JeanPaul Mallozzi: Emotional States

Jean Paul Mallozzi, Purify (study), detail
Artist JeanPaul Mallozzi, a native of New York City now working in Miami, is a kind of psychic Surrealist who creates dreamlike personal narratives that attempt to glimpse his subject's psyches. Entrancing, memorable and unnerving, Mallozzi's works are uncannily emotional.

I recently spoke to JeanPaul Mallozzi and asked him about his history, his ideas and his recent work.

John Seed in Conversation with JeanPaul Mallozzi: 
JeanPaul Mallozzi: Photo by Juan Pablo Castro
Tell me a bit about your early life and how it shaped you.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy and Cuba and settled in Queens, NY where I was born and raised. Being the youngest of four siblings in an immigrant household, telling my parents I wanted to be an artist didn't really inspire much confidence or praise: just eye rolls and heavy sighs. Thankfully my older sisters and brother had my back, but I still had to work hard to prove I was actually a good artist. I struggled like most artists to develop real confidence in my skills and techniques and I think it was harder because it was instilled by my parents in me to be humble. It wasn't an easy mental balancing act.

It's on Shuffle, 20 x 16 inches, Oil on board
Talk a bit about your experiences in art school, and about what happened when your portfolio was stolen.

RISD was intimidating as HELL. I received a scholarship to attend -- that blew my mind -- but once I was there I realized that I was placed in a small pressure cooker loaded with talented people. The do I really belong here? thoughts made regular appearances. It was a hard time to keep the increasing self doubt in check while tasked with an intense regiment to make "quality" work for studio classes every week. However, all that time spent honed and strengthened my skills and brought out speed which is a great asset to have in this field.

As far as my portfolio being stolen, it was literally the last day of my Junior year in college and I was moving my stuff out of the apartment. I left the portfolio downstairs for a few minutes. When I came back from bringing down another box it was gone and I was beside myself with disbelief. Three years of work gone and most of it not photographed at that point.

Some time later I found out from a girl who contacted me after she saw one of my pieces -- one of the few I had a photo of -- on MySpace I had as a profile picture. She told me she bought one of those missing pieces and that it was hanging in her living room. She said it was sold by the "artist" who was trying to get across the country. She was kind enough to send it back to me. But that theft basically left me unable to get commissions/jobs for a while because I did not have enough time to develop that much new material in a year.

So I spent the next few years saving money doing other jobs like waiting tables, gallery assistant etc. Eventually I got into a studio residency and quit my "day" job. I spent all my time making a new body of work with no prospects just hoping something would happen. Fortunately, something did. I was picked up by a gallery in London and it snowballed from there.

Keening, 42 x 42 inches, Oil on linen
Have you always been a representational artist? Were you able to find mentors and friends who supported what you were doing?

Representational work struck me as a kid and I have a huge love for it. I was in awe of artists who were able to create a convincing alternate reality of their own and be baffled as to how they did it. I've had some great mentors like Nick Jainschigg and Shanth Enjeti both of whom have had a profound influence on me and my work. Nick being a master at painting realism taught me a lot of nuts and bolts. Shanth was teaching Character Design at the time and I'll never forget him telling me that while I can paint very well..."if the concept is sh*t and it's painted beautifully, it's a beautifully painted piece of sh*t".

Lynn (commission), 30 x 22 inches, Graphite, watercolor, gouache on Rives paper
After college, I sought out Steven Assael whom I was lucky enough to take an independent studio class with as I held down a full-time job in Manhattan. I distinctly remember being the youngest student in his class at the time. So after work I'd go there, paint, and do the hour and half commute back home to Bayside, Queens. Thankfully, I had some good friends to reassure me that I wasn't wasting my time.

Tenacity, 58 x 41 inches, Graphite , watercolor, gouache on Rives paper
Your art often refers to emotional states: were you always tuned into your own emotional states and the emotions of others around you?

As I got older I found myself "reading" other people's emotions a lot especially during long train or bus commutes back home from the city. I would just sketch them in my book capturing their energies, their moods, their stories. If it wasn't on their face, then I'd key in on their body language. The way they sat or slouched, held their bags, talked on phones. Also, I come from an upbringing where pretty much everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves. When there's laughing, it's loud. When there's a fight, it's very loud! In both cases, neighbors have ended up coming over to join the party or calling security to keep the noise down.

