By Jorge Fuentelsaz
New York, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- With her spray paint cans in hand and mask secured, New York-based Spanish artist Laura Álvarez is working on her latest commission, which is to decorate a Bronx bar terrace in her style of natural motifs and vivid colors.
This style also adorns her take on a flag for the Bronx borough, which now flies alongside hundreds of others at the Rockefeller Plaza.
Her design rubs shoulders with others from the likes of Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera and Americans Jeff Koons, Brian Donelly — better known as KAWS — and Jenny Holzer as part of an initiative for creatives to capture what the city means to them.
Taking a brief pause in her work, Álvarez tells Efe about her inspiration behind the design.
“For me, New York, more than Manhattan, is the Bronx,” the Valencia-born creative, who has resided in the northern borough for 11 years, says.
As a foundation for the design, she turned to the model of the original flag of the Bronx, which bears the crest of the Bronck family, the neighborhood’s founders.
The crest features a sun peeking over a maritime horizon, an element Álvarez expanded in her style on top of which she overlayed the decidedly modern abbreviation for the borough, The BX.
Unsurprisingly, given her repertoire, Álvarez’s design was inspired by nature.
“I’ve always been very ecological,” she tells Efe. “And I’ve always been concerned about the environment.”
She confesses that her dream as a teenager was to help save the whales with the NGO Greenpeace.
When Álvarez first arrived in the United States, she was taken aback by the “throw-away society” and now uses her art in a bid to “wake people up” given that, in her opinion, there was little discussion on ecology or other topics like health and food.
She points the finger at large companies like pharma firms or plastic and herbicide manufacturers for refusing to engage in the development of more environmentally friendly habits.
The Spanish artist, who juggles her creative work with a job at the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, says she immediately fell in love with the Bronx when she first arrived on a cold January day in 2009.
“I came because I married an American and we moved to the Bronx,” she explains. “After five years he hated New York but I fell in love with it. I stayed and he left,” she added.
For her, the Bronx feels like home more than Spain or England, where she has also lived in the past.
“I don’t know why it’s different. People accept you, it’s how they behave, care-free like they’re going to do whatever they want and that’s that.”
Before coming to the US she had dedicated herself mainly to “graphic design and little art” but everything changed when she was forced to take a nine-month break while she waited for her Green Card. During that time, she rethought her career path.
“The Bronx gave me a career change at 30, which was to find art again, start drawing, start doing more illustrations and start doing murals, which I had never done, and how to expand my creativity to levels I never achieved in Spain.”
“I’m very much in love with the Bronx and everyone who has come to visit me has realized its not like the films in the 70s,” adds the artist, who also works with local association Art Bridge, which strives to boost local creatives. EFE-EPA