The Artist’s Dialog: Part I

“Layer by layer art strips life bare.” ~ Robert Musil


What makes an artist tick? What drives a creative entrepreneur behind the scenes? Who is the less polished gem hidden from public view? And what would understanding that background do to inform you as a partner, collaborator, collector, or client?

All artists have layers. Art and the creative process can reveal different parts of our personality. Layers of vulnerability, meaning, contradiction, and purpose that, as you peel layers away on a journey toward the center, we get more concentrated, getting down to the essence of who we are and the pinnacle of our why. Why do we create? Why do we express the kind of emotions and ideas that we do? Why do we do what we do?

This new series is an ongoing conversation, intent on asking questions and examining personal perspectives that we don’t normally share in either the fine art or commercial space. Why do we do what we do as artists from a more personal standpoint through the lenses of traumas, victories, vulnerabilities, confidences, fears, and aspirations? Why are we frustrated with the gatekeepers and hidden processes for success? What is the language of exclusion leveraged in these spaces?

In advance, this dialog is a conversation that is shared from a point of being authentic and unrefined, an exploration in sharing, taking risks, challenging each other’s assumptions to build a relationship, awareness, and mutual respect.

I believe that any meaningful creative endeavor must push a person or medium forward on the journey of understanding, evolving, and reaching toward our potential. How can our dialog enhance and exceed expectations in new ways of mutual understanding? 

What we are endeavoring to share is more than just a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative process: it’s about becoming unmasked and unfiltered – to be better understood as creators and human beings.

Likewise how can we subvert expectations to deliver something completely unforeseen, uncomfortable, and potentially groundbreaking?

AK: Artists often face a vicious cycle that struggles to balance the private and commercial. The cycle reflects both an inner conflict and social dilemma. 

We create  because we can’t do anything else. We make it our career to create. On one hand there is a personal imperative that drives us to create, and on the other a social expectation dictating we must “be something” that we must associate ourselves with some kind of job, trade, career, style, sphere of work, or medium. More often than not we allow ourselves to be identified in this manner. 

LA: This conversation is also very likely counterproductive to selling anything. It will share opinions that will engage, enlighten, uplift, and may also upset and offend some readers, partners, collaborators, and clients. Depending on your background, upbringing, social circles, or perspective what we share here may at times be uncomfortable, provocative, dark, or profane.

After all: art isn’t always beautiful, is it? It isn’t the beautiful parts of life that inspire art: it’s truth and nature, both of which tend to show us exactly what we, and the world, are, rather than what we perceive ourselves to be.​

LA: Even if we lived in a world devoid of social qualifiers, elitist gatekeepers, corporate-driven results, and fiscal / investment analysis, you would still find an artist in nature creating art simply because – the act of creating is the essence of life for us. Its outcome is simultaneously our parent, child, teacher, epiphany, ecstasy, and our greatest agony. It is more than how we communicate our innermost thoughts to the world, it is also how we communicate with ourselves. Our language of expression and sustenance is not only the beautiful, but also the strange, the dark, and the unidentifiable – capturing the expression of ideas beyond the constraint of linear and physical forms (the abstract). 

AK: As we begin the conversation, I’d like to touch on the fact that you are a person who typically defies easy identification. You have been or currently are a business owner, carpenter, farmer, gardener, sculptor, potter, producer, project manager, creative director, global traveler, and general explorer. You tend to desire to buck the trend that you have to fit in a specific mold as a creative or manager, fine artist or commercial artist. 

"Our language of expression and sustenance is not only the beautiful, but also the strange, the dark, and the unidentifiable - capturing the expression of ideas beyond the constraint of linear and physical forms (the abstract)."

As a person who identifies himself as an entrepreneur, experience designer and consultant - Why do you think we feel the need to leave our work-art on the desk and return home to our personal-art?

"Fine artists and commercial artists are constantly examining what is happening in front of them. They are having an internal dialog, making choices and compromises in their own cosmic space of creation."

LA: First, as a person who believes everything is interconnected, I don’t necessarily agree with the conventional thinking that compartmentalizes creativity into the purely fine art or commercial, that managers or engineers are any less creative than artists. They are all equal and express themselves in their own beautiful ways that are mutually beneficial, like Yin and Yang, thay exist in various forms of balance.

For the purpose of this conversation, let’s focus on art. I don’t ascribe to the idea that we must leave one form of creation behind to do the other, nor are they equal or one more worthy than the other. I see them as different modalities of expression, much as we articulate different emotional states or thoughts. Further I observe that it is one’s belief system that influences how one chooses to define these expressions.

I believe the single biggest distinction in the emotive mind between the concept of fine art and commercial art is the notion of compromise. 

