We had the good fortune of connecting with Barry Wolfryd and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Barry, how do you think about risk?
It’s an awkward tight rope to wake. Taking risks more than ever seems to be part of ones daily life. With the virus just going out onto the street is now a challenge. As an artist risk is just part and parcel of the carrier and life style. Risk is a double-edged sword. The circumstance and effects of decisions one takes measure our actions and motives; the challenges presented, the goals to accomplish and methods used. There is a psychic quality to taking risks both conscious and unconscious behavior are involved. It is sword that swings both ways. In the sense the results of ones actions and trails are both calculated and spontaneous. One of the two sometimes being more effective than the other and much depending on circumstance, effort and some luck! For sure much of my life without a doubt came down to taking big risk and on many occasions it was a spontaneous choice without thinking about consequences, results or others to be frank. It was more about the process and where it was going to take me without even having an emotional or cognitive map. But this is ART! When we stand in front of a canvas, a blank page, a block of stone we are on the perilous edge of risk taking. Even the artist or creative with a planned attack can not predict with certainty an exact out come. Art and life are not quantified by alga rhythms. Google and Tweeter may differ in their opinion. Jumping into the unknown is what risk demands. My move to Mexico to conclude my art studies was a major risk factor that helped to establish me in my profession. I had no idea what I was headed to or what was before me except for some vague romantic notions that soon disappeared 6 month after arriving. But I kept it up. Taking risks in a culture and language that wasn’t miner to own. Pushing limits on others and myself. Inviting people around me, friends, partners, and family on certain occasions to jump of the cliff with me, with or without the parachute! I’ve not played it safe for most of my life and perhaps this (without delving to much into my personal past) was a leading reason for risk taking. Many things have brought me to where I find myself presently. One was an old Volkswagen van, great mentors, people believing in what you are doing and allot of confidence. I bring up confidence because it is a factor that involves much risk. To put yourself out there, to expose your process and work to a community or public is the biggest risk that an artist takes. As part of my process, when I finish a painting, sculpture or any piece I must be able to risk knowing that the work is complete. To be able to stand in front of the work put down the brush and just wake away. This act of confidence must be communicated to the observer. The work needs to transmit risk. They must be able to perceive that moment in front of a blank canvas and the risk that it takes with the first stroke. Fundamentally I believe part of my nature is built on taking chances. We are all hot wired differently but having a grasp of how you work personally gives you certain advantages. I really think that my carrier surely would not have taken off without risking a “normal everyday” life. The biggest risk I find myself in presently is to just keep it up, the work, the process of creating. The temptation to play it safe as one gets to a certain level in their carrier is always present and an easy road to follow. Being more mature in the work doesn’t meaning that you stop taking chances. Looking for the predictable or what’s opportune. It means that even more you need to keep risking. To work with what’s unknown, the new, to experiment and use the accidents and mishaps as fortunate partners in the search for a new vision to see the world and what you can do with it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art concerns itself with the investigation into our humanity. I like appropriating symbols and icons from everyday life or popular culture. Some are universally recognizable and others are as common as a nail, just that they have inherent values that are overlooked in everyday life but when you change the content they are presented in they take on a more intense meaning or representation. The work is representational in nature although the backgrounds may have an abstract feeling to them. Color is important to me although I give great emphases on some black and white works, letting the different values of black and white tell the same story as a color piece. Working on three-dimensional pieces and object art has always been a great way to realize my vision and play in the context of non-functional pieces as art. Sculpture both in glass and ceramics have been a favorite over the last 8 years. Committing me to a more experimental approach to how I perceive things and how I want to express thought and idea. As an artist I feel it’s most important to stay true to your own personal vision and to keep experimenting with it. Growth can be slow but it is what one needs to do, to reach beyond your own limits and bounders. I feel most content and excited when a conceived idea takes shape and the act of creation explodes before me. It’s a sensual turn-on. An unexplainable feeling of connecting with the world, it’s just not about the journey of exploring but also about having eyes to see new horizons. I’m not sure what may sets me apart from other artist. Our visions and work are very personalized. And how it reaches an audience is not so much under our control. A lot is delegated and in the hands of others that set standards whether economic or esthetic. Even with the new on line platforms alga rhythms are now locating how your art gets projected and to whom. As creative people we need to be true to the work, and ourselves, be persistent and tenacious about the battles we choose because the challenges are many. In the movie Field Of Dreams, to paraphrase the quote “build it and they will come” seems to hold true up to a certain point. But in the end great social skills come in handy. Off the easel it’s not about the art, it’s