New York artist Alejandro Mazon describes himself as "Cuban by birth, Spanish by blood and American by choice."
He embraces the world's eclectic cultures, blending them into his creations in paintings, collage, found objects and constructed elements like vintage wallpapers and fabrics.
An exhibition of Mazon's work, titled Between Flesh and Spirit, opens Sept. 23 in the Fred Esvelt Gallery on the Columbia Basin College campus in Pasco.
Mazon, 51, told the Herald in a recent phone interview that he didn't start painting until 1990. And though he admires the work of masters Francisco Goya and Hieronymus Bosch, he has no idea where his inspiration comes from.
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"I just paint," he said. "That's the only way I know how to explain it."
One thing he does find enlightening is his 17th floor studio in Riverdale, N.Y., which is near the Bronx and Westchester, he said.
"I have wonderful light to work in there," Mazon said.
He believes his artistic creations tell stories that touch on many different cultures that all people can understand.
Like many Latin American artists, he has felt the lost feelings of exile, assimilation and rebirth, as well as triumph and struggle, all of which make up the foundation of his work, he said.
He was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1962, then moved to Madrid with his Spanish parents two years later. His family relocated to New York in 1974. He studied painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. But it wasn't until 1990 that he decided to start painting.
"My journey has taken me through so many cultures -- The Middle East, Africa -- but I don't like labels," Mazon said. "I'm a student of archeology as well as art history. It is difficult for Latino artists sometimes because the art world always wants to compartmentalize the work when it isn't necessary. I wish the art world would get over that."
He also considers himself fortunate to have gained success with his art sooner than he expected.
"I grew up being too Spanish for the Cubans, too Cuban for the Spanish and too Latino for the Americans," Mazon said. "You learn to look past all that and stay focused on the interesting memories, like my youth, and give that experience a voice through my art."
Mazon had planned to attend the opening reception at 2 p.m. Sept. 23 at the gallery but decided against it.
"I'm not keen on attending my own reception because it's all about the work, not me," he said. "Sure, I have an ego, but I'll never be a Warhol, and I'm OK with that."
The Between Flesh and Spirit exhibition continues through Oct. 24. The Esvelt Gallery hours are from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday. Admission is free.
w Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal