NEW YORK, OCTOBER 07 (IPS) – Over the past two months of the summer, Caribbean-American artist Delvin Lugo presented his first solo gig in New York City, showcasing large canvases , resplendent at the High Line Nine Gallery on Manhattan’s West Side and showcases the lover community in its hometown, the Dominican Republic.
The exhibition entitled “Caribbean Summer” captivated visitors with its vibrant colors and cartoon characters, and also demonstrated the success of alternative art events. The gallery space is provided by the non-profit art group Chashama, which describes itself as helping “create a more diverse, equal and inclusive world by partnering with property owners.” property to transform unused immovable property”.
These spaces – including galleries that are normally closed in the summer – are used for “artists, small businesses and for free, community-centered art classes”. According to Lugo, the support of the organizers made his performance possible and also motivated to continue producing work.
The 44-year-old artist said he is particularly interested in portraying LGBTQ activists and expanding his work to include more countries in the Caribbean. The following (edited) interview took place in Manhattan during the exhibition period.
SWAN: How did the show go?
DELVIN LUGO: So this exhibition is a response to my previous work. I just finished a series about my childhood, growing up as a young gay man in the Dominican Republic, because I lived there until I was twelve. And I spent so much time dealing with the past that I thought: you know, I really don’t know anything about the weird culture and people’s lives in DR right now. . Yes, I do visit again, but when I come back, I go to see my relatives back in the country, so this is a way to really educate myself and really connect with the gay community in the Dominican Republic. And in this case, I’m focusing on Santo Domingo.
SWAN: What steps did you take to make the connection?
DL: Well, I actually started out by reaching out to individuals on social media that I might have seen stories written about or things that caught my attention on Instagram… so I went contact them and we start a dialogue first. Then, when I was ready to start painting, I decided to go see them in person, and the subject that came to my mind was “chosen family”. I had some idea what the situation was like there, but I really, really don’t know.
Until I started meeting people and they started telling me that they basically had no rights… and so I wanted to focus on artists and activists who I really admire, who are working and struggling. That’s really how it started. I go there, I tell my contacts to bring their chosen family, and we hang out and take pictures, and I come back here and that’s how the pictures are formed, from all all the information I have. And I usually don’t just work from one picture, I collage multiple photos, and then I draw from that collage.
SWAN: So, no picture from just one photo?
DL: Well, in some cases, I borrowed photos from an association that organizes Gay Pride marches, and I use the people in the photos, but I added myself, or the car , or different aspects. With these images, I was inspired by the spirit – the spirit of celebration, the spirit of individuality… and I just worked around the image, adding myself as the driver, etc.
SWAN: Super colorful paintings, really stand out – was that the intention in the first place?
DL: I’ve been working with vibrant colors lately, and I knew it was going to be very bright… the Caribbean is bright, colorful, and I also wanted to make the paint represent the heat, the climate in DR. . It is like summer with hot pink color. But I actually know most of these people. Except for some young people in one photo, I know everyone, like Agatha, a transgender woman and gay activist from the Bahamas living in the Dominican Republic.
SWAN: Can you tell us about your own journey – have you always wanted to be an artist?
DL: I did, you know. It was one of those things where, when I finished school, I really needed to work to survive, so I took the job and somehow I was always able to get a job in the fashion industry, and that’s the thing. that really kept me busy for a long time.
SWAN: What did you do in fashion?
DL: When I started I worked in sales, like a showroom wholesaler, but most of the time I was a fashion stylist, working as an assistant and then doing my own work. And it’s a full-time job. Then, slowly but surely, I started doing my own projects, like ink drawings, just things for myself, to be creative.
And that has evolved into my drawing more and playing with oils, which is what I did before. To get back to it, I took continuing education classes. I need to be reintroduced to oils because I have forgotten a lot of the techniques and things you need to know.
From then on, I continued to paint, wishing I had more time to work on it. Then Covid happened, I was laid off, and in my head, I thought they could call me back at any time, and I actually worked around the clock on my painting during the day. first two months. Work didn’t call me back, but at the time it was great because by then I was used to the daily routine. I can tell you that from the beginning of 2020 to now, the way I see my work evolve and even the way I think, and the way I approach painting, it’s been a learning experience.
SWAN: So this is your first truly personal show?
DL: Yes, it really is. I’ve done some group gigs, but this opportunity came to Chashama and I signed up. I’ve been working on all of these pieces, so this is the right time. It’s an introduction to my work, it’s not like a full solo gig in a way.
SWAN: How long have you lived in New York?
DL: So my family left DR in 1990, when I was 12, and we lived in Rhode Island and then I came to New York in ’97 and I’ve been here ever since.
SWAN: Next, with art?
DL: I want to keep painting, because it’s a privilege to have a studio, to practice full-time, and I really want to continue that. I’ve been painting from home until last October, and when I got my first studio – even though it’s about the size of this table here – I couldn’t wait to get to the studio.
I’m there to do my own thing. However, I get really annoyed when people say to me, “Oh, it must be awesome, you’re in your studio, doing your art…” That’s great, but also real. frustrated because I’ve been banging my head against the wall for days, or angry because something didn’t go my way. It was a war.
So for me, it’s really just about continuing to create, continuing to paint, following my instincts, following stories. I really want to continue my path of representation and focus on the LGBTQ community, not just in DR but anywhere else in the world. I think it would be a really interesting project to go somewhere else to meet exotic cultures and show them in pictures, even like in other places in the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica. That would be really interesting. – AM / SWAN
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