First Friday on Roosevelt will be returning this week with hundreds of examples of the artistic talent in Phoenix. Olney Gallery at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will be opening with painter Alfredo Escarcega’s work, which is heavily based on Surrealism. His influences come from his surroundings—from the barrios of Southern California to the deserts of Arizona, Escarcega’s Technicolor art offers a unique perspective on the world.
1. When did you decide to pursue art? Were you self-aztaught, or did you pursue study through a university program?
I honestly always wanted to be a visual artist. During my teenage years, art really grabbed ahold of me and that's when I definitely decided that I wanted to learn more. I decided to enroll in art classes at Phoenix College and then transferred to ASU. Once at ASU, I decided that I wanted to explore renaissance art, so I spent some time in Italy.
2. You were inspired by the "desert iconography of Arizona." Is there a specific area of the state that inspired you most?
The area of the state that has inspired me the most is the desert region just west of the Phoenix metro area (between Phoenix and Gila Bend) and the Organ Pipe National Monument near the Arizona-Mexico border. Under the sweltering heat, it is fairly easy for one's imagination to go crazy and I think a lot of my paintings show this.
3. Do you have a favorite feature or a highlight feature at this exhibit? If so, can you talk about it?
My favorite painting in this show is definitely a very large painting entitled "Ella". It's based on a very sad mariachi song about a break-up by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. The song is beautiful and conveys feelings of sadness, desperation, loneliness and anger at oneself. I tried conveying that same feeling in a visual form. I did not paint it in the same manner that I usually paint. I normally try to smooth over my paint so the brush marks are barely visible but in this one, I left a lot of visual texture to try to give it a grittier feel. Although I painted it and therefore it is a kind of reflection of how I felt when I executed this painting, I wanted it to be approachable and I'm sure a lot of people can relate to it.
4. How important do you think First Friday is to the art community in the valley?
First Friday is extremely important to the art community in the valley. It's one of the few regularly scheduled events in Phoenix that attracts not only artists but also people who appreciate art. It makes artists and their creations accessible to anyone for one night a month. It's a very symbiotic relationship that a lot of people don't think about. If there was art but no one to see it, what good is the art doing? If many people come and support First Fridays. and art galleries in general, the quality of the art will rise and more art will be produced. First Friday and events like it are a win for the artists and a win for art lovers.
5. I understand many of your works reference the barrios of Arizona and Southern California. Did you grow up in the region?
As a kid, my family moved a few times. I first lived in Riverside, CA. Then we moved to South Phoenix. Then it was back to Riverside and finally we ended up in Tolleson, AZ in the far west valley. So to answer the question, I grew up in in different places that were very similar. They were all heavily Hispanic areas where the adults usually held very tough jobs.
Be sure to see Alfredo’s work and many other local artists at First Friday, July 5 in downtown Phoenix. Join Olney Gallery for an open reception from 6:00-9:00 pm.—Lanni Solochek, KBACH Intern