Paris Alexander – Sculptor
Sculpting Human Emotion
Paris Alexander is sculptor living in Raleigh. His wife is a landscape architect in Cary, and they have two children. Aside from creating art, Alexander enjoys looking at art and visiting every museum he can.
His interest in art started from a young age. Alexander grew up in Staten Island and says, “I just fell in love with everything Manhattan had to offer. I lived in the museums [which were] great places for a kid to go.” He became interested in drawing and says it became an outlet for him. “I really didn’t talk a lot when I was a kid, so [drawing] was my way of expressing things,” he says. As a teenager, he used to go into New York City often and stay there until the last bus headed out of town late into the night. “That was my life. I was obsessed with it all. Every street, every building had a carving on it,” he continues. A favorite spot for him at that time was the 42nd Street Library where he could find How-To books about art during the 1930s and 1940s. “You could literally read what [these artists’] processes were. They are still a great resource,” Alexander says.
As his interest in art and sculpting grew, he began laying out sheets of paper and drawing picture after picture to create his own “museum.” Eventually, he began creating sculptures of mummies and sarcophagi out of clay. “I can remember sitting there and literally thinking I was studying hieroglyphics,” Alexander says.
Now, with seven years of anatomy studies behind him, Alexander’s sculptures tend to evolve back to people. “When you think about who we are trying to relate to,” he says, “it’s always people. People are always going to be more empathetic to other people.” Early in his sculpting career, Alexander used to always include faces on his sculptures to transmit mood, but over the years, he has boiled it down. He realized he loves the fragments of sculptures, so he started leaving off the heads to see how much he could express with other parts of the body. “I love hands and the expressions you can do with hands. They can express all kinds of power and emotion,” he says. He wants his art to be able to relate to people and their own human angst.
His mantra has always been to learn to use basic hand tools because they “will move a lot of stone and move them properly.” He considers himself a “mercenary” with his tools. “Whatever it takes to get the image out,” he says. And he admits that he carves faster than a lot of other carvers, but he says that helps with his spontaneity and imagery. That said, however, he says he doesn’t make mistakes. “It’s a lot harder to carve stone than what people think. You have to work at it to mess something up.” He listens at the tones he hears when he’s carving. “You can hear it. It goes from a ringing to a dull thud. By the time you get to that thud, you’re probably too late. The ringing changes.”
One of the draws to sculpting for Alexander is “the idea that something can go outside and be there long after I’m dead. To get to do that and know it’s going to be there for hundreds of years, that’s pretty cool,” he says. And his work is showing up all over the place. He has a series of sculptures outside of WakeMed, sculptures at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, one outside of the Duke University School of Law, one at the Rowan Library in Salisbury, and one at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, just to name a few.
In addition to sculpting, Alexander also teaches art classes in museums and art councils. The best piece of advice he says he can offer to his students is to draw. “Draw. Draw. Draw. Draw. Just draw what you see and what is there. Don’t try to abstract it deliberately. Only until you are able to represent what’s there can you alter the perception of what is there.”