Spirited #5 [Noir Generation]
Interview with Adam Paladino
by Amanda Maciel Antunes
Under the influence of old Hollywood, Goya, and Kollwitz, Adam Paladino rebelled against his difficult youth with a visual explosion of exhilarating drawings, story telling and haunting dreams. He was born and raised in Boston, where he studied printmaking with Master Printer Antonio Frasconi, and graduated from Purchase College School of Visual Arts. Paladino’s work moves from tense and moody to stark and beautiful and we’re delighted to reveal just a fraction of it here.
I love your work and I think you perfectly use light and dark; they are immediate and enduring. How do you start a piece of work? How long does it take for you to complete one?
The first part of my process is gathering images that inspire the drawing aspect. I would never have the audacity to call myself a photographer, but I can take pictures sufficient enough to help me set up the compositions. I try to set up little scenes like out of a play or stills from a film. When I get to the drawing part, I go nuts. Layers and layers of tone, rich blacks, accents of muted pastel, and the build-up of line!
I will usually spend anywhere from five to ten days working on several drawings at a time. Each vary in how long they take to individually produce. In printmaking the process is much longer so I could spend anywhere from a few days to a few years developing pieces visually and conceptually.
And how do you feel when someone approaches you to buy one?
It is nice when people appreciate your work. Particularly, it is nice when someone makes a personal connection to something I’ve done. This Russian violin professor bought a large etching collage of mine. The image featured lots of broken violins aggressively moving through the space. For her it was very personal piece. As I sat in her home having tea and apple cake, she told me that her violin saved her life in a car accident fifty years ago. She brought out the remains of the busted violin and case. It gave me chills.
Tell me something that inspired you recently.
I have always been inspired by other art forms such as dance and old Hollywood films.
As a child, I was surrounded by such imagery. My grandmother and I watched a lot of films with such Hollywood stars as Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and Orson Wells. Getting lost in the moodiness of films like Mildred Pierce and Citizen Kane is still vivid in my mind. As a kid I was exposed to dance, as my mother and I volunteered at theaters in the area and my father was a concert violinist.
Lately, I have been very inspired by people around me. I feel lucky to live in a city with such a diverse community of artists of so many different trades.
What do you like most about what you do?
I like being able to lose myself in it. Sometimes it feels almost like being a film director through the progression of pieces I make. I love to tell stories. And secretly, I really just love making pretty things. However, my version of pretty is a little grittier thank most peoples’. I like having that quality though.
It feels like there’s a narrative to your pictures – do you have a story for each one? Where do your ideas usually come from?
Absolutely! My work is primarily narrative. The works all tell a story in their own way. They are mostly based on life experience, dream, and memory. Art is also a way of expressing myself about tough issues I am dealing with. Whether revisiting childhood memories of my father aggressively playing the violin in a manic frenzy or creating a figure that reflects the solace of being a gay man in a dangerous world, my imagery strives to tell stories that work together to create one big narrative. The visual language or style lends itself to telling the story in a provocative way. There is a sense of despair yet grandeur in the figurative aspects, vacant environments, and moody lights and darks.
Have you been insane before? Have you been in insane situations?
Absolutely! There was a period in my life where I was so absorbed into grotesque styles of living, that I completely lost my grip on reality. I almost lost everything due to this. I’ve also dealt with chronic pain my entire life due to a series of orthopedic issues. Having surgeries and chunks of time of not being able to walk have definitely taken me to some dark places. I was insane during many of those times. I’ve been insane with lovers and in interacting in other relationships as well.
- To read the rest of this piece, purchase the digital or print edition