Photos courtesy of Alex Yanes (in the studio working on his piece for Vitality and Verve).
In celebration of all things POW! WOW! Long Beach, from the outdoor muralists (who begin painting murals throughout the city this week) to the artists currently installing their work inside the Long Beach Museum of Art's (LBMA) upcoming exhibit Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape, the Post reached out to several of these world-class creatives that are gearing up to change and inspire the landscape of Long Beach’s art scene as a whole, indoors and out.
Today we feature Alex Yanes, a contemporary artist whose immersion in the '80s-era skate scene of Miami still influences his work today. His mastery of wood carving and love for turning found objects into relatable, yet whimsical characters from his childhood, along with a solid work ethic, have propelled his career forward since his decision to pursue art in 2006.
Yanes was always told he would starve if he became an artist, according to the A76 PRODUCTIONS short, Alex Yanes: Woven Into Me.
“People don’t—artists don’t starve if you work, you know?” he says within the first 15 seconds of the film.
To see Yanes’ finished piece this week, check out the LBMA’s famed After Dark event on Friday, June 26, in celebration of the opening of Vitality and Verve, to be on display through September.
Post: What were you doing before you sat down to answer these questions?
Yanes: My friends and I have a Thursday night pizza ritual at our local spot. We hung out and they wished me well on my trip to Long Beach.
Who are these characters that you create? So many of them seem so high energy, as far as vibrant color is concerned and facial expression. Where do they come from?
The characters are all figments of my imagination that I have been able to hold on to since childhood. My color pallet is very bright and colorful, derived from Miami's vibrant tropical environment. Aqua and pink are embedded in my brain. I am a Miami Vice, '80s kid.
What has most recently inspired your work?
The fact that I am reliving my childhood through my two daughters has inspired me immensely. Introducing them to the things that fascinated me as a kid and watching their faces light up with amazement is priceless.
Are there any Vitality and Verve artists you're excited about being able to meet for the first time?
Audrey Kawasaki and Jeff Soto, both amazing, both masters in my book.
Which participating artist(s) would you collaborate with and why?
Anyone of them really, but Nosego and I have actually discussed it.
Have you ever visited Long Beach before? If so/if not, what are you excited about exploring here?
First time to Long Beach. I just love the whole Cali vibe. Definitely visiting the aquarium and catching up with some friends.
Will you describe a day in the life of Alex Yanes?
Strong Cuban Espresso asap! I drop of my six-year-old at school, pick up supplies at Home Depot and head to the studio. As soon as I get to the studio, the music turns on and I get to work. Usually anywhere from eight to 12 hours, then I go home and hang with the wife and kids.
How do you think your work has progressed over the past five years? How have you progressed as a working artist over the past five years?
My work has become more polished, refined and intricate these past few years. I owe that to Andrew Hosner and the Thinkspace family. They put me on, believed in me and kept me real busy. Exactly what I needed!
When did you first start creating? How do you tell that self-critic to shut up so you can keep working? Do you even have one?
I have been creating my whole life, I built my first tree house and skate ramps in grade school. Got detentions for drawing in class. I will always be my own worst critic, my favorite pieces are always the last ones to sell. Self criticism is a vital necessity for me, without it I can not improve and work becomes stagnant and mundane.
You might be one of the few artists whose work won't be immediately lost by the painting over of the galleries once the show is over. How do you feel about your work being exempt from this temporal factor?
Once the work leaves my studio, I have already parted ways with it. It goes on to have an existence of it's own for the public to view. No longer in my possession.
Do you already know how you will install your work or do you show up with the pieces and start the process from there?
I wing everything in my studio; however, the installation process is completely planned.
What's the harshest criticism you've received about your work and how did you mentally digest it? Did you let it influence your work, did you shrug it off?
Criticism comes with the territory, this is the job I chose.
And last, but not least, what about this upcoming group exhibition are you especially excited about? For yourself and your career as an artist?
Being included among this roster of artists is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. A museum show? California? How did I get here? I'm just a kid from Miami.
To check out more POW! WOW! Q&A Sessions by the Post, click here.