The generally accepted perspective is that the fine artist is superior because he/ she / they will not dilute their vision for the ability to market their work, and that somehow the commercial artist is less passionate about what they do to bring their ideas to fruition. Compromise in this context indicates sell out, dilution, decay, lesser value. In fine art compromise is bad, in a collaborative work situation, and in relationships it’s a gold standard. What does this dichotomy or contradiction say about our society?

Fine artists and commercial artists are constantly examining what is happening in front of them. They are having an internal dialog, making choices and compromises in their own cosmic space of creation. As this extends beyond their emotional and physical presence they are also in dialog with their collaborators, community, audience’s, and commission’s (aka client) wishes. Commercial artists are equally passionate very often fighting, having to fight above and below themselves for their vision regardless of the impact to their bottom line. 

This brings up an important aside about what we believe and how it affects our sense of reality, or perhaps better stated what we believe to ascribe to as our reality.

There is an interesting dichotomy in the community of fine arts, elite critics, investors, and collector community, which stands outside of the artists themselves. I see them somewhat like vampires fawning over a romantic vision of suffering, feeding on the schadenfreude of people who starve, have emotional breakdowns from deep depression, or who die from material or chemical excess. Typically this elite audience wants nothing to do with the artist when they are alive, yet after the artist has entered the ether, respond enthusiastically by driving the value of the artist’s work to excesses when critics and connoisseurs can lavish multisyllabic terms and meaning to work. 

Whispers of the soul – oil – 72” x 24”

On the contrary, god forbid an artist become mildly successful during their lifetime, in many ways it is seen as contrary to their validity and integrity. For an artist to understand their audience, to outsmart the market gatekeeping forces, to have a solid business model, to understand marketing, and be a responsible career person is considered anti-ethical to these people. 

Burning Man is an interesting example illustrating this question of the fine art and commercial- do we do one or the other, or are they intertwined? Must we leave one behind to do the other? What identity we choose to assign to them is or may be influenced by what we choose to believe or how deeply we wish to analyze the situation.

I believe that the Burning Man organization is a creative platform for artists and creators that manifests itself as something of an art theme park / experiential festival driven by acts of premeditated and spontaneous real time co-creation. 

The Burning Man organization have a spatial perimeter, sell tickets, put on epic shows, utilize substantial engineering, safety systems, large scale infrastructure, permitting, a marketing department, an operations staff, executive salaries, profit structures, sell intellectual property licensing rights, possess a website, legal representation. and have established a complete global business hierarchy – yet they say that they are beyond money and commercial interest. I say great for them – they have done something remarkable by bringing art, purpose, learning, human potential, and commerce together. To say that they are not commercial or financially motivated is both an overt lie and contradiction. One does not exist here without the other. 

“We make spaces of permission.” “We make memories” What do you believe? Which company do you attribute these statements to? Is one right or wrong? Does it matter? IS one good because it is considered fine art or one bad because it is considered commercial? What happens to this expectation when they coexist?

I believe the true power in this life is for us to gain an understanding that we must learn to possess the ability to change this reality through the use of energy. One example of that ability to change reality is by sharing an idea that we believe in – and getting others to agree to that idea and belief system. This is why ideas are so dangerous – and why tyrants, authoritarians, kings, and militants have killed people with them throughout history.

Science is driven by ideas, yet technically should be beyond them (using reason versus emotion). Religion and government are ideas used to control the masses, they construct a set of rules that create the guardrails of a common social reality.

In today’s world I see that we are all putting a curated reality out to others, which amounts to a large cascading collective mythology and in some cases overt lies. Social media is a curated reality – the greatest hits of our lives. Money is a curated reality – the dollar is really only green paper has no real value other than we collectively all agree to believe it does. Monogamy, marriage, and life long milestones (like buying a house and raising children) are deeply rooted curated realities – social constructs that the vast majority of us ascribe too.

The truth is that marriage is nothing more than accepting and attributing a set of behaviors and patterns to someone you know, that you think you can align with and live with long term with. It is based on an assumption of predictive behavior of the partner you are forming a personal contract with. Again – it is about what you agree to believe. (This is also one of the reasons why div0rce is ugly – it means your belief system was wrong and people do not like to recognize that they were wrong in doing something so major). 

"In today’s world I see that we are all putting a curated reality out to others, which amounts to a large cascading collective mythology and in some cases overt lies."

It all comes down to what you believe, what others in your community are willing to believe, your nation state, and believe as a collective species.

A problem with this curated reality of collections of groups of people who sew division is that it’s often quite ridiculous, ego driven, social capital, and financially motivated. The language and behavior of gatekeeping amongst groups is used to construct, frame, and teach belief systems like the one above that divides the value of fine art and commercial art by things such as compromise, client, and intent. 

