Sex! Now that Alexander Esguerra has your attention, come view “Love & Paint.” Or so goes the general idea of the artist’s ongoing solo exhibit — Universal Truth — opened late last month, and on at the Orchard Windows Gallery till October 10th
An original exploration of human sexuality, Esguerra’s oversized canvases (large enough for two to roll around on) are visual proof “that regardless of our race, gender, culture, or sexual identity, sex is the great equalizer — the common source of birth, pleasure and union.” This is the manifesto behind Esguerra’s work, and the philosophy that inspires artist.
Utilizing two bodies as his brushes, and the individuals’ passion as his artistic direction, Esguerra surrenders control with “Love & Paint,” allowing the couples loaning their love, to become the artists themselves. Each one an organic declaration of human connection, the paintings’ serendipitous drip style take on a an abstract expressionism that strikes the audience with brazen emotion.
While curious about the process, we didn’t go as far as to ask what specific “brush” strokes Esguerra’s recommended to the participants in “Love & Paint,” but a peek at the video below will give you some idea of the dance that created the exhibit’s striking pieces. And, should the “experience,” and the stories shared by those involved ignite intrigue you, Love & Paint packages are available online to any interested in rolling around in paint with their special someone.
Eager to learn more about the fingers and toes that created the Universal Truth collection, we ask Alexander Esguerra to take FILLER into the passion behind the paint.
I understand Love & Paint was inspired by a personal sexual encounter, when you discovered your normally neat room a mess the morning after. What was the creative revelation here?
I couldn’t help but to wonder how our physical bodies interacted with all the objects and space around us: the sheets, pillows, walls, books, wine bottles, scrunched blinds, and so on. I imagined if there was a way to record or capture all these tangible moments within that environment, and it just made sense that if we were covered in paint the room would be this wild colorful display of body prints. I figured I should keep it to the sheets and not messy up my room, and I finally decided to simply lay a canvas on the floor and see what happened.
Quite the origin story! You describe the Love & Paint couples participation as an “experience.” Have you experienced the canvas yourself yet?
Yes, I was naturally actually the first to do this. I figured it only made sense. Truth be told I was super single when I tried it so I basically bought a huge canvas, unraveled it on my bedroom floor, grabbed a bunch of blue and pink paint (I figured embodied male and female at the time..how naive) and began mimicking sexual positions — solo — until I felt it was time to flick on the lights, and see this so-called masterpiece. The second the lights hit, I was immediately depressed. It looked like a child had spilled a bucket of paint on the floor and decided to throw a temper tantrum.
Not until weeks later when I asked a friend (with soon-to-be benefits) to help me pretend a sexual experience did I/we create the first one. It was magical. The experience blew my mind, the work was like a Jackson Pollock rendition, but with anatomical prints. I fell in love…Love & Paint.
From your story, and from the works themselves, it’s obvious that the concept of these art pieces are extremely personal, yet in the end, the only way to identify that very personal origin is from their title, which relates the couples’ stories. Did the couples shed some insight into their relationship for you to name the paintings?
You know when I first began, I would always try to come up with clever names for each painting. The names either reflected the couple and their story, an interesting detail about their actual experience or simply a fitting title that matched the look and feel of the work at hand. As time passed, I simply titled them the first names of each partner as I feel less is more at this point. It truly has been a growing process. I feel like this project has taught me more about myself and love than I have taught it, if that makes any sense.
It does, and I think the video on the Love & Paint site helps demonstrate that too. On the site, we meet some couples that have participated in your project; do you see this as detracting from your project’s intention to keep anonymity around race, sex and gender of participants?
Not at all. The thing to remember here is I am not just trying to say one thing with Love & Paint. It opens a discussion on many levels, unifying us all through our humanity, art, love, sex etc. However it also makes us all feel like artists in one way or another. I mean you can literally be a mechanic, doctor, cashier, etc., and through this opportunity you can sit back and appreciate a beautiful work of art that you and your loved one created. Most importantly, tying back to your question, this project is more than anything about relationships. It’s a celebration of love. Its a moment when two people can freeze time in this hectic chaotic volatile world we drown ourselves in, and capture one night of love in an entirely unique and beautiful setting knowing that forever this moment. This collision of energies will be frozen on canvas for eternity.
