You can look into the eyes of Alexandra Pandolas and assume she’s thinking of art. You notice the black eyeliner wrapped around her pupils that match her long flowing jet black hair. She wears a fedora with a shirt that reads “Night After Night After Night” that goes well with her dark brown boots. You can’t miss that embedded in her skin is the ink that runs down the sides of both of her arms. The bird cage tattoo located on her ring finger completes the artist’s profile.
The way she speaks is an extension of her dress; passionate, engaging, loud, and swearing like a sailor. Her laughs even have a conspicuous ring to them. Loudest of all is her honesty. This is key to the woman/mother/poet/model/friend/lover/artist.
I met Alexandra through a mutual friend of ours, Annette Estevez. She showed me Alexandra’s art because she admired her art and recommended that we talk to have her featured on Cultation.
Summer of last year is when I first encountered Alexandra at an art gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Right away I noticed her big smile and infectious personality. During our first conversation, I found out that we went to the same elementary and middle schools, and that she lives 3 blocks away from where I live now in the Bronx. Oh how small the world is.
Beyond Cultation, there is now a friendship that Alexandra and I share. Whether through having a few drinks, partying, sitting in her room and talking, and almost getting arrested for trespassing, there’s plenty to get to know in the story of the artist.
The growth of the artist started at the tender age of three after returning from a trip to Costa Rica with her grandmother. As soon as she came back, the young artist grabbed a red and blue pen and drew a figure of a parrot that stuck in her mind during the trip. Since then, her parents started buying her art supplies.
“I just kept drawing. I remember sitting outside our apartment window, pull the curtains behind the back of my head and I would trace the corner street, the trees, the buildings, the mailbox, the people walking down the street and the cars. I would draw the day scene, the afternoon scene, and then the night scene. I would stay there for hours until my mother called me,” said Alexandra.
Because Alexandra wasn’t allowed to go outside often, the neophyte studied paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries of Greek Mythology books that belonged to her father. There she would find “beautiful, stunning portraits of Aphrodite and Zeus, and even studying marble sculptures from Rodin.”
After High School, Alexandra figured she’d go to college and major in English Literature, minor in Latin, and become a teacher. She figured it was the only way that she was going to make it because “art wasn’t a way to support yourself.” That was not the case.
“I know what I am. I’m an artist. Art is my life. It’s become my very being, my soul, my bread, my water, my air.” Sporting a glowing smile, she concluded her statement by saying “I couldn’t deny it. To deny being an artist was denying myself.”
At this point there was a momentous shift in the visual artist’s life. “I rebelled in what my parents taught and expected me to be. It was a time when I said to myself that I am not who I am. These expectations given to me is not who I am. I need to break free from it.”
This was the time that she spent every day painting, drawing, and sculpting for hours on end. “I would disappear for days because I would be in the park just sketching the people walking by, the people walking down the street and the textures of the grass, just anything.”
Even though she painted every day during this rebellious stage, Alexandra experienced a lot of troubles as she continued to grow as a person and as an artist. She went through a dark stage in her life that included not living at home as a result of not doing what was expected. As for her art, Alexandra says, “for a long time I used to feel pigeon-hold to do artwork that are pretty, beautiful and happy all the time.”
It was at this point when everything changed again. This time, it was the birth of her daughter Violet. “When she was born my whole life did a 180. She brought a light into my world, but she also taught me to embrace the darkness in a way that it was powerful enough that people can relate to it.”
Alexandra’s art has benefited from the books she studied in the past. “Realistic portraits of these Greek mythological figures have really translated in to what I do now.” She has a “profound obsession” with hyper-realism. It is one of her goals in life to become a hyper-realistic painter.
“Hyper-realism is a portrait that touches as close to reality as possibly can to the point where you can almost reach out and touch it.” She then adds “It captures a moment so sharp, you’ll think a photographer took the picture, but it’s not, it’s all done by hand. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about hyper-realism.”
There are stereotypes that exist with hyper-realism that you paint exactly what you see, but Alexandra leaves different undertones and layers to her paintings. She takes those stereotypes and complicates them by changing the reality through changing gestures. “I’m not only showing you how I see it, I’m showing you how I feel at the moment. They’re realistic, but I’m not capturing the person’s exact emotions. I’m making you stop to say ‘wait, that doesn’t seem right, that’s a contradiction.’ Politically it’s fun. It’s my satire as an artist.”
Another mark that the artist leaves is a “sense of decay.” She leaves her work unfinished because it adds questions to the painting. “I’ve come to embrace it over the years. I think it adds a certain beauty to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished. Leave it undone. Leave the viewer questioning what’s going to happen on the next one.”
In Alexandra’s mind, not that many people know how badly she really “wants it.” Her goal in art is not to be the next painter in Chelsea that sells paintings for 40 grand, but she wants to be the one that “when anyone walks by, no matter what the age group and they’re going to say ‘I know this person, that’s Alexandra’s piece. That’s Alexandra Pandolas.’”
The one thing that I can take away from my experiences with Pandolas is that she sees herself as a complete artist and that her art has not limitations. “I am my best artwork and I am still an artwork in the making.”
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