Moodswing: Mad, Glad, Sad, Triptych, each: 30 x 22 inches, Mixed media on Rives BFK
The eyes and figures of your heads often feature stylizations and bits of abstraction. When did that start, and what are you trying to suggest with these images?

I had a literal moodswing in my apartment over five years ago and I wanted to reinterpret that visually, and thats where my personal work started took over other projects at the time. The stylizations and abstractions mimic facial features like eyes and smiles/frowns. Over the years, the abstractions have become more controlled and recognizable. I tend to do the highly abstracted faces with contoured lines when the figure is in a heightened emotional state, usually when they're in some sort of movement. Emotions are amorphous and different spectral colors give off different frequencies that people respond to. Its there like a keyhole to show the viewer the energy present inside the person at that moment.

Lie With Me, 24 x 18 inches, Oil on board
Tell me the story behind "Lie with Me."

The title has a double meaning. The first taking the title literally. The other side, I made this painting during a time when I was head deep in a rough relationship. I found myself "going through the motions" knowing things were at an end, just waiting for one of us to make the move to end it officially. I wanted the guy's gestural face to mimic a sad smile looking down on her, but the woman looking at you (the viewer) as the object of affection. You become the greener pasture. It's about having the courage to break away from something you know isn't healthy for you any longer.  

What will you be showing at Copro Gallery? Nathan Spoor was incredibly kind enough to invite me to show at this year's group exhibit called Suggestivism: Chronology. It's a recurring group show Nathan spearheads and this is the 5th installment; the last one being held in Rome, Italy. All the exhibiting artists portray figurative work that all suggest there is something more there than it seems to be on the surface. Here is how Nathan explains the show's theme:

At it's basic level, Suggestivism is based on the artist's specific and unique vision, a psychological or even mystical manifestation brought into reality by the artist's personal aesthetic. It's often representational, almost always in fact, but it is never restricted to being figurative or needing to include the figure.

I find myself in the company of incredible artists that I respect so much including Nicola Verlato, Aron Wiesenfeld and Marco Mazzoni.

The exhibit is currently running until September 6th. Due Venti (Two Winds) I created for this show as a farewell to a theme I was exploring. The girl carried off by two winds which are represented by two birds in flight while listening to her headphones plugged into a flower suggesting she's literally seeing the world from a different place--not plugged into technology but into the natural world. It's the last in the series so I thought it appropriate to send her off in style.

Due Venti, 24 x 18 inches, Oil on board
What direction is your work taking right now?

I've made a conscious shift and am bringing the optimism that some of my works on paper give off to the canvas. We've all reached out for help at some point in life. I'm portraying people who are asking for help, comfort, release and having that help manifest as a "familiar" or spirit guide. I'm also building on the colors fields around the face and eyes, allowing them to show through in certain areas: I'm letting paint be paint.

Purify (study), 10 x 8 inches, oil on board
Also, these works will be much bigger in scale ranging between 3 feet to 8 feet. I bought a bunch of canvas rolls for that reason. Thanks Pearl Paint! The small study Purify portrays a girl that has removed the negativity in herself and that manifested into a small iridescent-dark kitten dripping in her hands. The energy around her face and eyes suggest she's found a rose-colored view on the world as she looks straight at you.

Sketchbook Page
How do you keep yourself humble as a person and as an artist?

Honestly, I'm constantly reminding myself how precious and awesome being able to do this for a living is. I've had it taken away from me once already and I'm elated and relieved that I was able to get it back. I am beyond grateful for any gallery exhibit I participate in, any sale made, and any person and collector in life or via email/social media who tells me how they appreciate the work and how it's affected them. I never take any of it for granted.

Steven (commission), 30 x 22 inches, Graphite, watercolor and gouache on Rives paper
Where can your work be seen?

I'm happy to be participating in a few more shows this year out in the California: Smoke & Mirrors at Marcas Gallery, Tres AƱos at As Issued Gallery and I also am in a show at Flower Pepper Gallery. I also currently have a large piece on display at Gitana Rosa Gallery in Chelsea, NY. I will be locking myself away painting in time for Art Basel Miami. My studio is currently in the Art Center South Florida, in Miami Beach.

Some Current Exhibitions: SUGGESTIVISM: CHRONOLOGY, curated by Nathan Spoor
August 16 - September 6, 2014
Copro Gallery 2525 Michigan Ave, T5
Santa Monica, CA 90904

Marcas Contemporary Art
Opening: Sept. 6, 2014, 7 to 11PM
305 E. 4th St., #103 Santa Ana, CA 92701

Tracey Adams: "Everything in my life is interconnected."

