Home Art & StyleArt LORENZO QUINN

“Sculpting hands allows me to use a universal language”

Written by Matteo Muzio and @lastanzettarosa

Lorenzo Quinn is much more than a sculptor. Compared to many of his colleagues, his works are not only found in luxurious private homes or renowned art galleries, but are often in squares or other public places. Moreover, he has chosen a long-standing Italian sculptural tradition: figuration, as a mode of expression, and not abstractionism. The son of Mexican-born American actor Anthony Quinn and costume designer Jolanda Addolori, he began his career as a sculptor after studying a Michelangelo torso while at the Academy of Fine Arts in New York. Lorenzo Quinn, in his profession, focuses on one of the most difficult anatomical elements to create: the hands of man, which are almost impossible to reproduce even by artificial intelligence programmes.

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Thanks to your parents Anthony and Jolanda, you have a very rich human background and a family history that crosses continental borders and has solid historical roots. How much has this personal rootedness influenced your artistic work?
My family is similar to other families with a certain reputation who create a solid entourage around themselves. Of course, you also have to consider strong roots.In my case, being born in this environment allowed me to do many good things, but above all the possibility of choosing a course of study that interested me. Studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in New York was a choice for which I will be eternally grateful to my family; on the other hand, however, it is a sword of Damocles because there is also a downside.

What are you referring to?
Expectations are created: an artist who doesn’t have a famous parent is appreciated as he is, an artist who does have a world-famous father is more difficult to be accepted with such freedom of mind, because he has to prove himself and that what he does is worthy of appreciation. There are those who may think it is easier because the ‘door’ to success on the art scene may already be open, but given the circumstances you have to work harder, perhaps even harder, climbing one step after the other, without discounts. Others, on the other hand, who come from an unfamiliar background, once this door is open, manage to take the lift.

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In summary: does an important family count for much?
Today I am 57 years old, I have done projects and installations all over the world, my works count billions of views on social networks, I have been interviewed countless times, I have been working for thirty-five years and I am still being asked about my father. So I would say yes, for better or worse.

One of the recurring themes in your sculptural work concerns the depiction of hands, which often become the absolute protagonists of your work.
The language of the hands is a universal language. My sculptures carry a message and I have to make them so that people can understand what I want to say. If I answered these questions in Chinese, we would not understand each other. With the works it is the same thing, you have to speak the same language.

The language of the hands is a universal language

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Why did you decide to honour both the execution tool of artistic works but also something that is very difficult to reproduce for those who approach drawing?
Since I want people to be able to identify with the work and understand the message behind it, (each of my works generates a reflection, conveys messages of love or concepts concerning environmental protection or other important social issues) I have to make sure that they are readable. Not everyone is an expert and my art is aimed at people walking in the streets. A public artwork is visible to everyone, it is addressed to everyone and must be able to reach every person without social, ethical or gender distinction. That is precisely why I use my hands so much, because they are gestures and we can all understand them, all over the world.

You have worked a lot for both the Catholic Church and other monumental commissions. Do you believe that contemporary art should leave the collections of private individuals and be freely offered for the enjoyment of the general public as in the past?
To have a public artwork, in my opinion, is everyone’s goal but it is not easy because you need a client, a funder, a gallery. In short, it is very complicated. 

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But when it happens, it is wonderful, and so I aspire to do much more and to continue to produce sculptures for open spaces, also because you can communicate, as I said before, to people who are not in the art world, who do not usually go to museums or galleries, and so you have a broader dissemination of the message you want to give.

For example, I try to send a message of Love and Unity, to find what we have in common, abandoning what separates or divides us.

Through my artwork I try to send a message of Love and Unity

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How important can the spiritual dimension be in the creative process?
I believe in an energy. It is difficult to say that this energy does not exist because if we study the universe we can see that we cannot go back in time to infinity. If that were the case, we could not exist. This is a subject that fascinates me and that I am studying a lot. Because if there was an infinity between number zero and one, we would never reach number one but since our history is already in number one, it means that there is a ‘Before’ and there is no present infinity.

What do you mean?
We ask ourselves who invented this ‘Before’? We don’t know what there was before the Big Bang. So in my work I try to gather a lot of information, not only on religion but also on philosophy and science.  I convey the concepts in a way that respects all creeds and ethnicities, so as to be universal.

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A question about the future: as a sculptor, do you feel less pressure from artificial intelligence on your work than some of your colleagues?
For the moment I don’t feel the pressure at all, maybe in the future I will also use AI. The problem with AI is that many artists perhaps see it as a shortcut to create, but that is not the case, because you still need an important basis and you have to produce something new and have your own style. Precisely the latter is the most important characteristic an artist must have. What allows him to be recognised because of that peculiarity that makes him different from others, therefore recognisable.

The problem with AI is that so many artists see it as a shortcut to creating

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In the end, can we say that hands are your hallmark?
Not only hands, I also create bodies, but it is the five-fingered extremities that have made me known in the world. Every artist must have his or her own distinctive trait; Botero, for example, was recognisable for large people and Giacometti for skinny, almost stringy people, and we could go on with other examples. The only one who was never satisfied, who continually sought new forms of expression was Picasso. Picasso, however, was a Great and we are not.

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