Years ago I was introduced to the technique of light painting and thought it was very Caravaggio in style. Painting a scene with light seemed so quiet and technical that anything else seemed loud. Felix Quintana, however, has taken to painting with light in his own unique way, one in which has a style I've never seen before and can have so many definitions or rather explanations.
Like any recent graduate one finds ways of obtaining the desired visual effect without spending a fortune on gear. Following him one night on the street I noticed that there were elements he was in search of and spots he was mentally cataloging for his next visit. Filing away an underpass, an overhang, a new sculpture that had just the right color were all being tucked away in his mental library.
Armed with his tripod, a small light and his digital camera, Quintana travels the streets of Los Angeles in search of specific items, a scavenger hunt, if you will. Arches, colors, angles and heights all play into a mental picture that has missing pieces only these structures can fill in. The structure and the light painted only a specific way by Quintana.
There is a determination in his demeanor that says "I will make it, just be patient with me." I can see that he is crafting his skills and accumulating the knowledge that he knows he needs to take the next step in his artistic evolution. A step that will take time, persistence and passion, all of the things Quintana already possesses.
Light is the basic principle of my medium (photography), and the most advanced way to make my mark. It extends into all areas of my life, from the daily ritual of opening my blinds, to the unique way it reacts on my sensor. There is a lineage of image-makers who have felt light as I do, which allows me to believe it is essential to of all great works of art, and vital to our natural surroundings.
You have a tendency to work with models but not in the traditional sense of the word. How does the inclusion of a human element change the way you work and how does it alter the process of creation?
I choose to have a positive relationship when I work with a model, as opposed to separating the connection between photographer and subject, on site or in the studio. My work with the human figure seeks to break down prejudice way may arrive to with straight photography, and simplify what meets the eye. In a sense, my work would be impossible to make without the human element, as I am deeply moved by all cultures, and individuals.
Some of your imagery has Paleolithic qualities. Is this intentional? How did this start to manifest in your work?
The basic interest of mark making is historically rooted in graffiti, and I do wish to expand on this tradition as an image-maker. I tap into areas of primitive culture because it is a part of being a photographer for me. I sustain the right to traverse through time and space with my work, and connect them to the 21st century.
You recently acquired a studio to work on your practice. Can you explain how this has affected your process and the need to have a separate space from your home to create?
In my undergrad, I was fortunate to share a space with painters, soon nurturing a responsibility toward my art practice. Having recently acquired a studio in Boyle Heights — amongst glassblowers, photographers, and painters — has been a fantastic milestone for my work. It is a privilege to dedicate a space to my process, and has allowed me to work amongst true professionals in their respective fields. It has humbled me to maintain a commitment to my work, and dedicate time at home to my family.
Is there something about the darkness that speaks to you?
Not necessarily. Rather, I am much more interested in what may come from it. To me, a space with an absence of light is one with great potential. Currently, I work at night because it allows me to extend the control of a traditional studio setting onto the world, and it’s gross materiality. Like a painter begins their work from a white surface, I begin with void — and sculpt my world with my unique light.
You do a fair amount of imagery involving the streets. What about the streets attracts you?
I was born and raised in South East Los Angeles, and the streets provided me with room to grow, and endless paths to travel. My attraction toward metropolitan areas, graffiti, and the L.A. lifestyle was not something I could have ever asked for, but has provided me a license to explore. I want to bring light to what we sometimes overlook on Alameda, Imperial, or Cesar Chavez Blvd -- from riots on the street, or an organic, element thriving in the city.
Having just graduated from Humboldt State University, with a BA in Studio Arts, and now you are back in Los Angeles where you grew up, did you find the nature like environment of Humboldt added something new to your vision?
Studying Photography in a renowned environment like Humboldt County allowed me to engage with artists, writers, and professors with similar visions, encouraging me to commit to my unique path as a photographer and young artist. Leaving Los Angeles made me respect its complexities, while studying at HSU gave me time to understand it, and the right to explore. If my voice once had a limit in Los Angeles then Humboldt allowed me to sing the song of experience.
After taking a look at some of your images the word composition is not what comes to mind but you do invest a great deal of time layering and piecing together your images. What is the average amount of time you spend on a piece?
My process of layering photographs is rooted in being the director, and actor of my technique. Like a painter who makes one mark after another on a canvas, I choose to build upon my marks. Constructing my images has been as intuitive, and free as a three-hour session. For my scenic compositions, they typically entail 24+ hours split between researching, writing, observing and photographing — but who is counting?
Is the process of these pieces inspired through an idea or environment that dictates the finished image?
My primary goal is to feel great joy in what I do, and let a certain idea, phrase, or feeling create an image through the lens, or become a key asset to a composition I may be working on. The music the I am listening to may very well inspire me to challenge myself, and the company I keep helps me stay focused, and not stray off into making work that is simply a bore, or perhaps barely art.
Do you plan to continue with using light as a tool or do you want to experiment with other forms of elements in your work?
Yes, I do plan on exploring the potentials of light painting within my work. Structurally, I am very interested in releasing my photographs from the archival printing tradition, and making them more accessible to my city, family, and friends. The relationship between still photography and moving images is naturally an element I can explore, but currently choose to stay focused on art and photography.
What is next in your work? Exhibitions? Events? Grad School?
My work is simply beginning to emerge, and I will do my best to let it blossom naturally. This means spending most of my days on the East side, and doing what I love, and sustain the right to do. I have recently been invited to show at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, and hope to show more in the future. My most intimate and profound goal is to attend graduate school, and I will be applying for MFA programs in the coming of weeks. I hope to one day teach through photography. Whether in the classroom, or on high-rise billboards, I will work hard to make this true.