Fernando Carpaneda - Back to the Bowery
Fernando Carpaneda is an artist born in Brasília, Brazil. He works with clay sculptures. His main theme is always the human being. He watches people in the streets, bars, concerts, and places where people sell their bodies. Fernando makes portraits of rent boys, punks, junkies, thieves and outcasts. Instead of attaching himself to muses, he focuses on male nudes to compose his art pieces, having the human being, the masculine, as the main goal in his work. All his portraits are like a relic, a holy place, a moment caught in time. He uses objects that have a connection to the portrayed person to composing his work, such as cigarette butts, condoms, beer cans, underwear, semen, empty toothpaste boxes. In other words, things that are part of these people's real world, and his own. He uses such objects and remains as a beginning for his portraits. Clay is used as technique. He uses it the same way it was used in the 17th Century (for painting baroque saint images). He even dresses his sculptures with cloth from his own clothes. He creates and sews all the clothing that is used in the pieces. He also includes human hair to some of the pieces, his own hair (this was very often done in the 17th Century), and a current relic that has its value in time, as to maintain a time, ordinary people who lived it. Fernando writes about his pieces using street language as a background, another urban element often used. His connection to the artwork is important to any creative process. He believes that the artist himself is a piece of art. He has been going to places where the portrayed people use to go for the past 20 years. Remembrances are part of his work. Every little thing is part of him: his lovers, his disappointments, his experiences with drugs, his life in the streets, and so forth. Fernando depends on all of this to create art; he does not exist without these people.
A.D - Your work seems to be much inspired by the "loser" figure. What fascinates you about this attitude?
F.C - I don‚t consider prostitutes, drags, junkies, punks or homeless people as losers. On the contrary, they are honest with their attitude and have to courage to show their real face. They do what they like. They, the same way as me, do not belong to the mediocre kind of people who only want to see our negative side. We admit publicly our conditions and points of view, and this displeases many people.
A.D - Many of your sculptures depict rockstars like Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone etc. Has your artistic background been influenced by some particular music scene?
F.C - Punk
A.D - In your biography your often refer to the XVII century, which makes us curious about your artistic formation. Are you an autodidact or do you come from some Arts school?
F.C - I am autodidact, I always liked to study and research about art, its history and tendencies. I also have many friends from the academic scene in Brazil, the US and UK. I do have a natural talent for the arts, and did not bother to get into academy to learn art techniques and history, the same way I have no difficulty in learning to write and speak new languages.
A.D - Has the fact that you lived the same experience and lifestyle of the people you depict helped you giving your sculptures more "sense of reality"?
F.C - To better understand a certain reality nothing better than making part of it.
A.D - When did you find out you were gay, and how did you face it?
F.C - That was never an option, I was born gay. For me this is genetic, just like having blue or brown eyes. I could be born a hetero but I was born gay, it‚s as simple as that. And I Iove it. And I am proud of it. I never had problem dealing with that.
A.D - Is there a queer scene in Brazil (bands, places, fanzines, distributors etc)?
F.C - Yes, there is a queer scene in Brazil, especially in the large urban centres like Sao Paulo, Brazil‚s largest city. There are gay clubs like "A Loca". There‚s also zines like Grindzine. There are also publications like "G Magazine" and "Mix Brasil". The musical scene is a bit weak. There is not a specialized segment. There are, on the other hand, a lot of pop singers that are assumedly gay, both man and woman, and they enjoy a lot of of success in Brazil.
A.D - Going through the list of your exhibitions, we realized that since 2001 all of them have been in the States: have you moved there?
F.C - I don‚t live in any specific country. I have a house in Brazil and share and apartments both in NY and London with friends. As I am always traveling I can‚t have a fixed place to settle. And I also have to spend a lot of my time in the streets with together with the people I depict.
A.D - We know you also work with video. Can you please tell us about it?
F.C - I have a bunch of works in video from the time when I was part of a performance group in Brasilia. We presented on the streets, on art gallery windows and other places. We filmed and presented these videos on a couple of events.
A.D - Your works mainly show borderline people, life on the fringe of society, with all the troubles and possible negative aspects that it involves. Have you ever wondered if your art, but also art in general, can be a conductor of positive messages too?
F.C - When you depict the "negative" sides of life you are acting positively because you make people question their own lives and ask themselves if their own actions are not taken sensibly in such a depressing world as ours is.
A.D - Have you ever had censorship problems with galleries for your sexually explicit sculptures?
F.C - Most Brazilian gallery owners and curators are homophobic and are declaredly afraid of gay people. The public institutions, on the other hand, have been much more tolerant, even supporting some of my events. On the US and UK I never had problems with that.
A.D - What kind of people buy your artworks?
F.C - All kinds of people. Government workers like policeman and politics are normal in a capital city like Brasilia as well as go-go boys or friends with whom I exchange my work. There is not a clear public, it is very diverse.
A.D - Is it true that you often use for your sculptures personal objects belonging to the people you depict or to you? Why this choice?
F.C - Yes. I always used personal objects from the people I pictured. Like when Joey Ramone died I was presenting in the CB‚s Gallery - CBGB‚s and collected some of the objects his fans left on the sidewalk in front of the club, like a kind of altar or mausoleum. I used these objects as base for his sculptures and gave then to Arturo Vega. Another example was during the Bowery Electric Festival where I collected beer cans used by Jerry Only and Dez Cadena. Now I am using these objects as a base for sculpture I am making of the guys. I think it is important to use objects that made part of the figured person‚s reality. When I used sperm of my boyfriend Matt I was preserving a moment of love. It was a nude of him made of clay. Mythically mankind came from clay as man comes from semen. I also made an image of Yolanda, a drag queen and vocalist of Yolanda and the plastic family using objects I collected during their presentation at the Homocorps festival at the CBGB‚s. I am giving these specific examples also as an answer to your first question about "losers" I picture.
Angela Dusty - tMx 20 - 07/05
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