Marco Gallotta is an Italian born, New York City based artist mainly known for his powerful portraits, ranging from celebrities, to his friends (often they are both!). He mixes various medium, photographs, ink, collages and paper cutting to create unique artworks aiming at showing “people in their natural state”.
His work combines different influences from Nature (he worked as a guide in the Alps) to the glamour of the fashion world from his years at the Fashion Institute.
I had first discovered Marco’s work thanks to the blog askartists.org and was amazed by his portrait of Diandra Forrest, who had worked with my friend Soumountha Keophilavong, Founder and designer for anothergarde.com. Small world… I was thrilled to get a chance to meet such a talented artist and charming person! Thanks for your generosity in sharing your work with me…
Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s usually from nature. I worked as an Alpine Guide when I was young and even though I love NY, I have a strong connection with nature.
Did you have other artists in your family?
Yes, my uncle was a jazz musician and also a painter. My dad was a lawyer and an art lover. We would travel often and everywhere we went we would visit museums and art exhibitions, which gave me exposure to art.
You’re doing more than paper cutting. Can you describe your process?
It starts with an image: it can be a photograph that I took, a photo from a magazine, or a collage I did. Then I add paint or ink, sometimes wax and the paper cutting is the final step. I carve the paper with a scalpel and will usually follow my inspiration. I will go from 2 to 6 layers of paper for the final result, depending on the pieces. I don’t really have an outcome in mind, but I always have a message.
You’re mostly known for your portraits. What do you want to achieve when you create them? The human body is always a focal point in the cutouts. It is always a part of my work. I love the body. When I studied at the FIT we did spend a lot of time on the anatomy and it gave me a great technical background even if I don’t use it every day.
The layers represent something beyond the person’s outer image. The layers are a way to look at the person’s inner self. It represents who we are, not just what we look like.
I have a particular fondness for the portrait of the model Diandra Forrest whose story is very touching. Can you tell me more about it?
“Diandra and Rain” represent her and her baby. We shot her portrait in my living room! She’s an amazing person. Being an albino Black American she went through a lot before being a top Model. Now she is an advocate for different causes: she develops the awareness of Albinism and want to help other women who are struggle with their appearance.
The goal was to create a portrait inspired by the Italian Madonnas of the renaissance. It was shown in 2016 during the show Primary Obverse at One Art Space gallery in TriBeCa curated by Monica Watkins, founder of beautyforfreedom.org.
You worked on a portrait for Will Smith among many others celebrities. How did this happen?
I met and became good friend with a lady who happens to work with Will Smith… I first met with him on a movie set when he was shooting I am legend in NYC. Later we met again and he had been checking out my work. He liked it and eventually a few years later, I got the chance to create some pieces for him while he was shooting Concussion in Pittsburg. Over the years I got to know Will Smith and appreciate his talents. In addition to being an extraordinary actor, careful and methodical at work, he is also an extremely nice person.
You frequently work with the fashion industry. How did it start? Can you tell me more about your recent series about Chanel for Vogue.
After I studied at the FIT, I was a teacher there. One time Gap made an event and I met some people working for Vogue… that’s how it started!
The Chanel series was created for an event, which took place in the US. The goal was to tell the story of each perfume. For example one of the perfume contains lavender so a lavender field inspired my design. At first I made sketches with watercolor and ink and then did the paper cut versions. They liked the fact that everything was hand made at a time where a lot is done digitally. The Chanel series will be presented in my next show in Italy.
I’ve also worked with Vogue Italia who commissioned me some drawings as a background decor for a shooting.
How often do you work in Italy?
I spend every summer in Italy with my family, in my hometown of Salerno, where I have a studio. I keep some art there for shows and my collectors. My next show in March will be there too.
Is there a place for art lovers that you recommend to visit? There are many, but I was very interested in visiting the house and studio of Jason Pollock in the East Hamptons. He would paint on the floor, as you know projecting the paint. Then the floor was covered with a new surface and years later the covering was removed. The floor is a piece of art in itself and you can visit it in small groups. It’s quite fascinating to be where his art was created.
You support different charities. What does it mean for you?
I love what I do and I feel lucky that I am able to do this for a living. Along the way I thought, why do I do this? After collaborating with children’s charities and donating work to these organizations, I realized I could help and give back with my art.
To Follow Marco Gallota: marcogallotta.net