As a person who straddles the fine art and commercial realm, and the digital and physical world I am tired of the arrogance from film makers, lower quality artists, and circus performers telling me how much better their work is than our industry’s -and how much more meaningful they believe it is. 

Japanese inspired tea vessels– ceramic / raku

Likewise. I have the same disdain for all the self absorbed people in the entertainment industry who think they are some kind of 007 secret suave spy because they did a job at Disney, Universal, or Warner Brothers a decade ago. Who cares what you did 10 years ago with somebody else’s money and IP? What are you doing yourself that adds the value of expression in humanity? 

None of you are no better than anyone else, yet all of you run around with a chip on your shoulder like you are artistic martyrs with a Jesus complex. I don’t ascribe to any of it. 

We are all artists with an opportunity to shape hearts. minds, and souls. I see both forms teaching and influencing the other, both as halves of the whole. There is no black and white, right or wrong; it’s about balance and compromise. A dialog with yourself, the material, and the viewer. 

The most important thing in my life is the freedom to choose. I don’t want to live by the rules of gatekeepers, corporate entities, social circles, and expectations.

There is an inner conflict – you need some of those things to achieve what you want – you need money, influence, champions, and believers to make a change in the world. Freedom itself can be contradictory. The inner conflict can fuel energy, expansion, and change as well as anger, urgency, and fear – like a rat forced into the corner in a cage. 

It’s about seeking out balance, learning what that means and constantly being in pursuit of it. Really I stink at it, but I keep trying, keep learning, hoping to get there one day.

As motivation and guides on that journey I keep asking what are you doing now to advance your ideas and mind? How does what I have to say, create, or contribute leave a legacy to a person, community, or the planet?

If I attain any kind of “success” (I am not sure I understand how to define what that really means) what am I going to do with that 1, 5, 10 minutes? Am I going to make a difference in the world or be self-indulgent? 

I try to love by a few simple principles:

Do the right thing.

Do it better – keep expanding learning, reimagining, reinventing yourself, reaching for your utmost potential.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other daily – keep moving forward eleven when you re going backwards. 

Never give up.

Returning to where we started – I think it’s all about what you believe. 

What are you? And what does your body of work privately and commercially represent?

LA: As I see it life is an act of creation. It is energy in a myriad of forms, the matrix is before us, it is us, and we are it. The journey of life is a river, ever meandering. It is a series of events, impressions, and transient moments. 

The embodiment of that journey is a constant state of discovery and pursuit of knowledge – always trying to learn to see what is before you, how to read, interpret it, respond to it, learn from it, evolve, reach, grow, on and on. It is a collection, a sum of its parts, every act building on another, each influencing the other in a web of inter relation. 

Can we calm our minds at the center of time – to be in the now – long enough to reach out and achieve even the remotest touch of a sliver of enlightenment.

I am a restless explorer. An explorer in search of questions and a self-actualization that may never provide answers or a finite conclusion.

I am in a race. How can I discover my potential, rise to it, exceed it? How can I create a body of work that has impact, meaning, and value to those who will follow me?

My work represents a deep internal conflict between the good versus the profane that exists within me. 

My work is a reflection on who I was, my own illusions of what that means or does not mean, and an aspiration of who and what I want to become. Depending on where I am mentally and spiritually at the time, this journey and conflict drives me to explore and express myself in different mediums that elicit a response for that emotion or energy at that time. 

Whether that ve through fire, light, color, texture, or symbolic means, it is all an expression of that energy that is present within me and in need of release, both dark and light.

How do I lie to myself through time? When am I at my fullest peering into the truth of who and what I really am? Am I real or a delusion, a construct I have created in my mind? Is it the darkness or the light that I am destined to reflect?

It is definitely both that make the whole, with a preference for the light. I want whatever my legacy I may eventually leave to uplift people, be a vehicle for them to transform their understanding of themselves; and elevate an emotional understanding within them –– not to devalue them or put people down. When my art is dark, it is an expression of that part of my soul, and the battle to understand what that is articulating, where it comes from, form a relationship with it, and find peace with those demons to move collaboratively forward. 

I exist in this form, at this time. I feel very emotionally aware that I am only a form of energy organized in this manner inhabiting an infinitely miniscule point on the spacetime continuum; I am only exhibiting space on part of something that makes up a much greater whole. I have no idea if that is a transcendent state, inner cosmology, a spiritual construct, or part of a spatially organized universe, or chronology of interdimensional reality of what we identify as time. 

I stand at the center of whatever that is, all that which is before me, and all that is yet to come. What lesson is it I am supposed to learn this time around? What am I becoming attuned to? And what am I missing that I should be seeing?

