“I CUT PAPER TO SHARE EMOTIONS”
He has created portraits of famous people, from David Bowie to Lady Gaga, from Obama to Spike Lee. Marco Gallotta is an artist who creates works of art by cutting paper. Like a surgeon he gives life to faces under which the inner self lies hidden.
Marco Gallotta creates art from paper. He does so with devotion, attention to detail and an incredible aesthetic sense. He is an Italian from Battipaglia - in the province of Salerno. Marco chose paper to express himself and leave messages. He does not write on paper, but rather cuts it in a surgical way through the paper cutting technique that has now become his trademark. In his studio in Harlem, Gallotta chooses faces, some famous, some not. They are the central character of his work. Different faces sharing a sense of the extraordinary, not to be indifferent towards society. Marco Gallotta is indeed a portrait artist, who creates portraits in which the paper he uses is cut, assembled and superimposed, creating a unique effect that is not limited to just aesthetic, but becomes a metaphor of the human essence. Behind the layers of paper that he uses are glimpses of the purity of the ego and it is also for this reason that no portrait is the same. When using his scalpel to carve the works he creates, the cuts never follow a drawn line because his hand is led by sensations and spontaneity. The incisions that are created become in some way the pulsating veins of the piece. In New York Marco is in his element, fueled by the vitality that the city offers, but he’s managed to keep his Italian identity which has given him the culture of art and inspiration. Today his artistic language is global, intense and emotional, it’s enough to stop and observe to understand him.
From the Italian province to New York, from Battipaglia to West Harlem, what does this move represent in your artistic story?
When I chose to leave my city, I did it mainly because of a desire for adventure. I have always wanted to know new things, discover new places and experience cultures different from my own.
New York, with its multi-ethnic and multicultural life, has undoubtedly been the place that has allowed me to enrich myself and has played a very important role in my career. When I arrived in New York, at the end of the ‘90s, I started to visit artists, mostly illustrators, and from there I discovered a new world. The energy was incredible, the art was everywhere and in different forms. It is here, that, after a short break, I started drawing again. My subjects were no longer the landscapes of Trentino and Veneto, where I had spent earlier years, but the chaos of the metropolis with all its souls running around quickly. New York was - and still is - one of my greatest sources of inspiration. New York is the ideal stage for artistic expression, it is a rare place where the creativity of vast cultural movements converge, creating synergies and new stimuli. The emotions I feel watching what happens every day, the people and inspiring architecture, are reflected in my works. It’s unavoidable.
Paper is the material you have chosen to express yourself. What led you to prefer a fragile and distinct material like this?
I’ve loved paper since I was a kid. I remember that I often visited a friend’s father’s typography and I was happy. I could wander around pallets full of sheets of paper. There was the smooth paper, the rough, the colored, the parceled ... for me this place had something magical. Now I use any type of paper, photographs, pages of books, old movie posters, newspapers and magazines, paper that I find by chance. My excisions - which I carry out with blades, fire and waxes - alter the visual and written material, loading it with new meanings.
How did you work to innovate the papercutting technique?
My technique is the result of unceasing research and experimentation. My approach has been to transform an ancient technique, which has roots in the fourth century, and make it modern and above all unique. My work, like in a surgical operation, is carved with a scalpel. The result is a superimposition of images, to which I sometimes add layers of color and wax.
The cutting becomes the tool to create works of art. Do subtracting and overlapping become the formulas that deliver your personal vision of the world?
The goal of my cuts is to go beyond mere appearance and grasp the pure essence of my subjects. My works reveal the extraordinary and the meticulous cuts and the overlap of images are a metaphor to represent the fragmentary nature of the truth and its evolution.
You have portrayed famous people like Will Smith and Leonardo Di Caprio. How do you choose your subjects and what message do you want their faces to tell?
In some cases, like the Will Smith and Samantha Bee portraits were commissioned. In general, the subjects I choose for my works are united by the fact that each of them is committed to the community and the environment. Among the most famous portraits are Lady Gaga, Freddie Mercury, Obama and Spike Lee. Through my work I try to entice the observer to linger and study the meticulous details. My subjects are deconstructed and decomposed. The portrait thus becomes a medium through which the most intimate emotions of the subject are explored.
A desire to communicate a positive message emerges from your research as an artist. Does art have the power to change the world?
I do art not only for pure aesthetic appearance, but for the positive message that the viewer can grasp by viewing my work. I believe that even small actions can contribute to generating big changes. Quoting Paulo Coelho, “every action of a man is sacred and full of consequences.” I consider myself an artist engaged in social work, who makes art to build a better world. I often put my art at the disposal of charitable associations involved in various fields ranging from the fight against exploitation to human trafficking, to those committed to respecting and safeguarding nature.
Natural elements are a powerful thread through your works. Do you want to awaken an awareness of the environment around us through your work?
The theme of nature is often at the center of my works. In my art the relationship between man and nature is crucial. The subjects are often one with nature and the “cuts” are inspired by the elements of the wind, water and fire. The message I want to convey is a warning, to create a conscience on the importance of respecting our planet. Nature and man are one and the same. Man is nature and is part of everything that exists on earth. It is no coincidence that I lived in Veneto and Trentino working as a mountain guide, to then change direction and land in New York. In Trentino and in Veneto I had the opportunity to live in close contact with nature and to appreciate it in all its splendor.
What do you keep of your Italian background and what have you gained from your American experience?
Certainly I bring with me an innate sense of beauty that characterizes all of us Italians a little and that has helped me in the world of art and fashion here in the States. The link with Italy is always strong, despite having almost spent more years of my life here in New York than in Italy. I have created a solid bridge between New York and Italy and I often collaborate with Italian brands, galleries and institutions. I owe a lot to both. One taught me beauty, the other taught pragmatism and speed.