These Feelings that Haunt



Authenticity in Life & Art

Staying authentic.
This was the important message relayed to me by an artist teaching a workshop I attended early last fall. She said it in reference to one’s own artwork.
Her message resonated much too clear in my personal strive for career success, and one way I chose to look at this idea of staying authentic was not forcing my creativity for the sake of anything.
Let me explain more thoroughly.
I see beauty everywhere and one of my goals (now) is to bring that beauty to the forefront of others that may not have it so clearly or as often as I perceive it. This bit has been a hard intention to admit, even to myself, because I felt guilty. Why? Because it didn’t feel important enough to do just that.
I’ve always felt the need to be part of the struggle against the many injustices of the world. Children going hungry, third-world countries being exploited by the developed world, the damage to our environment for the sake of profit, etc. Within this context, beauty just did not rank high enough, and I couldn’t base my artwork on this sole concept.
And so I found that my idealistic views were getting in the way of my creativity. Every time I set out to make artwork I would mentally beat myself up about how to make it transmit a message. How do I amplify these literal injustices through my work to make others more aware of them? And when I set out on these seemingly impossible tasks and fail miserably it would send me into depression mode. I thought to myself “I just have to keep focused and with more experience and effort I’ll find a way.” And the cycle would begin all over again.
At the end of the aforementioned workshop, the artist/teacher looked at the work I had produced and said to me “you have a heightened sense of beauty, so you should keep making beautiful things.” A confirmation that made me happy yet at the same time scared that this was all I could do.
Since, I have had a bit of time to reflect on these thoughts and I’m coming to terms with my own capabilities as well as my limitations. So now when I circle back to this idea of staying authentic, everything makes more sense. I believe if one stays authentic to their inclinations in life that the path to all you need will come. Nothing needs to be forced.
Therefore, if I concentrate on making beautiful art I can not only bring meaning to my own life but through that Vessel I may contribute to the struggle against those injustices I do wish to end rather than just bringing it to other people’s awareness. After all, I even find beauty in the fight for justice because it is the beauty in a just life itself which I want to preserve.
The sculpture pictured above was developed during the workshop. In the realm of my work this piece was such a freeing experience.
Are you an artist? Can you relate? Have you ever been road-blocked from the thing you do best because your intentions (as good as they may have been) were not aligned with your most authentic self? Please feel free to share or comment on my experiences laid out on this post.
Happy New Year 2017! (Since this is my first post of the year after a long hiatus).

Meeting Mohamad Hafez at CCSU

How lucky am I to have to the opportunity to, not only meet the artists that we showcase at the CCSU Art Galleries, but also the artists who we (the art department) invite to present lectures for the students.

This week, as was the case, we had the honor to present Mohamad Hafez to speak about his most current body of work.

Mohamad Hafez Bio

When I first saw Hafez’ artwork at City Wide Open Studios in New Haven back in October and I was immediately intrigued.  It was as if gravity pulled me in closer to each piece.  The subject that his works portrayed revealed themselves to me immediately as I discovered a Middle Eastern citadel, shattered and ravaged by what one could easily identify as the trademark of war.

If anyone knows me they will know that I don’t shy away from politics.  In fact, I actually attempt to keep up with current events around the world.  And it’s not unheard of, amidst my friends and family, to have argumentative discussions about the state of world.

However, what I love more than politics is art with a powerful message.

A Refugee Nation - Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.When I turned into the small room where the artist had his work displayed, I knew I had found a special treat.  This work by Hafez was skillfully crafted and installed in the perfect setting that is the Goffe Street Armory in New Haven.  A run down industrial space, the Armory space gave his pieces a sense of belonging, a kinship the works shared with the deteriorated walls, peeling paint, and rusty window frames and exposed structures.

The art history professor in our department contacted me to find a time frame for hosting an artist lecture in our gallery.  When I learned who the artist was that would be presenting a lecture, I was utterly enthused.  Admittedly, she was also a big fan of Hafez’ work like myself, and unfortunately she had missed seeing him speak at Real Artways in Hartford, so what better way to mediate that problem than by hosting his lecture for her students and the university body.

