Visual Vernacular: Alfredo Scaroina
Waste not, want not is certainly a motto for artist Alfredo Scaroina. Dominican-born and Houston based, Scaroina uses everything from sand to metal dust to newspaper manipulated by archival solvents all creating distinct layers.
Color adds an additional dimension to Scaroina’s work through the yellows, blacks, and pinks conversing with the tedious textures. In his new work featured at an upcoming exhibition at UNIX Gallery, Scaroina distills the cornerstones of his previous work and remixes them into hanging pieces that contain modern movements, tedious textures, and fragmented conversations in color.
Using clothing, Scaroina has diminished the multiple layers of his paintings while augmenting the raw material aspect. Much of the significance of the fabric comes from the act of gathering. The artist made multiple trips to the Dominican-Hatian border, collecting used clothing from the community. Conversations about the basic needs of humanity along with the resilience of the spirit are metaphorically woven into the pieces. While installing the show, Scaroina took the time to answer some questions about his background and his latest concept.
Free Press Houston: Your mother was your first art teacher. How was that experience and was art something that came naturally to you?
Alfredo Scaroina: Well, I was pretty much born into it. I was fortunate to have my mother as my first teacher and had an art school. I just remember being able to do whatever the hell I wanted to do creatively — I have to be specific, just creatively [laughs]. I remember sitting for hours and hours watching my mother paint and prepare her materials and pigments. It totally influences me to this day. My college years were wild, lots of parties every day. I believe that these Bohemian experiences in college shaped me to make the transition from traditional art to contemporary art.
FPH: Was there a defining moment or experience that made you decide to dedicate your life to art?
Scaroina: I think it has always being a calling. My family and friends really pushed me: my mother, of course, my father, my beloved cousin Rosalia that I call my sister. They really pushed me saying that it would be a crime not share my talent with the world what they always said, and I quote, a ” God given great talent.” I remember them saying in Spanish what translates to English, “the worst thing in the world is a wasted talent.” So, I listened, which is rare.
FPH: Is there anything from your family or your previous life experience that is a part in your art today?
Scaroina: Absolutely. I would say everything because art is my life and so is my family. Art is how I express all my experiences. Art is my gateway to channel what I have inside and how I view life. This may sound like a cliché, but believe me, it is right. There is a famous quote that says: “People speak what is in their hearts, artists express what is in their souls, what they see, what they experience”.
FPH: Is there a particular realm of visual art that you prefer?
Scaroina: I don’t have preferred medium, everything I can use is great. The studio produces enough synthetic trash to provide me enough materials. I am always looking for new sources and I have always enjoyed creating using discarded, recycled and reclaimed materials. I have used trash to create some of my favorite works. My process always depends on what I’m working with at the moment. But I can tell you that while I’m working, new ideas are born and some of those ideas materialize. I always like the saying that inspiration does exist, but it has to find you working in the studio.
FPH: Tell me about your upcoming exhibition and how you’ve woven an important subject into the work.
Scaroina: This new solo exhibition has been in the works for more than two years. The show is called Resilience as a call to social consciousness. It was an amazing experience that transformed me as I gathered all the essential elements while living the process first hand to make it happen. All the works are made solely with used clothing from the poorest children in the western hemisphere, going back and forth to the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to gather the materials. The idea was to exchange new clothes for the only clothes they owned. I used every article given by them to create the pieces in the show. My objective was to share their day-to-day reality, their energy with those that would come in contact with my art. These children live in the most extreme conditions and yet they are full of hope of what is to come in their future, which is clearly reflected visually in this body of work. The feeling and connection that I felt with each one of these children and their history inspired me to bring their world to ours.
Alfredo Scaroina’s “Resilience” opens at UNIX Gallery (4411 Montrose) on Friday, September 9 with a reception from 6 to 8 pm. The exhibition will be on view through October 8.