How did you first get involved in art?
I’ve been drawing all my life, and had a natural interest in it since the beginning, but I didn’t start to take it seriously until I took my first painting class in 2006 after I had declared my major in visual art. I’ve been at it aggressively ever since, and with every inch of noticeable progression, I continue to challenge myself. It really does feel like an obsession.
It's often difficult to gauge progress in one's skill set. How do you determine your progress?
Progression, and the many aspects of it, can be difficult to gauge. I believe it's more evident when you compare work that is several years apart. Is there progression in terms of aesthetic or "skill”? Is the content accessible? Is it creating a dialogue? Is it successful as a work of art? Why or why not? These are recurring questions. I also can't help but go back to the work or subject matter that influenced me in the first place. It keeps me in the right direction.
Do you have any formal art-training?
I was born and raised in Brownsville, TX, the southernmost part of Texas. I received formal training at the University of Texas at Brownsville under the amazing guidance of Carlos G. Gomez, who helped build my philosophical and artistic foundation. I then went on to earn my MFA from the University of Texas – Pan American in two-dimensional art. I had many wonderful experiences at the university by trying to leave my comfort zone. The two schools have since merged to become the University of Texas Rio Grande, and this is where I now teach drawing, painting, and design.
Where & from whom do you draw inspiration?
During my formative years, I took an interest in British figurative painters like Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Frank Auerbach. I was interested in their color, style, and manipulation of the figure. Since then, I have looked at countless contemporary artists like Barry McGee, Michael Reeder, and Jenny Morgan, for their use of composition and rendering.
Lately, I’ve tried to get in touch with my heritage and culture, and tried to hone in on work that is politically and socially charged. Artists like Cesar Martinez and Vincent Valdez have had a hand in that. I am interested in work that is socially present, and that is reflective of my culture and identity as an artist and person.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
I often find exhibitions to apply to through the Texas Commission on the Arts, and noticed a call for "Luck of the Draw". I thought the two pieces I exhibited were perfect for it, and took the chance and applied. The pieces really are about the idea of chance. They are about the opportunities that are presented to us, and the decisions we make on a daily basis. I’m glad I was able to participate.
What are you currently working on?
I still lean heavily on figurative work due to my struggle with identity, not just in terms of art, but what it means to be human and Mexican-American living in a border town. I am interested in character, persona, and the aesthetic design that correlates with those characteristics. I typically select elements of design that will connect to heritage and social concerns.
Next month, I will exhibit a solo show titled “The Mark Between". The title of the exhibition refers to the natural division of the Rio Grande River, and how it creates an internal conflict with my personal and artistic identity. I often do not feel “Mexican” or “American.” I am somewhere in-between. The work also chronicles my analysis of identity as a whole and my use of traditional and liberating mark-making.
What do you enjoy doing aside from art?
I enjoy film very much. There are many movies that I have seen countless times. I think it's the combination of characters, story, music, and artistic direction that impact me. It helps me jump into another world and leave this one momentarily. Video games do that for me as well. It is an enormous stress reliever.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
I think, at this point, it’s my way of communicating and it has become almost second nature to me. It’s a wonderful feeling to make strong statements with just an image. I also make it because I enjoy celebrating individuality and diversity. I want people to not feel alone. It’s probably why I’ve stuck with the figure for so long. It is, again, a reflection of thoughts, our present time, and myself. It is very much a journal in a sense.
See Alejandro's award-winning artwork in Gallery II of Luck of the Draw through Friday, April 21, 2017. Discover more of his artwork on his website, www.alexmaciasart.com, and follow his progress on Instagram and Facebook.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.