Artist Tracey Adams, who currently has a solo show on view at the Bryant Street Gallery in Palo Alto, draws her ideas and inspirations from a wide variety of fields including music, mathematics and science. In her varied works, all of these disciplines come together in visual form, in a process that Adams characterizes as involving a "synthesis of intention and chance."

I recently interviewed Tracey Adams and asked her about her background, her interests, and her priorities.

  Tracey Adams in Conversation with John Seed

Tracey Adams

Tell me about your childhood and formative experiences: how old were you when you first showed an interest in art?

 I'm very fortunate that my parents loved art and collected Japanese prints. My mother had a small ceramics studio in our house where I could play and I always had crayons and paper: she made sure I was enrolled in art and music classes and that I attended art camp during the summer. On Saturday mornings, we'd go to matinees, exhibitions and concerts geared specifically to children at UCLA. I was 3 when I started drawing and playing the piano. Always supportive of my interest in art, my mother entered a tempera painting I made when I was 5, Hot Dogs and Arrows, in a local art competition; it won third prize!


(r)evolution 1, Encaustic, collage and oil on panel, 40 x 40 inches, 2014

As a graduate student you focused on music and also did some conducting in Boston. Tell me about this era and how it shaped you.

 As an undergraduate, I studied music theory and composition, which was interesting, but not terribly exciting. My group of peers at UCLA would get together and perform early music weekly. Each of us had the opportunity to conduct and that is what really excited me: bringing music to life through interpretation and performance.

In Boston as a graduate student in conducting, I worked at Northeastern University as assistant conductor for two years and at Harvard-Radcliffe University as conductor of the Graduate Chorale for one. Conducting requires physical movement and communication, like dancing, which was fun and incredibly fulfilling. I got to hang out with John Cage and Philip Glass, and both of those contacts inform my work to this day.

I moved to L.A. after graduate school and created my own performing group with two friends who are currently very involved in the classical music scene. While I no longer perform, music is part of who I am. It's present in the way I develop line and composition in my work; for each element in music, there is its corollary in art.

I was invited to be the 2014 Visual Artist for the Music at Menlo Chamber Music Festival and Institute this summer. When I asked the directors why they chose my work they mentioned my use of color and rhythm which reflects the transition from 19th to 20th century Central European composers that are being featured this year.


(r)evolution 9, Encaustic, collage and oil on panel, 30 x 30 inches, 2014

While still pursuing music you also took courses in painting and drawing. How and when did you come to the realization that you needed to make art your primary pursuit?

 In 1991, after working for 11 years as a freelance musician, I longed for the solitude a studio practice could provide. There were always interpersonal issues working with musicians and staff. Additionally, I was limited in what I could achieve in the conducting field as a woman, even though I had a degree from a renowned music conservatory. I grew frustrated and impatient when preforming became less about the music and more about other things. So, I picked up my drawing pencils and would sit for many hours drawing peacefully and happily. The rest is history.


Benthic Mapping 3,4 and 5,  Encaustic on Kozo paper, each 120 x 22 inches, 2014
Installed at the San Francisco Art Market, May 2014

You have said that you work at the "intersection of art, math and music." Tell me about some of the ways that these three fields overlap.

Music theory is an analysis of relationships: intervals between tones -- melodically and harmonically -- rhythm and meter, scales and keys. The frequency of sound waves that produce pitch can be measured mathematically. This is a very simple response to a complex answer.

I often use mathematical formulae in my art. For example, in my current series, (r)evolution, I pre-determine the colors to be used, how many times they appear and how they appear in the composition. It is important how and where a viewer enters my painting and how his/her eye travels around the composition. (r)evolution is about pattern within a grid structure. Other series include a grid structure, but more organic gestures within that framework. I like to say that my work exists on the "continuum between gesture and geometry": I used that phrase as the title of my 2011 exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum.


Benthic Revolution 2, Encaustic and collage on Mitsumata, 40 x 26 inches, 2014

Tell me about your interest in printmaking and describe some of your work in that medium.

