Over the past 35 years, West New York resident Demetrio Alfonso has become a world-renowned artist. The recent recipient of a lifetime achievement award from an international art exhibition, Alfonso cites his love of art and history the center of his being.
“Of all the gifts God gave me, art history is the most special one,” Alfonso said last week.
An immigrant from the Canary Islands in Spain, Alfonso studied painting for seven years at San Alejandro Art School in Havana, Cuba and spent an additional six years at the School of Visual Arts and the Arts Students’ League in New York City.
In May of 2006, he was selected for the International Art Fair in Beijing and Shanghai, China, where his work was displayed side by side with the likes of Picasso, Monet and Warhol.
“My goal is to do my art but if I’m part of something greater, I would love to be.” – Demetrio Alfonso
Recently, Alfonso has been challenging the art world with his own abstract compositions of combined organic elements and found objects.
Using music as fuel and inspiration, Alfonso channeled the spiritual energy from monastery chants and tribal music into works of art with paint, glue, nails, and other objects.
As his work changed from realism paintings to mixed media artwork, so did his attitude about searching the streets for raw materials to use in the new pieces. “I used to be ashamed,” he said. “But now I’m proud that I’ve found something beautiful.”
Because of his use of found objects, his new pieces have begun attracting attention from the eco-friendly art movement. Though it was not something he set out to achieve, Alfonso is happy to be considered in that way. “My goal is to do my art,” he said. “But if I’m part of something greater, I would love to be.”
Recognition of life’s work
In December, two of Alfonso’s abstract compositions were featured in the Florence Biennale, a biannual international art exhibition held in Florence, Italy for contemporary artists.
Alfonso was one of two artists to receive a lifetime achievement award at the biennale along with a gold medal and diploma of recognition from the jury.
Alfonso was astonished that he received such acknowledgment. “At first I thought it was a joke,” said Alfonso as he recalled his surprise at receiving the invitation. “For me it’s been a maximum achievement.”
Alfonso and the American team took part along with artists from countries all over the world who exhibited over 2,500 works of art. Despite the international recognition, Alfonso said that the accomplishment has not given him a reason to rest on his laurels.
“In a way I feel the same,” he said. “I’ve been working hard since I came back. I don’t think an artist who’s achieved certain things should stop there. An artist always has to search for something. You have to take your insides out.”
This spring Alfonso will be part of an American art exhibit in Madrid and Barcelona and he is being featured in an upcoming book about New York’s emerging artists. He has also been invited to attend upcoming biennales in Turkey and Mexico.
“[The achievement] gives me an energy to work more,” said Alfonso. “I want to give the best of whatever I have to give.”
A singer, too
A West New York resident for 28 years, Alfonso is active in his community far beyond his capacity as an artist. In addition to painting, he sings at his church, St. Augustine, and has taken part in several concerts at Park Performing Arts Center in Union City.
“I didn’t have the guts to tell my family I wanted to be a singer,” said Alfonso. “But my first love is painting.” To ease his family’s concerns about his artistic dreams, Alfonso studied business administration as a young man but never wavered from his desire to be an artist.
A graduate from two of the finest art schools in the world, Alfonso is an art historian who has filled his home with pieces of art in everything including paintings, books, and even furniture worthy of being displayed in a museum.
When it comes to artwork, he focuses on the quality of the work, not the name. “I buy something because I love it,” he said. “I bought the art in bad shape and had it restored.”
Alfonso maintained a successful art restoration business for nearly 40 years in New York City. Although no longer full time, he still does pieces for longtime clients.
Continuing to focus on his own creations, Alfonso also takes time out to mentor younger artists as they set out on their journey.
For more information on Demetrio Alfonso’s artwork and upcoming exhibitions, visit www.demetrioalfonso.com.