Both sides of the conflict. Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.

detailShotIrrevocably, I loved everything about his lecture and message.  My favorite part of the presentation was his end goal.  He wasn’t just trying to make a statement with his artwork.  The work was born out of his necessity to feel closer to home, to his roots, and to his people rather than trying to spread his own idealistic beliefs.  He focuses his efforts on shedding these perceptions we have which corporate media has manufactured so wrongly in our minds.

He didn’t need to convince me, I was already on his side before I even saw his works of art.  I may not have first hand experience in the kind of suffering that war brings to cities, countries, multitudes of people but my empathetic heart stretches into a universe inside of me, feeling very helpless and wishing I could do more.  He did more by simply sharing his family life in Damascus with us.

He showed us the snapshots he took of every day life when he was finally able to go back to his country.  Homesick and nostalgic about the little details of his home country that most might miss if you’re not really looking, he shed light to his culture’s best aspects.  A culture where humility is of utmost importance is truly noticeable in the neighborhoods as you walk by front doors of houses completely clear of embellishment, they all look the same regardless of how much or little you may have.  He also shared how communities come together when there are neighbors in need.  He showed us pictures of a normal Friday night dinner with immediate family, gatherings of 15-20 people around the table having a grand meal and actively being a family.  It reminded me of some family gatherings I have been to myself, where family extends not only to brothers, sisters, and parents but also cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends whom we consider family.

It was easy to relate to his stories, and though our cultures may be different, they are also so similar.

This was my take on the artwork and the artist’s presentation.  I am sure I could go on for another 600 words to critique the quality of the artwork but after all I have already said, I don’t think it’s as important as you (the reader/viewer) to draw your own conclusion and opinion.

WPC: Humanity

Since yesterday was a busy day for me I did not get to post my weekly challenge photo.  Sometimes life gets in the way of writing or making art, but those two always pull me back quickly to do so.

The challenge for this week is humanity, something which we should all be familiar with, was a hard one for me.  Since I usually look through my archives of photographs for these challenges, unless I have time to go shoot new frames, I am realizing that I have not delved into portraiture enough.  For this challenge I found it necessary to choose a picture of family/friends because those are the only people I actually photograph.

So a little bulb in my head lit up.  I MUST go out there and start photographing strangers!

Yes, I must say that scares me a little.  But we are all just humans and so we all have similar feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams.  If, only, we could get past our differences, we could make magical progress.

Now, I could go on and on about my own hopes and dreams for humanity, but I am ready to post my photo representing an instance of humanity.

I hope you like it.  Comments welcome.

Meeting for the First Time
Meeting for the First Time

On Passion

The other day somebody asked me “why are you so passionate about everything?” I didn’t know how to respond. Partially because I didn’t know I came across so intense and passionate as he so told me.

Thinking back, I suppose I can sometimes be a bit over-spirited and emotional about some topics, not everything. Of course I am passionate about art. Other things I’m passionate about? Music, politics, healthy clean (green) living, and of course my friends and family. This is what comprises my world and I have yet to integrate all of that in to my work. It’s also the toughest part which only comes with lots of practice and experience.  Sometimes, as I have experienced it, your passions come to be your inspiration.

It is an inevitability that an artist’s reality and perspective come to play a major role in his artwork. Having an artist show his personality and the conflicts of his mind within his artwork, and showing how that individual relates to the world is what makes a composition meaningful. This is, I believe, why art is so important and part of the human condition, it’s an expression of our own individual reality which becomes part of the whole human experience.

I suppose I am at an age at which I am becoming aware of so much and I am still deciding what is really important in life, and that has been a hard road to travel.

Of course I cherish my friends and family, each and everyone of them has made my life much more fun and interesting, and I could not have made it to where I am today without their support, their time and advice, or their love. But when it comes to living a fulfilling life, each person has a different goal, and my romantic side shows when I say ‘I want to change the world.’ Yes, that may sound a bit idealistic, but by thinking big I can hope to achieve some sort of change for the better. It’s like that quote that gets thrown around a lot by the motivational speaker Les Brown, “aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars.”  I believe that change is good, for example, one must change to achieve progress and keep moving forward.

As an artist I am still in a period of discovery, with my ceramic art I am exploring the sculptural and non-objective forms in which my ideas and perspective may find a home. When it comes to my photography, I shoot much more instinctively, and my subject varies from nature to instances, and even inspirational textures/materials/colors.  I am an artist still in the beginnings of exploration as I have concentrated mostly on technique and aesthetics.

