Feathers, Dreams and Femme-Fatales
The Art of Alfredo Quintana Garay
The allure of mayhem is ubiquitous in the work of artist Alfredo Quintana Garay – aka @Tinttorera. Running like a double-edged sword, chaos and propriety work hand in hand. Delivering a tour de force of dapper law men, foxy femme fatales, and imploding anatomical constructs, he weaves together figures with the precision of a surgeon and the derring-do of a dandy. He’s an artist who never takes himself too seriously. And a good thing too! The sheer volume of collage work reveals a mind at play. Nothing is discounted in a lexicon that includes cephalopods, Minotaurs, 1950’s Hollywood mavens, lightning bolts, Saber tooth tigers, Godzilla nor errant heifers.
VV.: Alfredo, what a pleasure to speak with you! I’ve admired your work for quite awhile. Please tell us – where did you begin?
AQG.: I was born on March 18, 1974, in Texcoco, a small city that is one hour from Mexico City. I started gluing things when I was in high school; first just pasting the women, cars and music that I liked. Then, after my first love was over (at seventeen), I began to write poetry (I was so sad!). I discovered the Surrealists around eighteen thanks to a book by Octavio Paz, so the way I was doing collage changed a lot. I was influenced by Max Ernst, Magritte and Dalí, and started to cut and paste in analog ways.
“I’m a mental hyperactive.”
VV.: You’re quite prolific. Is there a method to your madness?
AQG.: As Judy Davis said in a Woody Allen film, “I’m a mental hyperactive” so I constantly think about possible collages or verses.
VV.: What a coincidence that we’re both inspired by the written word!
AQG.: Since 2013, I began to work a lot on Photoshop and made one collage a day since then; it helps me to improve and to let the muse find me at work – as Picasso has said!
VV.: Let’s please cut to the chase. How did you land editorial gigs?
AQG.: I was an editor-in-chief of a popular magazine in Mexico, so using words and editorial stuff comes natural to me. Also, as a writer, I am constantly thinking of ideas and graphic design solutions, so it’s a natural bond. I love books and magazines so there are some collages that are conceived as pieces to be printed.
"I let chance do it’s work"
VV.: What’s your process?
AQG.: When I am illustrating an article or cover for a magazine, usually there’s a brief that helps me to begin looking for images that – by chance – will take me to unexpected ones. But with the collages I do, analog or digital, sometimes I begin with a phrase; for example,
for this one I came with the idea of making a cow with a bullet as a head (from a play on words in spanish), but it had evolved into a cow with a train as a head and the beginning of a series of collages with the letters of the alphabet and a poem with words that begin with that letter.
VV.: Don’t you just love where the creative process takes you?! Bravo! Themes such as eyes, women as octopi, animals and dream machines resurface. Is there a fixation?
AQG.: I’ve had a fixation with eyes for as long as I can remember. Many years ago, I had a dream that…that I was sleeping, then suddenly, I saw eyes falling very slowly from the ceiling of my room. When they were very close to my head, they got scared and hid back in the ceiling like crabs in the sand…When I was five years old, I used to have some hallucinations; for example, I was sure that little men were moving in the curtains.
“I saw eyes falling very slowly from the ceiling of my room…”
VV.: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! Your head is a constant movie reel! This description sounds like something out of a René Magritte painting or a tale from Franz Kafka! Your imagination keeps you young. What are your other interests?
AQG.: Obviously, I have an interest in birds, animals, women, human anatomy…that influences the results. It’s difficult to explain the process but it’s akin to “automatic” writing and to let the unconscious flow; the “objective chance” as André Breton explained it. Since I was a teenager, I used to have strange dreams or very surreal ones,…a dream recorder (iDream®?) will be the ultimate technological device.
VV.: Alfredo, I must confess, I wrongly assumed you were an analog artist.
AQG.: Right now, I divide my work 58% digital and 42% analog (or vice versa), but from 1995 through 2012, I was solely an analog collagist. Sometimes my digital collages resemble analog; they have an organic quality; at other times, I used to combine an analog source to begin a collage on Photoshop. But I prefer to cut and paste in the traditional way. I keep ready my mental (or real) scissors!
“It's difficult to explain the process but it’s akin to “automatic” writing…”
VV.: Would you say that your approach/style has changed over time?
AQG.: I think that my analog collages style is very similar to my beginnings…they are too rational sometimes, so I make an effort to go further and be more raw, more dadá. Usually I get better results when I am not trying to make a “perfect” collage.
VV.: Do you have a favorite series?
AQG.: In 2018, I worked on some classic analog collages where a woman is the main character. I think they look powerful and defiant, ready to attack!
VV.: What advice would you give to artists just starting out?
AQG.: To never stop creating. The best way to let the ideas and the images come to your head is to create constantly. Also is very important to investigate about collagists from the past and from the present, as well as all kind of artists so your brain gets fed. Cinema, music, travels, poetry, food, people, museums, cantinas… all helps to be “trained” for making collage and poetry indeed. It never stops.
VV.: You’ve hit the nail on the head and opened up a much needed narrative. So many artists are ignorant in art history: Collagists such as Jess, Anne Ryan, Romare Bearden, David Shrobe and Njideka Akunyili Crosby for example, blew the field wide open. So much of our everyday experience and wonder finds its’ way into our work. You and I are indeed, birds of a feather!