By NOAH BECKER, January 2023
Noah Becker: Seeing your work on public fences in Soho reminded me of a crazy period in my life when I did a similar thing outdoors in the 1990s - It was actually on exactly the same fence in Soho. I had seen a vintage photo of Yoko Ono laying out pages of the New York Times and painting words on them. Then like a puzzle, re-assembling the pages on a wall creating a monumental image. I did that on your wall in Soho, it was for an invite to my art show.
Susana Aldanondo: That is a wonderful coincidence! Who would have thought? I love painting on that wall, it has become my favorite place to paint, in fact after finding that wall I had to ‘push myself’ to paint on other walls around the city. I’d love to see your invite created there. So why did you make your invite there?
Becker: It was more of a street art intervention for me at the time and somewhat social - for sure. It was using acrylic paint but the newspaper pages were not art supplies, or related to the studio. But with what you do, I'm seeing your public paintings are on canvases, which I find interesting - you've brought the studio into a public space. Are there other motivations behind your public painting process?
Aldanondo: My work also intervenes with the advertisements around my canvas. I usually place the canvas in such a way that the advertisements temporarily affect the canvas and vice versa. The ads and the work of art I create work as a new image together, and they remind me and anyone walking by and seeing my work and the images of how advertisements influence our lives, and how art can do the same for us. I explore the connection between emotion, music and memory; and how we identify with the spaces we inhabit. These concepts are part of my process.
Becker: So the work is made up on the spot from your emotions? Or do you plan it out?
Aldanondo: I don’t usually plan what I’m going to paint. After I staple my canvas and lay out the paints, I start from simple structures that become more elaborate as I work. I work on my palette and make decisions about color placement and composition. I do take breaks and walk away, sit, observe, as I continue working across the canvas. My simple structures are overtaken by color and lines that give shape to each work, they grow into complex systems that reach the surface through detailed composition. I have no idea what I’ll paint when I stand before a canvas, I make decisions about the work as I paint.
Becker: Why are you painting outside?
Aldanondo: I paint in the street because I explore identity and the places where we live, work, and choose to be. Where I paint becomes an integral part of the painting. For me, making the decision of where to paint is comparable to deciding on my palette and how to utilize the space on the canvas...While painting outside I become visible to the everyday people, in the everyday places of the city I love; and I create a new dialogue, a new possibility, a new way of expression.
Becker: Do you ever get heckled?
Aldanondo: No, not at all. I’m there to talk with people, with whoever wants to stop and speak with me, I always welcome everyone’s conversations, that’s why I’m there. I’m there to be present and to interact with people as I paint. Not everyone walking by stops to talk, but when people do I love it. Pausing to speak with the public also helps me in my work, it’s a pause and invitation to consider a new perspective, it’s an invitation to learn about someone’s day or journey.
Becker: So it’s a special experience for you.
Aldanondo: It’s beyond special. It is also special for the people who see me and my work there. My being here seeks to change the narrative, and the disconnect that exists between a work of art hanging somewhere and artist and the creative process which are usually both unseen. An aspect of my work in the street seeks to make this revelation: an artist exists behind each work of art, a person, a story, a journey.
Becker: And what else?
Aldanondo: Bringing art into the public space is a reminder that art is not only found in galleries and museums, it’s a call to the art world to revise its practices. Just like Yoko Ono or Yayoi Kusama who both brought their vision of art to the public realm to make a statement about their work and about the art world, it is a way to reach an audience and benefiting that audience. Because it’s a way to make sure art becomes available to everyone. When referencing these leading artists, I am not comparing myself to them, I am only commenting on the fact that they too, made a decision to share their work and vision in the public realm.
Becker: You find it freeing then?
Aldanondo: Art should always be freeing, but the art world, art school, and the human experience can often work against that very freedom art invites everyone to own. What I do is a statement in itself: it’s my answer to anyone who condemns me for doing things differently, because I don’t care what they think, I own my freedom, my process and my work. Art is and should be liberating, it should validate who each artist is and what the artist has to give.
Becker: Abstract expressionism has been a mostly male dominated area of art and for no good reason. Do you think about the history when doing public paintings or painting in this tradition at all?
Aldanondo: Yes, I always think of the history of abstract expressionism. I think about the patriarchy and the need to place the same gender role expectations placed on women on men. We need to work to create an art world where women have access to the same opportunities as men. My painting in public can help create consciousness that women artists exist, minority artists exist, and abstract expressionism is alive. We all need to ask men the same questions women are asked.
Becker: It seems like the long hours you spend in the street demands a lot of stamina. You must need a lot of mental and physical stamina to keep going.
Aldanondo: I am my most authentic self when I’m painting. Something powerful happens when I stand before a canvas. It’s an overwhelming feeling of identity and belonging, an arrival to the place where I’m me. The hours turn to minutes when I’m painting. I set up early and I’m usually there painting 8-12 hours at a time. My stamina is fueled by my determination to make work and work toward my goals. I have been working undeterred for years and the progress I have made and the collaborations I have had have been the fruit of my own labor. I have had nobody, no relative, no friend, no teacher help me reach any artistic goals. Everything you see me doing, from painting in the streets to collaborating with musicians and scholars have been milestones achieved through my own effort.
Becker: And how would you like this idea to play out in society?
Aldanondo: There is a missed opportunity when not using art to connect people within communities.
I’ve gotten to know people from all walks of life, I’ve heard stories of survival, as well as the small stuff that seems unimportant, but isn’t.
People are willing to open their hearts when they feel they can connect to another person who is out there and open to listening.
Art is a unifying factor society desperately needs. Painting in the street is my way of saying: this is my work. This is me. It’s here. ’m here. I’m here in the present tense. I’m happy to meet you. I’m glad you get to see my work. I’m glad you’re here too. WM
Susana Aldanondo lives and works in New York, she studies at The Art Students League of New York with art masters Larry Poons, James Little and Ronnie Landfield.
She was awarded a Merit Scholarship through the Leonard Rosenfeld Scholarship Fund.
Noah Becker shows his paintings internationally. A visual artist, saxophonist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for many other major magazines. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has also written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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