What is your passion?  What drives you to keep going?  Do you have crazy/hopeful goals like mine?  I would be interested to hear from other creative people out there on what inspires them most in life?

By the way, I have been keeping up with sketching more often, something that comes hard to do because I am 2 dimensionally challenged.   But I keep at it.  I know that practice will pay off.  Since I joined the group CT Sketchers I have made it a point to sketch often, though I need to look at some other sketchers’ techniques.  I am a very visual learner, I know that I can pick up a few tricks if I find some tutorial type videos.  Check out my latest sketches (from the past 2 weeks) below.

#urbansketchers #CTsketchers
Walking Buddy
#urbansketchers #CTsketchers
Rt. 66, Connecticut













Jazz Figures
Jazz Figures
#urbansketchers #CTsketchers
Jazz in Hartford

Artist William Butcher

Today I wanted to write about the artist that will be acting as one of the jurors for this year’s annual exhibition for CAFA.  After all, discovering (new-to-me) artists is the best part of my jobs.

When choosing jurors, we needed two subjects well versed in art and potentially be artists themselves, that was obvious.  However, we wanted to equal the playing field between the representational art versus the abstract and non-representational art entries.  We want to give all styles of art a fair competition.  William Butcher was chosen, not only for his knowledge in art, but also for the mastery of his own abstracted compositions.

The Pharaoh, acrylic on canvas, 42 x 57 in.
The Pharaoh, acrylic on canvas, 42 x 57 in.
Spill in The Gulf, acrylic and burlap on canvas, 42 x 62 in.
Spill in The Gulf, acrylic and burlap on canvas, 42 x 62 in.











The first time I saw his paintings I could NOT stop staring.  There is this outpour of emotion in all his paintings that grab your attention and it doesn’t let    go.  Once you are captured by this irrational emotional force do you start noticing the rest of the composition and its surreal components.  His surrealism is reminiscent of Salvador Dalí, and in an almost playful way he will enter your consciousness to reveal a hidden treasure.

You can visit his website here:  His artist statement is short and it explains his compulsion to create.  He explains “…the language of painting must painstakingly reinvented and its art continually rediscovered.  It is a language whose vocabulary is based on vision of ideal forms, an ideal that is illusive and impossible to reach.”  It is that which I admire most about art, as in life.  Each one of us is reaching for an ideal and, though we may never get there, on the way we will discover such pleasures.

William Butcher has been painting for over 30 years is also the head of the art department at Suffield Academy in Connecticut.  As you can see, there were many reasons we chose Butcher as one of the jurors.  Not only does he show his skillful technique, emotion, and conceptual processes within his paintings; but he also has such great philosophical wisdom that we are lucky he will judge the show.

The Escape, acrylic on canvas, 35 x 50 in.
The Escape, acrylic on canvas, 35 x 50 in.

Here at CAFA we are getting more excited about the 103rd Annual Exhibition because we are seeing the incoming entries each day.  There’s a little over a month left for the online submission deadline (April 4th), so if you are an artist, hurry and sign up!  I hope you enjoyed reading about our first juror.  In the next few days I will write a post about our other juror, or you can go here and check it out yourself:

Political Ideals in Art

One of the things I find most fascinating about art is that it can actually be used as a vehicle to change the world.  I know, changing the world, what an ideal to have.  Both my parents, and many other university students, were very politically active in the 1970’s in Lima, Peru; a time when right-wing dictatorships of many surrounding countries were actively eliminating any influential communist ideas from the population because it contradicted the existing government.  In 1983 my father was tortured in jail for possessing written documents from leftist idealists.  This while my mom was giving premature birth to yours truly.

Growing up, I always admired my parents’ struggle for bettering others’ lives.  We never had a lot, but my parents were always willing to help however they could.  As I write about it now I cannot help but analyze this as being the biggest influence on the way I perceive the world today.

Since I started working at CCSU, I have had the chance to interact with some of the professors in the art department I had not met.  One of those professors was Mike Alewitz.  One of the first things he said to me was “I can’t believe you graduated without having to take one of my classes.”  Since I was a transfer student in the CCSU art department, there were basic courses I was able to circumvent, therefore I did not know all the professors.