After seeing the Met's exhibition, the Painterly Print in the 80's I knew I had to learn how to make monotypes. I signed up for a class at the Provincetown Fine Arts Center and studied with one of the best, Michael Mazur. I received so much from him including his enormous generosity as a teacher. Monotypes are transfer paintings from plate to paper, created in the moment, and can be used as studies for future paintings or they can exist on their own as prints. I have made hundreds of monotypes and monoprints (using a matrix). In 2007, I learned a new, but similar process of making an encaustic (pigmented wax) monotype on a hot aluminum table. The most exciting works I've done have been my encaustic prints on Japanese scrolls. Some of them are 24' long and have been exhibited as groupings and walk-through installations in museum exhibitions.


Folded (June 15, 2014) - encaustic on Masa, 12"x12", 2014

One of your recent projects started with a simple exercise in folding paper, but has grown much larger. Tell me a bit about the development of this work.

I love working with paper. My new series, Folded, deals with a way of representing time spent in the studio day-to-day through the use of folds. Each day has a certain number of folds I make that correspond to the day in the month. For example, the piece made on June 14 has 14 folds. The folds are different widths, corresponding to a calculation I made for each piece. The papers used are fragments of encaustic monotypes created on different Japanese papers; the monotypes were made close to the same time as the folded piece was made.

This project developed as my other collage projects have - out of a need to break away from whatever painting or show I'm working on in order to work in a less intense but more playful way. Initially, I set certain parameters for myself: the maximum time spent on each folded piece would be less than an hour and no piece would be larger than 12"x12". Many of the pieces are smaller.

Recently, I've begun to make my work larger as this has been such a fun break from painting. Collage has always been my default and comfort for those frustrating and trying moments in the studio and in life. It is the perfect balance of intention and chance.


Lumenis 8, Encaustic Monotype, Acrylic/Oil on Panel, 48 x 40 inches, 2013

After hearing about the work of chemist Roger Linington on NPR - a chemist who is investigating the healing properties of marine bacteria - you visited him and became excited about the potential of his work. Where do you think this connection is going to lead?

 My next step is to return to Roger's lab to get a look at specimen slides under the microscope. Once I have actual visuals, I'd like to begin work on a large installation that will include my scrolls and three-dimensional forms fabricated from my scroll paintings. The imagery would be the healing bacterium, each with its own unique shape, internal structure and color. I can visualize someday walking through this installation that might look like a giant petri dish -- bacterium suspended from the ceiling to the floor in the form of sculptures and scrolls. Once completed, I'd like to write a proposal and submit it to appropriate non-profit, science and art museums for possible exhibition.


Benthic Revolution 4, Encaustic and collage on Mitsumata, 32 x 21 inches, 2014

Tell me about your sense of humor and how it infuses your work?

This one is tough, John. My sense of humor is communicated through conversations with friends and students more than through my art.

That said, in my current series, (r)evolution, I'm playful in my choice of color and rhythm e.g. placement and color of the circles. The Folded series is also playful. I'm also a pretty good mimic and can be very silly at times, dissolving into giggles easily. I'm able to laugh at myself, at mistakes I make, especially when teaching. I have the ability to see the lighter side of life's often illogical situations by not getting bogged down in the negative or trite: it's something I've focused on most of my adult years.

My perspective changed dramatically when, at 16, I read Ram Dass', Be Here Now. It was a life-altering book for me. Currently, I'm reading Kay Larson's, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Life of Artists. It's a wise book that helps me maintain a live-in-the-present-moment perspective.


(r)evolution 4, Encaustic, collage and oil, 36 x 36 inches, 2014

Is there anything else about your current work or artistic practice that you would like to mention?

Everything in my life is interconnected: my painting and current projects in the works, my yoga practice, my teaching, and my relationships.

At this point in your life and career what matters most to you?

 Several things: what's most important to me is having the freedom to create the kind of art that is most fulfilling and not necessarily what a gallery/dealer wants. That is why I'm excited about my two latest projects. Also, it's important to pay it forward and give back where I'm able. At the other end of the spectrum, I take great joy and pleasure teaching yoga and Pilates. I have many responsibilities, but this one is special as it's not about me, but helping others with certain physical and emotional conditions regain their independence and live a more quality-filled life.

  Tracey Adams: Current Exhibitions

Tracey Adams: Patterns of Infinity Bryant Street Gallery - Palo Alto, CA July 15 - August 31

Outside/In K. Imperial Fine Art - San Francisco, CA July 15-August 31

SHIFT: Five Decades of Contemporary California Painting Monterey Museum of Art - Monterey, CA May 1-September 22