BY TIM JOHNSON
BOGOTA, Colombia -- An artist of prodigious output, Fernando Botero
toils on his
feet for nine or 10 hours nearly every day in ``absolute silence'' in one of his many
``One doesn't feel tired,'' Botero said. ``It's incredible. .
. . Picasso said something
interesting. It is that painters don't grow weary because when they enter the
studio, they leave their bodies outside.''
In an interview with The Herald, the Colombian artist recounted
the way he works,
his disdain for modern painting, and his thrill at exhibiting huge sculptures in the
world's great cities.
He defended the uniquely fat subjects that have become his trademark.
``It is very important that art be completely recognizable,'' Botero said.
``When people see one of my paintings, they say, `This is a Botero.' ''
He brushes off those who urge him to experiment.
STYLE DOESN'T VARY
``Everyone says, `When are you going to change styles?' This makes
he said. ``El Greco painted El Grecos his whole life. El Greco didn't paint
Michelangelos or Giottos. . . . All artists are this way. They paint the same way.''
Botero sculpts in rural Italy in the summer and spends his winters
painting at his
studios in Europe and New York City.
``I get up around 11 in the morning and go right to the studio,''
he said. ``At around
2 in the afternoon, I read the newspaper and eat a salad. I eat lightly, so that I can
keep working until 8:30 at night.''
He works seven days a week. ``I do it because of the enormous
pleasure it brings
Botero fills sketchbooks with any ideas that come into his head.
``Sometimes while I'm painting, I'll have an idea for another
composition,'' he said.
``So I'll stop, make a small sketch, usually for less than a minute, then go back
to painting. I have hundreds of small sketches.''
THOUSANDS OF WORKS
Botero's body of work is immense: at least 2,500 paintings, about
200 of the huge
outdoor sculptures that weigh an average of 3,000 pounds, and hundreds of more
His huge outdoor sculptures have been on display on Park Avenue
in New York
City, Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and the Champs
Elysees in Paris, and in Madrid, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Florence -- and Miami and Fort
``I am the only artist capable of doing exhibitions of this magnitude,''
Even so, Botero considers himself more of a painter than a sculptor.
``I have been a painter for 50 years and a sculptor for 25 years,'' he said.
Feted regularly at royal Monte Carlo balls, Botero and his Greek-born
Vari, often appear in the pages of jet-set magazines. Botero enjoys his fame and
``Success is important in the sense that it is a stimulus,'' he
said. ``I have worked
with success and without success. When no one cares about what you are
doing, and you work in a vacuum, it is harder to maintain a rhythm.''
Turning to his family, Botero said he has reconciled with his
eldest son, Fernando
Botero Zea, after some strain. The son, a Harvard-educated former defense
minister, was detained in 1995 in a drug-money scandal that nearly toppled
then-President Ernesto Samper.
``As you can imagine, this was a very painful moment for me and
my family,'' the
artist said. ``Fernando is my son. The relationship has begun again, but we never
talk about the past because there is nothing to say.''
Another son, Juan Carlos, has just moved to South Florida. A daughter,
lives abroad. In 1974, Botero's life saw tragedy. An auto accident in Spain took
the life of his son Pedro and severely damaged the artist's right hand.
``I was at the point of not being able to paint anymore,'' he
operated, finger by finger. I don't have a lot of mobility, but at least it's sufficient to
And work he does, on a solitary journey of creation, scorning
many of his
colleagues in the current art world.
``Contemporary art is a disaster,'' he said. ``Art is passing
through a period of
total decadence. Art these days has lost its aim, which foremost should be to
elevate the spirit or give pleasure. Art these days . . . seeks to produce shock.''
The trend has been long-lasting, he said. ``If you compare the
end of the last
century, with Cezanne and Van Gogh and all the impressionists, and the end of
this century, it is just poverty. . . . It has been a century of huge scientific
advances but a profound spiritual decadence in the fine arts.''
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald