Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview with an Soulful Artist: Pepe Villegas

Every now and again the world manages to bring someone into your life that is breathtaking in just about every imaginable way. A little less than a year ago, via the fantastic Karlo Colon, I was introduced (electronically and later physically) to Pepe Villegas. From his physical awesomeness (yes Lawd this man is a looker...and so is his partner RJ...but I ain't opposed to a package deal of spare husbands...heyyyyyyy) and spiritual beauty to his stunning art to the intentional manner in which he lives his life (and helps others to live theirs), Pepe really is breathtaking.

As often happens in New York, all of the best things are scheduled at exactly the same time in different parts of town. The day I received notice that Pepe would have a gallery opening was the same day (not even 10 minutes before) that I had finalized a meeting with a number of people for a new work project. Without resorting to vulgar language...I was a wee bit pissed off. But sometimes thems the breaks. Since I wouldn't be able to be with Pepe for the opening of the show, I thought of the next best thing I could do, which was help spread the word about the show and about this truly gifted artist.

I hope that you all get a chance to experience Pepe's artwork and Pepe himself. You will get a taste of Pepe here, but if you are free this evening and in New York City, do yourself a favor and check out the opening of this exhibit. If you can't get there this evening, it will be up through sometime in January (more information about tonight can be found at the end of Pepe's interview).

Thank you Pepe for agreeing to be interviewed for the good readers here at My Feet Only Walk Forward. From my heart to yours!

1. Talk to me about the type of art that you do. Where does it stem from? You went to school for architecture, so how does one go from being an architect to being a brilliant painter?

I am considered a multi media artist since my creative expression ranges from a diversity of mediums; painting, photography, video, writing, drawings, etc. My artistic motivation stems from a deep-seated curiosity concerning the unfolding of my life journey and an innate drive to reveal the beauty within the ordinary. I know that everything in life happens in an impeccable and many times in an inscrutable manner as it upholds the embodiment of who we are.

My education as an architect provided me structure, to conceptualize ideas, introduced me to art history and consequently became the gateway for me to embark into a multifaceted search for that self-expression which brings to fruition my genuine and creative life force.

2. You grew up in Puerto Rico (WEPA!) how has your identity as a Puerto Rican influenced your artwork? How has the narrative in your artwork changed since you have lived in the US? How have the two narratives of your life combined?

I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and spent half of my life in New York City.
All through my evolution as an artist and regardless of the location or subject matter, you can sense an undertone that resonates with my upbringing in my art all the way through the use of storytelling, vibrant colors, folklore and figurative mysticism.

Being raised in a Roman Catholic environment kept me in constant inquiry to reason the unreasonable. The contradictions, the fear based demands on how to be, see and think and the insufficiency of common sense when it comes to its dogma, awakens the provocative style that exemplifies my art work

3. You such a quiet confidence about yourself and who you are, particularly as a gay man. How has your artistic journey intersected with your journey as a gay man?

I particularly don’t identify myself with labels and categories. It limits our perception of the oneness that we are and it only perpetuates discord

My artistic journey is my emotional, physical and spiritual journey. It’s all the same thing!
I believe that we are all artists and creative beings with a voice and the means to embody it. It is in our faculty to unfold and express that which we are, trusting that everything that we experience is an invitation to surrender to our authentic greatness.

4. What is it that you want consumers of your art to take away from the experience? What is it that you hope to achieve through your artwork?

I love bringing people together and through the joy of fellowship I have been skillful in conceiving artistic happenings that inspire others determination to get acquainted with their unique brilliance.

I can only offer of myself, just as I am and I know that when we come from that Awareness all we see is our own reflection in everything. This realization is an insight for inspiration and brings forth the motivation to share it as an art piece and just feels wonderful.

5. You and your partner RJ founded The Waking Circle, which is an amazing group committed to helping folks grow spiritually. How does your work as an artist intersect with your spiritual path? In what ways does your spiritual path determine how you experience your artwork?

As I mentioned before, everything is one and you can’t have one without the other. Rj and I came together in a most synchronized and natural way. We both share an awareness of what is in the moment-to-moment experience and the power in the simplicity of being.

In the Waking Circle Rj’s recognition and teaching of "resting as awareness for short moments, repeated many times" and its instant effectiveness resonates with my present conscious take on of life and the complexities of my creative process.
For example: What I used to define as an “artist block” now I see it as an invitation and an opening to step out of “my limited and familiar strategy” into a moment of awareness where I can see myself thinking that I am blocked.
The byproduct is clarity and the revelation of fresh ideas and unimagined solutions.

6. Finally, you have a gallery opening coming up soon, where can people find you? What projects do you have coming up? How can people keep connected to your work?

Here is the press release information on the gallery exhibition “Folkorican”:

With FolkloRican, renowned multi-media artist Pepe Villegas presents us with a ten-piece collection of oil paintings that delve into an intriguing archive of personal and cultural memories referencing his Puerto Rican upbringing. Ranging from striking representational and semi-representational portraiture to abstract and symbolism-rich canvases, this highly evocative criollista sampling is deeply rooted in cultural pride, introspective contemplation, and national nostalgia. The exhibition title, a playful portmanteau of the adjectives “folkloric” and “Puerto Rican,” aptly and cleverly captures the autochthonous and celebratory spirit of the artist and his artwork.

An opening reception is scheduled for Wednesday, November 17, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, and will feature live Afro-Caribbean and Latin music by percussionist and NYU Steinhardt masters candidate Carson Moody.

FolkoRican: The Art of Pepe Villegas runs from November 17, 2010 through January 31, 2011 at The Gallery Space at Wagner is located on the 2nd floor of the Puck Building, at 295 Lafayette Street, corner of Houston Street (B/D/F/M trains to Broadway Lafayette, 6 train to Bleecker, or N/R/W trains to Prince Street).
Viewing hours are Monday-Thursday 9:00am-9:00pm, Fridays 9:00am-7:00pm, and Saturdays 9:30am-6:00pm (closed on Sundays). The Gallery is closed from December 24 through January 3, inclusively.
For more information, including adjusted holiday hours, please contact Frankie Crescioni-Santoni at 212.998.7400.

You can find more information on my work on my website

Gracias Brandon!

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