You’re getting deep…
A bit deep I know, but it’s how I truly feel about what I do. Its also super fun and silly, which I feel love should be when it’s done right! Love should be easy.
Let’s talk a bit about your background. You graduated top of your class from Parson’s for Product Design, and have an extensive list of clientele. In this line of work knowing how to compromise and incorporate the client’s needs is imperative. Did this professional background make it easier to let go of the control you had with the final outcome of Love & Art paintings? As you even surrendered to color choices!
That’s a great question! Letting go of the control wasn’t really hard for me. I’m not sure if I can accredit that to my professional background. Instead I feel like I enjoy the opportunity to produce an experience where others feel like the artists. I do get some crap from other artists stating that I have no right to call myself an artist, I simply laugh. The moment being an artist means you have to adhere to a certain set of rules, I think one has lost the point of art in the first place.
So how do you yourself understand the artistic process?
An interesting way that I explain what I do to people is by relating it to a science experiment. I can hypothesize what the work will look like if I set up enough controls (paints, colors, drying times, viscosities, canvas treatments, alternate substrates, etc). Each of these controls allows for a certain result, and if I set up enough of them in the right way it leaves the couples as the only variable. Lastly, relating back to my [former] professional background, I would say what I learned most from it is how to appreciate the process and let your idea grow organically, and not be afraid of external influences. It’s like giving birth to a child in a way, you raise it the best you can then you simply hope for the best, not that I have kids or anything, [laughing]
What do you tell the couples before they begin their experience? I am sure you get quite a few questions, what are some common concerns?
Safety! I assure them the paints I use are safe to use, and I try and go over certain positions that make it easier to avoid contact if they really are concerned. I try and tell them that this is about celebrating their love and this moment in time. I explain that it’s not about creating a painting, its about making love, having fun, being silly, being present in the paint. I explain they are doing this in total darkness, and they are encouraged not to turn the lights on during the process. I go over what colors to use first, and what to use last, how to apply it to their bodies and so forth. An then once I tell them all that and more, I simply ask them to forget it all and just have fun. It’s like you can cram all day for a test the next morning, but at a certain point you need to shut the book and have faith that what’s inside of you will translate successful once all is said and done. There is no such thing as ugly art — in my eyes at least.
When describing the experience, you say, “two bodies become brushes.” Do you think that some couples have tried to selectively choose positions contributing to a “forced” final painting?
Sure of course. However, they may try, but it never works. Think about it: you’re in the dark, and you’re covered in paint. The second you try to switch positions or do anything you have no idea what colors are where, and what is really touching what, and eventually you just give up trying and start loving. It is nearly impossible in the setting I create to contrive a work of art. I work hard at that actually. I want it to capture the truth of the moment.
With everything left to chance, has there been a painting you have not been able to use because you were not satisfied with the final outcome?
Not necessarily that I wasn’t a fan, but moreso the art market didn’t have an affinity towards that specific outcome. When shopping for art a large part of it is aesthetic. Do I want this in my home? Does it match my interior design? Does it communicate how I feel or how I wish to feel? Is this a smart investment, etc? These factors have prevented certain pieces from being shown, but it’s by no means a reflection of the couple and their love. It’s simply business at that point.
On the topic of business, where do you see the future of this project headed? Would you consider teaming up with a charity?
This is the key question. Regarding charities, we are working to team up with certain celebrity couples that embody the spirit of Love & Paint in order to auction off their painting and or prints for charity. I basically see Love & Paint as a global brand experience in the making. My business partner and I, Frankie Grima, have a thousand mile stare for where we want this to go, and while we would love to explain every detail of that plan, we will keep it at that exciting things are soon to be announced.