Ceramics Monthly: In what ways has your work evolved since you were featured as an Emerging Artist in Ceramics Monthly?
Alberto Bustos: These last few years have been very intense. I have been traveling all over the world giving workshops on my techniques, and inevitably all of my experiences in different cultures and natural environments are reflected in my work when I return to my studio in Spain. The colors and shapes in my work have been accentuated by all of these experiences.
Although I continue to convey my concern about the degradation of the natural environment, lately my message speaks more about human beings. I think we are debasing ourselves as a species and this in turn causes us to further devalue and damage our environment. While I am more critical, I leave room for hope that perhaps everything can improve.
The message has always obsessed me more than the technique. As I get older, I feel that my message is more concise and direct; I take fewer detours. My latest sculptures reflect this—the forms are more minimalist, have fewer elements, and stronger hues.
I also adopted this pared-down approach in response to the social maelstrom we live in. There is widespread stress. We surf the Internet at full speed. Few things attract our attention enough to stop us for a moment. We spend less time analyzing and questioning things, wondering why—even if we disagree. Perhaps we are losing faith in ourselves. Since keeping someone’s attention is difficult, I now include a reflection or title with each photo I post (see above), to quickly convey a general idea of form and message.
CM: Is the process of hand forming and joining each component of your sculptures meditative for you?
AB: When the idea of a new sculpture springs up in my head, it’s hard to think of anything else. Usually this happens at night, when silence and the absence of stimuli allow me to concentrate.
Once I start working on a sculpture in my studio, everything becomes more mechanical. I do meditate, but not individually. I usually have a mental and physical conversation with the sculpture. We both work together. The clay transmits its own sensations to me, depending on how I model it.
As in any relationship, there are moments of maximum collaboration and constant communication, but there are also moments of intimacy and independence when I mentally rearrange and analyze the reasons for making a piece.
CM: In what ways do you hope to change people’s perspectives?
AB: I am increasingly critical of contemporary human attitudes. Our society is selfish, materialistic, and not very empathetic. Generating change at the global level is very complicated. For example, we are now experiencing a global pandemic, but there are a large number of deniers and irresponsible people who ignore the millions of people who are dying, the countless who have lost their jobs, etc. This type of attitude also affects the natural environment. Many people think that although something negative is happening on the planet, it will be a problem many years from now, which is not their concern. But everything is happening much faster than scientists predicted.
I think we still have time to reverse the damage, albeit with complex solutions. The first step is to be self critical—to recognize what we are doing wrong and modify our individual behavior. If we build awareness in small micro-environments, they will eventually join together and we can achieve global awareness.
I don’t usually watch much news. I am aware of the problems that surround us, but information overload generates anxiety and sadness that paralyzes my soul and consequently my hands. All I can do to reverse the problems surrounding us is to convey my message of constructive criticism and hope that we can once again be worthy of this wonderful planet.