We started talking about politics the same day we met.  I told him that his class was the one I was always looking for but never knew existed.  Since, he has invited me to sit in his mural painting class.  Now I need to come up with a worthy concept to paint a mural about.  Ideas I have plenty, but more important than an idea, or a cause, is how well illustrated  and composed it is so that it is able to get the point across.  As I develop these ideas I will write a post about them.

Most people either love Alewitz, or hate him.  I have known some students that were horrified by his teaching methods and others that take his classes again and again, whether they failed or passes the first, or second time.  Some may tell you that he is crazy, but are we not all some measure of crazy?  He and I are of kindred philosophies which is why I enjoy sitting in his class.

Alewitz also grew up in a household with radical thinking parents who were highly influenced by the communist party, as were many others of that generation, my parents (at that time in South America) included.  It is interesting to me how such involvement in the political front can dissipate so quickly from one generation to the next, and even cease to exist with the following generation.  Alewitz is a good contradiction of this development in society, but others in his generation were, too, because they lived through the Vietnam war era.  A time when you fought a war against the authorities to not have to go to war.

Already Alewitz had a radical influence from his own family growing up.  By the time he was 17, he was already a self-professed Marxist.  By the time he got to college, at Kent State University in Ohio, he was organizing anti-war movements among others.  He was marching with other students the day of the Kent State Massacre on May 4th, 1970, where the National Guard opened fire against unarmed college students killing four students and injuring 9 others (source).

If you reside in the United States then you might have a chance to see one of Alewitz’ many murals.  He has painted murals in Austin, Minnesota, South Los Angeles, Chicago, Tennessee, Washington state, Washington DC, Denver, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other locations I might be missing.  Sadly, some of his murals have been destroyed.  Throughout his life he was victimized, harassed, and even added to the terrorist list.  He is never scared away from a mural project.  He has been to Nicaragua, Ukraine, Iraq, Mexico City, Northern Ireland, the West Bank and Jerusalem to paint the voice of the people.

Monument to Rachel Corrie, East Jerusalem
Monument to Rachel Corrie, East Jerusalem
Monument of the Workers of Chernobyl, Ukraine
Monument of the Workers of Chernobyl, Ukraine

Let’s talk about how this nonconformist artist, Mike Alewitz, helped to change the world.

In the early 1980’s, there was much energy brewing in South Africa.  There was a lot of friction on the capitalist corporations.  The strength of the organized community along with militant political unions was promising in ending the apartheid regime.  This was the goal the ANC (African National Congress) and the South African Communist party were trying to reach (source).  It was also around this time that Ronald Reagan listed the ANC and, by default, Nelson Mandela (source).

The racially unequal treatment of employees at the 3M plant in South Africa’s was revealed at the same time that 3M tried closing their Freehold, NJ plant (which would leave 1000 unemployed) (source).  Factories were closing everywhere.  Many were losing jobs.  And in Austin Minnesota 1,500 Hormel meat packer workers were on strike for 10 long months trying to protect a fair wage (source).

Solidarity was shared by labor unions, workers, and activists everywhere.

Enter activist and mural painter Mike Alewitz who was in Austin, MN in 1986 organizing the development for the concept and the painting of a mural.  The mural spoke for the people.  It stood for the striking meat packers, for South Africa, for working people, for farmers, for families, and for Nelson Mandela, who at the time was imprisoned by the U.S.

P-9 MURAL - Austin, MN, 1986
P-9 MURAL – Austin, MN, 1986

You can no longer see this mural if you go to Austin, MN.  As you can see from the picture below, the mural was sandblasted.  The U.F.C.W leaders (United Food and Commercial Workers International Unions) ordered the mural be destroyed and forgotten.  It was a demonstration of power on the part of the union bureaucrats; a power hold that was so weak no union member would sandblast the wall.  The U.F.C.W leaders had to do the dirty work of destroying the mural themselves (source).

Defaced P-9 Mural
Defaced P-9 Mural

This instance was only one example of art activism.  Many of the Hormel workers were changed by the experiences of the strike and the Mural.  Some of those people even went on to fight for the labor movement (source).  My only hope as an artist is to be able to influence people in such a way that they become empowered with knowledge and the desire to change the world.  What kind of mark would you like to leave behind in this world?