Credit: Nicholas Contrera
Finding love has its challenges. Now add living in two different countries and being stuck in this COVID-19 world that we’ve been dealing with for months. That’s the present situation for award-winning artist Nicholas Contrera and acclaimed adult film star Alex Marte who just got into a relationship before the coronavirus took over our lives. But they are determined to make it work regardless of the difficult obstacles that are currently in their way.
Nicholas can be described as many things with passionate being one of them. He’s been able to showcase his brilliant work for the masses that has shifted how we view art and photography in modern times. That same passion can be described in his blossoming romance with Alex which he goes into in our exclusive interview with him below.
He also talks about the future of his career and the big life changes he has planned not only for him but for who he considers to be the love of his life.
How have things been for you career wise in the world of art and photography?
To be honest, I decided to take a break from art making. I was experiencing some life events that resulted in me becoming too isolated within myself and that meant my work was affected by that. I needed to seriously realign and take a journey of discovery to understand how I had to growth and how my work needed to evolve. I think that most artists reach a point where they encounter a creative crossroads or perhaps recognize that their work has become stagnant or repetitive. Because my practice is so rooted in the human condition and contingent on my relationships to the subject matter, I need always be at the top of my game, as an artist, as a human and actually as a gay man and adult. That’s the long way around the question, but as of now, I’m slowly re-emerging artistically. I’m taking it easy, working on a few publication and a couple of big museum shows. But believe me, once I’m completely ready, I’ll have lots to tell you!
Has there been one moment that you are proudest of and why?
It’s difficult to really identify one moment, or a single instance that makes me particularly proud. It’s iterative really and runs the course from the big things to the more intimate, that make me proud as an artist. For instance, when Google purchased one of my photographs for their corporate collection and installed it permanently in their New York office. That’s a big deal for any artist. But on the other hand, that my work continues to push boundaries by celebrating those in our community who are important but forced to remain outliers or unfairly considered unconventional. Often there’s no big money in that, but those moments when someone approaches me and reveals that my work inspired them to create or give them confidence, the self-confidence in their gender fluidity, whether its masculinity, femininity or anywhere else on our rainbow. When my work can help people feel secure in their own skin, that definitely makes me proud.
Now let’s talk about you and your handsome beau Alex. How did you guys meet?
This is so gay cliché but we met on a hookup app, I know, and I totally admit to being the eager millennial woofing at the guy so many times. Alex wasn’t interested at first, he initially thought I was simply too far away. He’s in Barcelona and I’m in Detroit. But then there was the day he saw my unicorn tattoo. I’m pretty proud of that one, it’s in old English script, the word unicorn, across my stomach. That started a discussion about how we both love unicorns, the color pink and sparkly things. Well after that, he told himself that he needed to get to know me. We talked intensely for ten days, and what do I do after that, but book a flight to Barcelona; 12 days later I was on my way to Spain. The rest is history, wildly romantic history! We’ve fallen madly in love, we’re soulmates. I’ve never met someone quite like him, he’s in many respects exactly like me. He’s spiritual, full of life and just constantly evolving as a person. Alex is beautiful inside and out. When I’m with him, I can’t help it, he inspires me to want to be a better person.
Was it an instant attraction?
Talk about adrenaline! I was so excited to meet him, f**k, it only took me a handful of days to decide that a trip to Europe was a good idea. But getting off that plane in Barcelona and knowing I was about to meet someone at baggage claim I had only been talking to, and at a considerable distance, was a lot to think about. Of course your mind starts to race, what happens if you hate this person, and then you’re stuck for two weeks. Actually, we were both thinking that, and fortunately for both of us, that wasn’t the case at all. The instant we met each other, it was intoxicating, it was thrilling, the adrenaline was back is such a good way! So yes, love at first site, and I did find my luggage!
Your relationship is long distance to the point where you’re two different countries. Is that challenging and how do you make it work?
When we first met it was pre-Covid and after my initial visit, I was planning to return and do a couple months in Barcelona then Alex would spend some time with me in Detroit. Well, now that we’re in post-Covid mayhem, everything is on hold. We still talk daily, which keeps things hot, and we’re still deeply in love, which keeps things hotter! But with the shutdown, I have had some time to consider and strategize, and I’ve decided that when it becomes possible, I’ll move to Barcelona for likely two years. That’s my pandemic silver lining! While I’m there spending quality time with Alex, I can also lay down some artistic roots with some photographic explorations, exhibition proposals and to generally build my name as an artist in Europe. So right now, the relationship is long distance but it won’t be for that long.
What do you love most about Alex?
What do I love about Alex? That’s such a hard question. We both came out of very dark and abusive relationships, an unfortunate commonality but something that does uniquely bond us. I guess what I love the most about him is he healed my heart and I think that I probably did the same for him. In my prior relationship, I was so broken by the time it ended that my emotional capacity & my ability to trust seemed all but gone. Alex truly made me believe in love again. Geez, does anyone want to read all that emotional stuff? Let’s just say, what I love the most is that he loves the color pink, unicorns and girly things. For the first time, I am in love with my best friend.
Do you ever see yourselves working together on a project?
Absolutely, and I’m very surprised to say that! A project with Alex is a very big development for me, since I make it a rule to never photograph men I’m intimate with. I don’t make sexualized photos or use subjects who I find sexually attractive or titillating. My practice is built around notions of gender bending, it embraces an underground punk-rock-ness. So to move into using Alex as a subject isn’t something I take lightly, but right now, for me, for us, it works. I want to capture his unique energy and the chemistry between us. This thrill of fantasy and romance between us. Two souls creating art in harmony. The first time that we were together I captured a series of small photos, and for me that series has become about shedding old skin and creating a new flesh. Like I mentioned earlier, Alex is helping to build a new Nicholas Contrera, and what can I do as a photographer, by capturing these moments, is to help to build a new Alex Marte. So, yeah, this project is an important moment. It’s important to my art making and my personal growth.
In conclusion what does the future hold for both of you and what are you most excited about?
I think we’re both excited to eventually see each other again, in person! Until then we’ll continue to talk and be together as often as we can, virtually. Although nothing is predicable, I feel like we were destined to be together. And to that point, let me share a brief story. So, Alex is Italian, his English is very good but he still thinks in Italian. Sometimes his translations are a little off, and there are times when he’s trying to tell me how much he likes me, which in translations comes out as ‘baby you’re my best sensation’, and when I heard that for the first time, I thought, ‘motherf***er, I’m going to marry this guy’. What does the future hold? What am I excited about? Well I think you will just have to wait and see from the both of us.
Special thanks to William Huffman for assistance with this article.