about the art of market. We (artist) didn’t invent the system by which we live and work in but it makes good sense to understand the pitch on which we play in order to make better goals. Yes, it was a difficult road to walk but full of great unknowns, which I love. I believe one has to be born with or have an inherent nature for this profession. You need to be able to hear the poetry in yourself and around you. Have no mistake; poetry is not synonymous to beauty and tranquility. On the contrary, true poetry is about truth, abstract or real and that is it. Undoubtedly this is one of the biggest lessons learned on the road, to hear the poetry and learn what to do with it. The greatest challenge was how to connect the dots, how to make what was in my head come out through my hands and create something intelligible and something to share. It’s not so much what I want the world to know about me but what I want to share with the world and others. I would like and hope to bring a small amount of awareness to an audience about the complexities of our humanity. My work, my vision involves allot of tough love. My story or my perception of the horizon is only as good as my ability to tell it. I would hope that anyone viewing a piece of mine would find some value in it that reminds them of their own life and circumstance and simple say, “I get it.” That is what any of us can ask. To make a connection with another human being…the world would be a better place!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Fortunately I live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world for art, Mexico City. It’s not hard to entertain friends when they come and visit: The city is so diverse and complex a week seems like such a limited time here. To get a sense of the city and the countries background I would take my friend to the Museum of Anthropology. That is a daylong event. The museum offers an opportunity to understand and discover Mexico’s culture both past and present. The first day should end with a trip to a local cantina in the historic center for drinks and food. Then in the evening walk the streets amongst the colonial architecture and get a feel for the scale and grandeur that was the Virreynal period of the city. The tour for the week would consist of a visual overload. This is a walking city with over 100 museums and other cultural activities from Luca Libre to Opera. We would be visiting the Tamayo Museum, Carrillo Gil Museum, Museum House of Frida Kahlo The MOMA, The National Palace of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) at the national university where the mid century architecture is world famous for the murals on the building facades. Each one of these museums is in an area or neighborhood uniquely it’s own. There would be parks to stroll through, 18th century colonial neighbors such as Coyoacan and San Angel. Lunches and dinners in the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods, where there are still many examples of 19th and early 20th century Neo Classic homes and buildings as well has a large display of Art Deco architecture. We would pepper in nights at Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling), the National Ballet and a few mescal bars. Exploring local foods and markets is a must. Street food in Mexico City is varied and extremely good. Delicacies such as Barbacoa, Carnitas and tacos de pastor will be on the menu. The markets are wonderful to explore. Besides the traditional farmers markets there are specific ones, some dedicated to just flowers and plants, toys and handicraft and others where traditional medicinal plants and herbs are sold, places for Santeria and white magic. One day of the week would be dedicated the exploring the ruins of Tenochtitlan the ancient Aztec capital in the heart of the city. And of course a day trip to Teotihuacan to scale the pyramids of the Sun and Moon. I would be dragging my friend of to other artist studios and galleries. The contemporary art scene here is over the top and can’t be missed. On other occasions friends that have come to visit for a week never get on the return flight. A week is impossible and after more than 40 years here I still haven’t seen it all.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow, the list is long!Let’s start with my parents who always encouraged me to be different. High school friends and the 60’s where we all wanted to be different than the norm. Burt Cherknow, head of the art department at Housatonic Community College, where I picked up my first carbon stick. William Turner, professor of English at UNC who read poetry on a mountaintop. John DuRant, super best friend I met when I arrived in Mexico who inspired me to be more renaissance in my life, to all the ex lovers and partners that shared moments in time with me because they brought things to the party. I owe much to my wife Patricia Ruvalcaba, creative journalist who has helped me to keep my focus and has encouraged me at her own risk. To my children Marek (great artist as well) and Belkis (fantastic mother) who have shared this journey and have taught me much about my life, my brother Rick, who as an artist has inspired me to be diligent. To all my colleagues with whom I have done so many projects and exhibitions, to great sponsors such as Jose Pinto, Jorge Vasquez and Gabriel Herrera that believed in the work. To the promoters and galleries; Aldo Flores, Gerardo Traeger, Isabel Serrano, Nickey Barbazet and Alcides Fortes that have helped to project to work. To the critics and curators like Jose Manuel Springer and Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros whom have always encouraged the work with their words. And to all the people I see and meet everyday in the street or when I travel that inspire me, just because they are there.
Other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyWqK8frzRE&ab_channel=TRAEGER%26PINTO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz8NIxiCWEo&ab_channel=MILENIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oVHCCl0W3c&ab_channel=ArtLatinou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hZlUaKUXbs&ab_channel=TramediaServiciosaudiovisuales