“I need to put everything on hold for about a year,” Tony Toscani told me when we met at his Brooklyn studio early in 2020 and talked about life, art practice, and plans for the future. After cleaning the cyber dust from that conversation, put on hold like so many in 2020, we started looking back at Tony’s work and how his engrossed characters feel so relevant, his solitary “daydreamers” more relatable. Distanced from anyone in their proximity or captured alone at an unspecified location, their distractions consume them to the point of being subsumed by their bodies, heads literally lost in thought. While we did enjoy visiting their melancholic vibe back in the day, the images now resonate with a whole new level of touching intensity.
Sasha Bogojev: I want to start off with the limbs…
Tony Toscani: How they’re exaggerated and such? Well, I think at first it was definitely not planned.
A serendipitous mistake?
It was kind of like a mistake, but more like a technical decision. I used to be way faster than I am now at painting. I slowed down a lot, but when I was really fast, I would kind of find an image and then work it out. I got really attracted by these tiny head figures because it really related to our current time where people are just kind of distracted a lot. They tend to be more distracted by phones or media or peer pressure, or try to fit into some social clique. So, people started using their awareness a lot less and their bodies a lot more because they still had to go on doing normal things in their everyday life, like going to the bathroom, eating, working, and sleeping. So, to me, it’s kind of like the human evolution in 2000 years, what we would all end up looking like.
Yeah, I was going to call it an “alternative evolution.”
Right, and that’s why they tend to look like giants, as well. So, when I was working with that fast technique, it started building on this quirk of exaggerated limbs and these tiny heads. Which was funny because, I didn’t know, but a lot of people started emailing me and telling me that that’s a syndrome that a lot of people actually had. They kind of are in a state where they see their limbs extend more than they actually are. It’s called Alice in Wonderland syndrome. But I never knew this and I just recently found that out and it just came from my quirk of doing a fast technique that spiraled into a concept.
The characters seem to be fashioned in a simplified way in terms of the spaces and the outfits they’re in. Is that on purpose?
I think I’m trying really hard not to be too detailed in the sense that this is a specific person, or a specific place. I don’t want to say this is New York or this is America. It could be anywhere in the world and anybody. They are meant to look average.
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