“On the Map” Andy Warhol’s Portrait, Digital Art
Pablo Caviedes, with a piece of Work in Progress.
Magnifying Human Values
With Mike Foldes
Founder & Managing Editor
Q) So, when did you start writing poetry, and by extension, when did you start making art?
A) I believe that poetry itself is present in life — in all forms of artistic expression. The spoken, or written words are not the only tools to exercise and manifest poetry as such. We record and preserve poetry in a more specific way. In order to both express and experience poetry, we require our sense of smell, sight, taste, sound, touch and a human sensitivity of hearing. As a primarily visual artist, I felt the desire of extending my forms of expression also through the written word. Poetry specifically, has opened for me a new possibility of sharing my feelings and ideas which, in the recent years, are mostly connected to experiencing the life in New York City. That marks a new step in my process as a multidisciplinary artist.
My beginnings of art dates from the childhood and although little I could know then what the meaning of art was, my constant need for art-making was in a way an unconscious necessity and an exercise in permanent entertainment, within the very basic technical resources.
Those needs started to take shape and became a conscious choice as well as an attitude of life once I began my artistic training at a school of plastic arts, Daniel Reyes, at the age 16, in my home country Ecuador.
Q) Were your family members artists, or did they have other creative pursuits, such as music or dance?
A) The artistic vein in me comes from the paternal side. Both my father and my grandfather are musicians. For my father, an educator and a lawyer, making music is part of an entertainment and a pleasant way of enjoying the free time, especially when he touches his accordion. For my grandfather, though, music became a major part of his life. He has been a performer and a composer of at least 50 songs (to which he also has written the lyrics). Several of these songs, which represent the Ecuadorian national genre, have been recorded by other recognized artists in the country.
I feel also connected, in terms of an artistic influence on my life, with my father’s grandmother, that is my great-grandmother, Julia. I have never met her, as I was growing up with my mother and my maternal grandparents till I was 18, but hearing the fascinating stories about her life shared by the family, in addition to her beautiful portrait, have resulted in a powerful and poetic image which I carry in my memory. For her times, my great-grandmother was a very unusual woman. A poet and a liberal actively involved in politics. Those qualities make me feel that I could easily relate to her… In that sense, I believe my inclination for art came naturally in blood, through the genes of my paternal family. On the other hand, perhaps more than before, I appreciate the magical, natural environment in which I was raised as a little child, with my maternal family.. The richness of color and the beauty of surrounding me trees, flowers, plants, fruits, animals — is the memory I treasure and find strength from, today.
On The Map
See more on the development here: www.pablocaviedes.com/on-the-map
Building Andy Warhol – Work in Progress
Q) When did you come to the States, and has it been easy or difficult to make the transition to living here?
A) My first visit to the States was in 2001. I was invited to present my works — both paintings and sculpture — at the individual exhibition in the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, DC. During that time I decided to visit New York City, not realizing that my little trip to The Big Apple would fall on the St. Patrick’s Day. As soon as I made my first steps in the city, after leaving the bus station, I felt like I was being “bombarded” with a spontaneous energy of color, predominantly green of course, and surrounded by many happy people… In that very moment I somehow knew that New York City was the place I wanted to come to live…. That decision was followed by applying for the permanent residence status with relatively fast results, as I fell into “the special talents” category and had a good lawyer specializing in this kind of petition,
Mr. John Assadi. As the US citizen now, I feel like NYC is my home and many of the difficulties connected with the assimilation process are already behind me, although coming to this country and to this so competitive place in the world in particular, which is NYC, without the knowledge of the language and no other forms of support wasn’t easy and had an impact on both my search for job opportunities as well as my art process in general. Regardless of how arduous, tiring and difficult life could be at times, I believe that my affection and openness for different cultures which I have encountered here, has helped me make this experience both interesting and worth trying…
Q) Who were your major artistic influences, historically?
A) Undoubtedly, Pablo Picasso comes first. The more I know his work and his artistic process, the more I see him as the most interesting and complete artist in the modern art history. As a student, I had two teachers who also became my friends and who had a big impact on that formative stage in my art process. These were two Ecuadorian artists, the painter and sculptor Edgar Reascos and the ceramist and sculptor Jorge Ortega, they both were for me a source of knowledge and great motivators. At that same time, about 25 years ago, I also met the French ethnomusicologist living in Ecuador, Chopin Thermes, who besides being a good friend during all these years, has become a strong and inspiring reference in my process.
Q) What do you have to say about your creative process?
A) I look at art as a form of expression, a medium of communication. I intend to express everything that concerns me, or disrupts my life and environment. In reference with the philosophical and social messages and through the constant “technical” medium experimentation, I develop my series of works in which through the visual medium I seek to inspire, raise awareness and a reflection in the public viewer.
Q) You and I both are members of the We Are You Project. How has this influenced your work, or is it more of a continuum of what you were already doing?
A) At my first encounter with the “We Are You” project, in NYC, in 2011, where I was one of the artists presenting works in its first group show, I did not suspect how deep and interesting the event would become.
