This interview is featured in Issue 3 of Agave Magazine, which will be released June 1, 2014. Subscribe here to get your free copy delivered directly to your inbox.
Agave Magazine is proud to announce our very first Artist-in-Residence, Tony Luciani. Tony’s artwork has been a captivating staple of Agave so far: we introduced the magazine to the world with his painting, “Chiesa di San Francesco”, on the cover, and “Wonder Woman” stopped readers in their tracks in Issue 2. Influenced by the Renaissance Masters as well as Antonio López Garcia, Käthe Kollwitz, and Lucian Freud, his immense technical talent is rivaled only by his instinctive ability to elicit powerful emotional responses. In this first interview, Tony discusses drawing as an underrated art form, art as compulsion, and his ultimate goals.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: Do you prefer to paint or draw?
TONY LUCIANI: Drawing, without a question. For me, it’s much more immediate and rewarding, whereas my paintings can take months, with no guarantee of success. I love the variable grey tonalities of the charcoals. Drawing has had a history of being identified as inferior to painting, with works on paper usually labelled as sketches or preparatory studies. I’d like to think that worked-out compositions, details, tonal values, depth and the overall thought process can give more for the viewer to absorb than just a finished canvas. I want to see the whole story, not just the credits at the end. And besides, I’d like to think my drawings stand up for themselves, even without a final painting.
I was going to say my most challenging piece was my most compositionally complicated, but I will go the other way with it and say "Wonder Woman" was the one. It was a work that was very personal and meant to subdue the heart-wrenching stress I was going through with my partner’s breast cancer. The work was never meant to be shown. It was of a beautiful person who was being stripped of her dignity: right breast removed, hair fallen out, yet the simplicity of life and survival was hopefully captured in her eyes and body language. The earrings symbolized that she still was a woman no matter what was taken away.
You have created a strict work schedule for yourself that demands dedication. What motivates you to do what you do?
I don’t think of it as “motivation” as such. I feel it is more of a need. Of course I love what I do, and creating something from nothing gives me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. That last sentence reminds me of what a minister friend told me years ago as we played our weekly game of chess together. After a couple of chess moves in the quiet of a summer’s night, he said, “Tony, I look at your art, and now I feel I can almost relate to what God must have felt when He created something from nothing.” A bit of an exaggerated analogy on his part, but nonetheless, for me, a compliment. And yet sometimes, the motivation comes with the fear of not knowing what else I want to do, or can do.
What would you like viewers to gain from your art?
I can’t expect that every work I do will give the viewer a feeling. That’s not realistic. Though my objective is to transfer the understanding from thought to the sensation of ‘hum.’ That’s the feeling in the gut verses the nit-picking of the brain. Those head-scratching summations are best left to the art critics.
What do you personally hope to achieve through your work?
For me? Meaning. For others? Meaning.