If we think of the height of Greek culture, we are only talking about a period of 10 -20 years which was this apex of human cognition offering a well of ideas, inspiration, and emotions that have captured the lives, imagination, and behaviors of eons and millions. Through their words, art, music, constructs, math and other manifestations, we have folded the linear / spatial organization of the universe as we understand it (or tell ourselves that we do) to commune in dialog with these creators and thinkers across space and time. (Interestingly enough time and numbers don’t actually exist, they are entirely abstract, only existing as accepted attributes and absolutions in relation to the description of other objects, whether that be a fruit or a civilization). Physically, we are still breathing that same air, walking the same paths, and drinking the same water as the greatest generation of Greeks did. 

I am in pursuit of a better self, although I don’t know what that is to be defined as. I feel a deeply urgent perceived pressure that is defined, lit, and pushed forth by a constraint that I am fighting to exceed, to liberate, to become my free and true self. It is the fire to burn that which was, which is, which will be reborn anew, and to live to burn it down again and again and again – each time improving and exceeding the previous state. I live to die. I enjoy peering into fear and the face of self-destruction. I say Fuck you in exaltation, rage, and love. It is the fire that burns within me. Characterized by rebirth, reinvention, and renewal I am propelled on an endless journey toward continuous growth, expansion, and optimism. 

Are we  following those same truths and motivations? 

What is truth in general? What is my truth? What am I? Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I  reach my truest potential when I am unsure what that is as it is continuously evolving. I am on a quest for knowledge and understanding, unable to rest in the moment. It is a journey of continual transformation and a pursuit of discipline. I am a person in a constant state of distraction, my mind reaching out at all times in all directions. I lack the personal discipline at this time to achieve stillness and peace. It is a sign of my energy, perseverance, fragility, and weakness simultaneously.

I believe art is a gift for humanity, even when it depicts darkness. It is a dialog with the artist in a timeless experience. I hope to convey an emotion, to express, inspire, and motivate a call to action in the participant and viewers through interaction with the intervention.

I am often asking myself if it is the process I love, or the outcome? Perhaps the end result is realizing that it’s the journey we live for instead of the destination itself. I find myself defined by my work, attributing value to what I learn, manifest, and share on the journey. Once I’ve completed this part of me is present, it lives, it represents a period. I see the previous me, and part of my energy manifested. The old Louis  sacrificed to allow my rebirth to where I am now. I must do the same for the Louis who does not exist yet. Who will I die trying to give birth to?


At its core what do you want the artifacts of this creative effort to do or be?

LA: I believe, or would like to hope, that the thread that connects my body of work is to inspire the spirit of humanity by bringing beauty and meaning into the world by bridging art, observation, technology, nature, culture, commerce, activism, sadness, fear, fight, perseverance, love, and joy.

AK: Commerce? Really? Isn’t that counterintuitive to art, nature, and activism?

LA: I don’t believe so. From my perspective everything is interconnected. Much of what inspires us creatively today, that we see as the bedrock of expression and creative mediums, is the result of varying forms of commerce, belief systems, hierarchies, and civilization from those who lived before us.

Hengdian World Studios – Collaborative piece 3D architectural model Chris Howe / Digital Paint Louis Alfieri

Journey to Atlantis– Sea World Orlando – Foam, FRP, Imron

Beyond that, I accept that art creates art. Stories are ideas, wellsprings of inspiration, which often revolve around a call to action. As an audience, we can observe that passively and or interactively. 

In the rhythms of life everything is always in motion, energy organizing in structural formats that are undergoing a constant state of change. Seed to sprout, sprout to sapling, sapling to tree, tree to dormancy, dormancy to death, death to nutrients, and so forth. Environment can influence this rhythm, altering the relationship, for example trees that grow on windswept ridges are shaped by that location and those winds. 

Humans, animals, and perhaps to a different extent, insects follow that same path. It is assumed (right or wrong) that the power of choice and intention are part of the human condition. Karma, the birth of awareness, cognoscente thought, collective understanding, common truths (now under question in the age of absence of truth), empathy, choice, cause and effect are all extensions of this condition. 

Civilizations seed and inspire subsequent civilizations, or the varying cycles and states of what civilization is commonly understood to represent.  There is a huge difference in my mind to the value and brilliance of native culture, which lived in balance with its surroundings, versus the modern articulation of civilization which lives to dominate its surroundings. There is a misplaced sensibility that since modern culture has followed and superseded native culture that it is somehow superior. While I am happy to live in this time period with its trappings, I think all of life on this planet would benefit greatly if we were to relearn from our native forbears how to love in balance with each other and all of the beautiful glory of and life that surrounds us. We are all too blind to the wonder of what surrounds us.

Sculptural vessels – ceramic / raku

The next addition of the artist's dialog

In the next entry of the Artist’s Dialog, we continue onward with Louis through his own creative process, including the influence of his personal work versus professional projects. Louis breaks down the manifestation of essence, matter, and content, as well as the intention of his artwork.

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