Almendra Bertoni (born in 1998 in Buenos Aires), is a multi-disciplinary artist from Argentina, currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Her practice encompasses painting, sculpture, and NFT works.
Bertoni’s work challenges and examines religion, questioning taboos, such as sex and intimacy, with boldly surreal works that are all underpinned by extensive research, and are shaped by her interests in Renaissance art, contemporary churches, and past masters.
Her compositions often feature contorted bodies, airy architectural spaces, religious imagery, and vibrant hues, paying homage to the rich visual traditions found in Surrealist paintings. Central to Bertoni’s works is her use of three-dimensional elements. She seamlessly incorporates wooden panels into her works, which serve not only as frames but also as sculptural extensions of her canvas.
Almendra currently has a solo show at IRL Gallery, titled “Pray For Me”.
Hi Almendra, it’s a pleasure to sit down with you. First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in New York?
Why, thanks for having me Rubén! Every morning I wake up to the noise of the hundreds of cars zooming by the highway, at what feels like an arms length from my bedroom window. If I have time I’ll treat myself to a lazy breakfast. Soon after I throw on my paint pants and head over to the place I’ll spend the next 10+ hours in, my studio. Most days I get very lonely painting, there are afternoons where the only words I say out loud is my coffee order. This isn’t by fault but rather by design, a lot of painters bask in extreme solitude.
Alright, so growing up in Miami, what kind of kid were you? What did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?
Hahaha, I absolutely love this question. I actually loved making art as a kid, big shocker. I would scribble on sheets of paper and then use my imagination to discover what objects I can find in the scribbles. I had loads of imaginary friends. I was constantly daydreaming. I was happy, very happy.
I know that it was during your last year of highschool, you knew that you wanted to become an artist. What’s the earliest memory you have, of you creating something? And when did you start taking being an artist seriously?
I was 11 and I started my first painting on my mothers easel. I remember slapping pink glitter on a rainfall. I knew even then it was a bad decision and stored it away in my closet, where I can find it to this day. When you know you’re destined to be an artist your whole life, waiting till you’re 17 to pursue art feels awfully late. I gathered the courage to tell my mother less than a year before graduating that I was ready to pursue fine art for the rest of my life. I didn’t know it then but she was terrified. I laugh at that now, because in her shoes I would’ve felt the exact same way.
Alright. Let’s talk about your art now. Let’s start with your current surreal style, with vibrant hues. How long has it taken you to develop that look? And what is it about it that appeals to you?
I learned pretty quickly in art school that I have a stylized hand. In figure drawing classes I always drew and painted in a very surreal way, so it only made transition to the style I have now. It took me years to refine my work and it’s constantly ever evolving. I just simply make paintings that I would love to collect myself.
With that in mind. Your work often features: faceless bodies, airy architectural spaces and religious imagery. What is it about those motifs and scenes, that makes you want to apply them to your canvas?
I’ve always loved having these anonymous androgynous figures that any person of any gender, age, ethnicity etc, can identify with. On God’s green earth we’re all inherently divine and I use my paintings as a way to playfully challenge the great solemnity of religion.
I read somewhere that your artworks have always been based on your life. Can you talk to me a little bit about that? Is it still like that today?
Although a lot of my artwork has been made about themes of sin, virtue, and the abject, I can’t help but pour personal secrets onto canvas. Tales of heartbreak, trauma and pain spill out when I tackle these grand christian theologies. But these are stories I like to keep close to my chest.
You also incorporates wooden sculptural elements into your works. When did you start doing that? And what was the initial reason for implementing it to your work?
I started just painting on wood cutouts alone, which I had learned to cut out in my local art school wood shop. I slowly progressed over the course of dozens of artworks to find my confidence with wood working. I found that incorporating art as the frame, gave way for a surreal, sculptural effect that went perfectly with the themes I was battling.
Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?
I always begin by researching what topic via sin, virtue, theory, etc. I want to paint that time and gather a moodboard. I sketch out concepts and ask my trusted loved ones for approval/opinions. I always know what frame I’m choosing even in the very beginning. Depending on how complex and large the artwork is, I begin to give it my uninterrupted attention for the next week to month. I won’t put the artwork out into the world until I’m 100% confident with it.
Alright. So besides traditional painting, you’re actually also into NFTs. I know that you first heard of NFTs in 2019, but how did you first get introduced to the them, and what is your general opinion on them?
I just saw so many of my artist friends begin to make NFTS and felt FOMO hahaha. I’m so glad I got into the world of web3 because I’ve met the most incredible people and collectors because of it. Getting into NFTs really jump started me being able to afford to move to nyc and live full time as an artist.
What are some of the most essential things you have to have with you in the studio? It could be anything, music, objects etc..
I really don’t think the solo show could’ve happened if it wasn’t for the two iced lattes I was drinking a day. So my most essential objects are youtube for entertainment and cold brew.
Do you remember which one of your works that started getting attention from the artworld, before you got discovered?
Not to toot my own horn but I’ve had so many paintings go viral before the art world really paid me any mind haha. It was my already showing in galleries-friends that introduced me to IRL and other galleries. Not saying that attention digitally didn’t help of course it did but you’d be surprised how much more important real life connections are in the art world over anything else.
You’re 24 years old, and able to live off your art. That Is something every artist dreams about. Can you talk to me a little bit about that feeling and experience?
The feeling of being a full time artist comes with a lot of guilt. Why me? Imposter syndrome is a monthly visitor, it’s on speed dial, even years later after being a full time artist. I used to work a 9 to 5, not creative related and felt so miserable and depressed. I know that’s a lot artist’s reality right now. I can only tell you I got lucky, I got lucky enough to be able to sell my artwork. Enough to not depend on a non creative job again. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t recognize the incredible privilege of making art whenever I want. That’s why I make it nonstop.
What motivates you?
I have so many answers to this question. I don’t know if it’s motivation or the need to pay bills, to eat, to make my parents proud? I feel the desire to prove myself constantly. I had a lot of moments where fine art professors and art advisors doubted me, I should’ve let the need to prove them wrong go a while ago. But I’m petty like that, So is it revenge? I guess so, some part of it is.
Ok Almendra. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?
I doubt anyone remembers this movie but I have an odd fascination with the movie HANNA directed by Joe Wright. It’s about an assassin teenage girl who is full of rage, revenge and growing pains. Hanna is a badass in that movie and I like to feel like I’m a lab tested, teenage assassin in the art world.
The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?
Videotape by Radiohead is my favorite song of all time. I know you didn’t ask me that but I felt the need to say it after looking at my most recent played. Finally, to answer your question i’ve been listening to lil uzi’s new album haha.