Since that time I have gotten to know many interesting people — the artists, art scholars and critics, art promoters and poets. We all share the belief in the values of the contribution the immigrants have made in the cultural development of this country. That experience has inspired me tremendously and made a strong impact on the decisions I have made as an artist in the last several years. Since my first involvement in the “We Are You” project, I have created the series of works which I titled “On the Map,” and which are particularly important to me both in terms of introducing different techniques and format which mark a new process in my art making, but also in that I share my personal view on the role of immigration on the formative process of this country’s identity — from its beginnings to the present.
Q) What is the political narrative in your work that you would like to share with our readers, and others?
A) More and more, as my life journey progresses, I feel and understand the great need to give greater value to the preservation and care of “Mother Earth,” or as we say in Latin-American world, “Pacha Mama” — by which we mean the planet earth with Nature and all it carries, the very life of its species. That is why I have been increasingly questioning the aspects of the modern world that revolve around a system of generating a prevailing capital, which is increasingly and obsessively prized in the current system, over a human capital. For that reason my political vision comes in hand with any manifestation and tendency close to a more humanistic vision, a vision that dignifies the coexistence between human beings, their habitat and the rest of the species with the preservation of these in balance and harmony of all.
Q) Are you teaching now? If so, where?
A) Sadly, in all these years as an artist, I have not been teaching, with just a few instances of running art workshops and offering instruction to some students. I have dedicated most of my life exclusively to developing the process of my work and its language while concentrating my energy mostly on deepening and developing new proposals through my work. Now, as a grown-up and mature artist, I look at things in a different way and imagine that sharing my knowledge and experience could be very awarding. The realization of life as a path, which at this point in life, starts getting shorter, makes me think that it is important to share and in a way I see that as a responsibility of all of us — to put a “grain of sand” and contribute to the future, with a hope that those who come after us may have an equal or better light, better from that which life has offered us.
Pablo Caviedes images from various series on his website
Q) What is the most important lesson, if there were just one, that you would advise your students to learn as they pursue careers as working artists?
A) Perhaps, that the starting point for all of us is the humanism. A technical knowledge can relatively be easy to access to, but I would encourage my students to be open for the realization that art can have a power to magnify the essence of the human values and to reveal the secrets of nature. Discovering in ourselves the sensitivity and empathy for the surrounding world — both in its wider sense as well as in its “local” meaning, can lead them to finding the artistic way in contributing to a better and more human society and a more integral formation and development of people.
Q) Anything you would like to add that we have not asked?
A) My over 6-years project, the series “On the Map,” which was initially inspired by the “We are You” project and includes a variety of techniques and formats, led me to a book that bears the same title. “On the Map” represents my personal view on immigration, a graphic perspective of what I consider a common denominator of our American identity. This bilingual book (English/Spanish), with the text by the art historian Dr. Jose Rodeiro, is comprised of three parts, represented by three faces which act as a visual metaphor for this country’s historical situation. One of the parts of this book focuses on Andy Warhol, an icon of U.S. arts and culture who has world-wide recognition but whose connection to immigrants has been relegated to the sidelines. He represents the second generation of immigrants, who leave behind an enormous cultural legacy, and in his case — the new artistic paradigm that revolutionized the art world. James Warhola, nephew of Andy Warhol, after visiting my studio was kind to write the preface to the book. I couldn’t agree more with his statement that “not enough attention can be brought to second-generation people and their immigrant parents, for these new residents are often the ones who are at the forefront of discovery and innovation in their newly adopted country, just as Andy Warhol was in changing the path of art history forever.”
About the poet/artist:
Born in 1971 in Cotacachi, Ecuador, Caviedes has been exhibiting his work for the past twelve years in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Washington, DC, New York, Colombia and various cities of Ecuador. He is known primarily as a visual artist; but, his forays into poetry are always brilliant. He studied at the Art Institute in Paris and at the College of Plastic Arts In Ecuador under Daniel Reyes. He won the 1994 ¨Paris Prize.¨ In 1998, in Paris, France, he was selected for ¨Emergent Artists of Latin American and the Caribbean¨ exhibition: A new generation of Artist. In 2002, in Barcelona, Spain, he obtained honorable mention at the Second Biennial International of Painting ¨Vilassar del Mar.¨
In 2004, he exhibited in ¨Art in a Bottle¨ at the Agora Gallery, New York City. In 2008, he was selected in the 31st Small Works Art Competition (NYU). In 2009, he exhibited in Fusion: American Classics Meets Latin American Art, at the Biggs Museum of American Art, Dover, Delaware. Also that year, he was selected for the show: ¨Ecuadorian Contemporary Art¨ at United Nations, New York. Just recently he showed his art at the group exhibition: ¨Ecuadorian Renaissance,” Queens Museum of Art, New York, and also in the Second Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, New York.
ON THE MAP
About the interviewer:
Mike Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This e-interview was conducted in January-February 2017. The poem “On the Map” is Caviedes’ contribution to the We Are You Project poetry collection and appears in the We Are You Project Poetry Anthology, available for $14. plus shipping: http://www.weareyouproject.org/contact-form.