96 How long have you been working in this medium?
OT About ten years. I used to make diorama boxes, then I added puppets. Every box has a story. This one is based on two paintings by Fuseli, The Nightmare (1780) and The Italian Count Ezzelino Bracciaferro, ‘Iron Arm’, Musing over Meduna, Destroyed by him for Disloyalty, during His Absence in the Holy Land (1780)—that’s the name of the painting. I did not invent it. It was Fuseli’s fantasy, not an historical event.
96 I see how the two images, with their the supine female figures, recall one another.
96 You like things to be packed full: you’re really not a Modernist.
OT No, I am not a minimalist. I am a maximalist. I even ran out of room to store these boxes. I don’t know where to put them. make these boxes. This one addresses the Corona Virus. There’s a lot of skulls, the two skeletons beside the central ones are wearing Chinese hats. The backdrop of the stage shows Venice, the Grand Canal and Santa Maria.
96 The spiked ball is the Corona Virus.
OT Yes, it’s a Corona Virus Theater.
96 When did you begin working with religious imagery?
OT That’s a good question. I would like to know myself. Maybe because I am getting old. I visited Portugal a few years ago, and I visited many churches. The shrines I saw were a great inspiration.
OT As a child, I used to make puppets, to play with. But when I was young, I didn’t really understand what I wanted to do with my life, so I studied architecture instead of puppeteering.
96 You took a degree in architecture? Have you made buildings?
OT I emigrated to America shortly after taking the degree, and when I came here I found a job as a draftsperson and then a designer for a furniture manufacturing company, and I’ve been doing this work for thirty-five years. Design and shop drawings for manufacturers, to show how the furniture would be constructed.
96 Is this something you enjoy?
OT Not really. I liked making the drawings though, by hand, and architectural firms appreciated the kind of drawings I was making. They were very nice. I continued makig drawings by hand even after the CAD program came into use. I know how to use it. But firms enjoyed the hand made drawings, because they were like dinosaurs—something you don’t see anymore! I enjoyed making the drawings with a pencil and a straight-edge.
It’s kind of hard, because people have an idea, but you cannot make clear for them the idea they have in their head of what they want. Customers are clueless. My bosses always told me, don’t try to put your ideas in customers’ heads. If the customer wants it this way, let it be! That’s it.
96 So you were making custom made furniture.
OT Yes, bespoke. Whatever they wanted, fireplaces, book-cases, kitchens, you name it. Usually the architect would send me the drawings of what was wanted, and I would make the shop-drawings, the diagrams of how these things would be assembled in the shop, details, dimensions. So making the boxes and the furniture in them is very easy for me. I don’t know how to build the furniture full size, but I can make anything out of cardboard and paper.
96 So, from making puppets as a child to making architectural shop drawings, you’ve actually been training for a lifetime to to make these boxes.
96 I see that you have been choosing as subjects puppet theater, famous painting, religious shrines—all things that have a built-in frame, that are enclosed.
OT Also Victorian bell-jar still lives, doll-houses which are more like cabinets of curiosities. I made all the furniture, with a lot of details. When my daughter was very little, we made one doll house together. But she lost interest, but I continued. The miniature dollhouses were the beginning of my interest in this kind of composition.