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The creative origins of the Dominican artist Pedro Troncoso can be traced back to his teen years, when he drew portraits at the request of a classmate. He has filled the time since then with studies in aviation and then a BFA in illustration from Parsons School of Design and an MFA in fine arts from the New York Academy of Art—a surprisingly natural evolution for Troncoso, who was undoubtedly always an artist at heart. Through this trajectory, he has developed his distinctive creative oeuvre with drawn portraiture at its center, though he has long since departed from simply drawing faces.
Working on paper and canvas, and also creating the occasional sculpture or multimedia composition, Troncoso employs expressive colors, technical mastery, a touch of fantasy, and an avid imagination. The scenes he composes help him better understand his own identity and existence while revisiting the wondrous condition of childhood—a time in our lives when our inner voice speaks freely, unadulterated by the opinions and expectations of those around us.
In his portfolio today, viewers will find curious images loaded with underlying narratives, like in his recent “Psyche” works, which include thought-provoking scenes where household settings and childhood memorabilia morph with Troncoso’s consciousness. These works include imagined scenarios like Baby Shower (which pulls visual references from a certain recognizable story about toys), a moment of mind-boggle encompassed in Who, What, Where?, and a humanoid shower where tiny renderings of the artist are engulfed by a flood of water, titled Let It Flow.
Curious about how Troncoso revisits childhood through his work and how art has played a role in helping him uncover his own identity, Whitewall spoke with the artist to learn more.
WHITEWALL: You began studying aviation while making art on the side, but decided that pursuing art was the path you wanted to take instead. What did this process look like? Was there a defining moment?
PEDRO TRONCOSO: It happened almost unconsciously. While I was flying planes, my drawing hobby was getting its own life as a portfolio. Now looking back, I see how I never considered my passion as a career. Maybe because no one else from my family or friends had studied art before.
But people used to advise me to study art professionally. This motivated me to apply for scholarships in art schools. All of a sudden, I was finishing my first art thesis and about to travel as a transfer student to continue my BFA in New York. Unconsciously, I got so involved with what really interested me that I don’t register a specific turning point. I’m very grateful for how naturally it unfolded.
WW: Tell us how your style evolved from realistic portraiture to where it is today. What role does drawing play in your practice today?
PT: I consider my mind to be the place where I actually live. It is sometimes very hard for me to feel comfortable or grounded in the real world. So, at some point, realistic portraiture on its own was not enough to portray my narratives. I was lacking my own world-building. With the realistic portraits I acquired technical tools, but not the Frankenstein to work with. This is when I started including more symbols and objects related to me in my narratives and contrasting them with fantastical imagery.
Drawing is the DNA of most of the art I make. Sometimes I cannot paint or sculpt something if I haven’t drawn it before. Drawing is the bond between the human and art. I truly appreciate how the handmade easily reveals in this medium. It is pure freedom to explore possibilities and the unexpected.
WW: You’ve referred to childhood as the “good old days.” How does painting help you carry a sense of childhood magic into your life today? What advice might you give to a viewer who feels lost from this part of themselves?
PT: Painting is my liberty, but it comes with a personal war zone in order to exist. It is where I question what I encounter in adulthood and what is gone from childhood. It is a limbo where I have a ton of room to stop and say, “Wait a minute, what if . . . ?” It allows me to portray timeless questions from my present human condition. In essence, all of this is child-like, because before continuing trying to comply with adulting I am letting my inner voice be.
I also see painting as my parallel world, a place to challenge tragedy, comedy, and fiction. It is like a journal. My advice is that you find that place that reveals who you really are, like a genuine mirror. That place can be right after you turn off the lights in your room, when no one is looking at you, when you are naked, or when you feel misunderstood. I believe that is the childhood we all still have but ignore to keep fitting into others’ expectations. I still don’t know why we all yearn [for] it but still pretend we are grown-ups.
WW: You’ve mentioned that painting has helped you uncover your genuine identity as an adult. Tell us about this journey to discovering yourself through your artistic practice. Creatively speaking, has this led you to any unexpected places?
PT: I have explored more of my qualities as a human being, and my relationship with what surrounds me. I’m also able to reflect on my anxieties. Through art expression, I keep discovering aspects of myself that would have been incognito. However, my work keeps presenting challenges to figure out who I am and who I’m not. My identity is not completely clear to me. But I encountered the privilege of expression, which eventually takes me to a cathartic, confident place where others can relate and hopefully feel inspired.
My work has driven me to question what mental identity means. I have recurrent imperfect thoughts that I’m interested in, uncomfortable insecurities that have to come out, perceptions of the different versions of myself, idealizations, and thoughts that make me feel displaced from the real world. A finished painting is a fixed version of myself, but I’m inevitably changing. Therefore, the next painting always takes me to an unexpected place where I discover new perspectives. My identity consists of the dilemma of me trying to be in control as an adult and failing to do so.
Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.