimes galleries have a little bit of an attitude there with artists. I usually don’t feel comfortable and they can be a little overwhelming because of it’s size. But of course, I wish.

Color plays an important role in my paintings.

Jessica Alazraki

Jessica Alazraki is an artist based in New York who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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