We had the good fortune of connecting with Alejandro Aguilar Canela and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alejandro, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
I think one of the main paths I take while creating artwork is authenticity. It may sound as something cliché, but I try to take it as a core of every piece I make. I only create when I have something to say, show, ask or to answer after a long process of meditation.

Looking for authenticity gives me the tools and limits I need as an independent artist, since it’s something subjective and utopian that can move along with me as I evolve or experiment. Working in a commercial piece or a personal one have a similar background, which is taking some part of my personal experience, dig into it as deep as I can and translate it so it can live in a public arena. This also helps to define instinctively a piece (the tools used, media, materials, symbolism), and keep it cohesive with all my work.

Another important background of this decisions is that I get easily overwhelmed by information and visual stimuli so I try to discard the shallow, curating myself until something simple and relevant surfaces.

I believe we should only create art when it hits our core, otherwise it does not makes sense to me.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My artwork always appeals to the emotional self, and it is aimed towards the understanding and concern of mental health that ends in relief. This comes from my own history of being diagnosed with dysthymia when I was 12 years old, and taking medication until now. One of the main problems I had when thinking about my condition was thinking “is this feeling normal? Or is it the depression making an appearance?”. With my work I try to make pieces that resemble a weird way of feeling and place it as something natural, hoping to help people out there making them feel heard and understood. I’m not afraid of being honest, being tired, down, humiliated, jovial with my work, which I believe takes my pieces to new terrains in the midst of the cool, aesthetic, trendy art culture. It has been a challenge to remain true to myself, I think it’s hard for all of us. In this economical, emotional, social, health and climate crisis we’ve all taken shortcuts, made ends meet however we can and find solutions that keep us afloat. This means compromising parts of ourselves, but being conscious about it helps coming back to our real core.
Personally dealing with my own mental health problems has always been an obstacle and a path. It limits my social interactions and disrupts my processes. In a more positive way, it has become a way of doing, of understanding and knowing myself deeply, which gets reflected in my work. Art has been a way of re-directing that unwanted energy into something useful and enjoyable.

It has definitely been an educational experience seeing my own problems as a translation of other people situation. When I transform in my mind personal issues as something equally heavy as whatever is happening in other persons life, I can empathize and find a common language to use for the benefit of all and I believe is one of the processes that have helped in my constant evolution as an artist in a personal way but also in the art and non-art community. Every work becomes an entry to a place of understanding and comfort.

I’m currently working in bigger projects, using new media and I’m excited on expanding my practice to new areas that can be useful, and I use the word “useful” since it’s one of my new paths, creating something I call “emotional tools” where art becomes something that can be literally used, just like a hammer.

An important part of my artwork and something I hope people know is that, even with the words I use, monochromatic images and context, I am not a negative person, and neither is my work. It always leads to something positive, to a solution.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I currently live in Baltimore which is a city I haven’t explored much so it would be interesting to get to know places together. The first stop would be my studio apartment, a small place full of art material and decoration but extremely tidy. I enjoy my place since it has really high ceilings with vintage style decorations and huge windows, it is a place of calm made to be lived in as peaceful as you can.
After that, we would go to MICA, the college where I’m doing my MFA at this moment. It’s a wonderful place where my studio is located, and surrounded by other students studios full of sketches, cutouts, notes, unused artwork, and pieces of art just laying everywhere, it becomes inspirational knowing how much we can create. I would probably order some food to eat and talk there, without really caring about anything else. After that I would go to the Baltimore Museum of art to see what’s being displayed at the moment.
As someone that did not lived in the US I still get excited about some stores like Michaels, Marshalls (such a random place) and Target so we would totally head to those places to see if we find something interesting.
Hanging in the harbor and finding a good spot to have a picnic is a must, maybe at the Canton Waterfront Park. Drink a beer at Brass Tap since it has been the go-to place when I’m stressed.
Some of the people I would introduce is Whitney Sherman, the founding Director of the MFA in Illustration Practice program at MICA, Mai Ly, a teacher at MICA too, and my international friends from India and Pakistan. This amazing people have become important in this new life I’m making, as mentors or support system and friends.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A big part of what I am as a person and artist comes from reading latin american literature from the 1960s. Authors like Carlos Fuentes, Jaime Sabines and Rosario Castellanos really set a path in the way I understand emotions, so I owe them a lot with everything I create.

In a more contextual and personal way, my nuclear family has always saved me from deep emotional and psychological holes that have threatened my life. I wouldn’t be an artist, or even a person if it wasn’t for them.

Website: www.alejandrocanela.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/alejandrocanela

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