Today we’d like to introduce you to Felipe Ortiz.
Felipe, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
My journey as a professional artist evolved in 2008. That year, my older brother visited Boston from our native Colombia; It had been nine years without seeing him, and after seeing my paintings, he asked, “Is this the best you can do?” This question marks the existential beginning of my art career. I commemorate my brother who passed away five years ago, and I’m determined to show my best ability as a painter, and in life in general.
Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, my interest for art began at a young age. I studied at a Waldorf school where art was an important subject in their curriculum. During art classes, I recognized my ability to observe and understand depth perception, which lead me to practice perspective drawing. This technique came naturally to me and I could identify vanishing points in architectonical settings. Drawing was and continues to be an impactful element in my life, probably the most personal and direct extension of my own thinking.
During my childhood, Colombia suffered from an intolerable wave of inequality and violence that affected many, and by the end of 1999, my parents and I moved to the United States, leaving our family and friends behind. At the age of 14, the process of adaptation in the US was not easy. We moved to four different states along the east coast in a period of five years. At first, the language barrier isolated me, but this challenge ended up working to my benefit because I began to draw a lot by myself. In school, I fell behind in certain classes, including math, and as if things were meant to be, I was placed in a geometry class where my initial interests for perspective and vanishing points were matched with abstract shapes, multiple angles, and repetitive patterns from geometric exercises.
Even though the process of adaptation to a new culture was difficult, I was extremely lucky to have had my parents’ guide this journey. With freedom and encouragement to develop my own interests, I chose to dedicate myself to my creative practice. My fine arts studies began at Alfred University in 2003 and continued at MassArt, where I earned a BFA in 2009 and studied under Kofi Kayiga. While Boston’s skylines captured my interest for realistic interpretations of cityscapes, I remained nostalgic for my native roots. I obtained US citizenship in 2011 and began traveling to Colombia once again. After painting a series of “explosive nature,” I discovered my passion for representing Latin American culture through my art.
In 2016, I organized the “Fresco Exchange” for artists in Latin America and the US, resulting in exhibitions, urban art projects and community engagement across countries. Through this self-funded project, we have successfully exhibited over 60 artists at an international level and invited three US artists to Cali to participate in locally organized mural projects. This Fall, we are hosting four Colombian muralists who are visiting the US to present our artwork and engage communities through public art across the east and west coasts. I am excited to see where this lead.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My paintings and murals are a unique fusion of artistic themes, from representational views of urban scenery to my “Explosive Nature” series. My multicultural upbringing and travels between my native Colombia and United States has helped me gain a wider perspective in my artistic interests. From Colombia’s vibrant culture, colors, sounds and dense natural scenery, to the States’ vast landscape and fast-paced urban environments, there are multiple elements I can pick from each location and merge into the pictorial and self-idealistic vision I’d like to represent.
Thematic variations include but are not limited to urban and industrial scenery, nature, abstracted geometry, expressive mark making, and a hybrid between all of these themes, which can define a more personal, unique and stylized painting. One of the purposes of mixing themes and styles is to show an alternative fusion of my interest, such as a cityscape interacting with a natural setting, while birds and vegetation invade the confined spaces of a structural formation. It is this juxtaposition of imagery that allows me to play with different levels of depth, creating almost an illusion that depicts an abstract arrangement based on realism.
I invite the viewer to enjoy my art almost as a modern surrealist, where each element in the painting is carefully selected, investigating the possibilities of an imaginative view with in a world of associated imagery that is up to your personal, open interpretation.
What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
In Boston, we can’t deny that there are limited opportunities to thrive as an artist. While it’s not impossible to find success, it’s also not enough for every talented artist to comfortably live from their art. There are many artist communities that support themselves and share opportunities, but I’m eager for more connection, communication and collaboration – not only amongst local artists, but also amongst the greater Boston public. Today, there’s a large gap between artists, local art lovers, and the people who are consuming art. I believe there needs to be a lot more support from Boston residents who appreciate – and need – art.
Artists: It’s true – most public art projects do not happen unless there’s significant approved sponsorship, but “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If you don’t get grants or funding, try other alternatives. Want to paint a mural? Go door to door until someone says yes and ask paint companies for donations. You can create your own opportunities. Reach out and remain open to collaborations with other artists too, because together, we can achieve a collective goal.
Residents: If you see artists painting your block, please support them. Give them lunch, keep them hydrated, interact, find out what their art means and how it affects the community. For us, it’s a humbling experience to interact with your community, and we hope it works both ways.
Boston: It’s time to take a risk. Please help artists create within our city. Help artists stay in Boston. Help us build a stronger platform for creative minds to find success through their art, because art is necessary for everyone.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Beyond my own studio practice, I am currently working on multiple projects in Boston and beyond, from museum exhibitions to urban art projects. I recently painted a mural for a collaborative exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA, which is on view until September of this year. Nearby in Nantasket Beach, more murals are also popping up as part of a collaborative project at the Paragon Boardwalk in Hull, MA – and this town will feature more large-scale art from Colombian and Boston muralists this Fall in collaboration with the Fresco Exchange. Stay tuned for more on that!
Internationally, I’m also participating in two public art projects on view right now, including “Paseo de las Americas,” an exhibit sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank that is currently on display in Mendoza, Argentina and will travel to Washington DC next month. I’m also active in Colombia’s “Muro al Barrio” program, an ongoing exhibit of murals throughout a specific neighborhood in Cali where over 40 pieces from local and international artists have been painted in an effort to revitalize this neighborhood through urban art and community engagement.
There are multiple ways to support my work. Of course, purchasing my art or sponsoring the upcoming Fresco Exchange tours are the most direct and beneficial approach, but I also love when people talk about the impact of collaborative public art, murals, installations. It is important to spread the word, be present and help some of these projects get off the ground. I do it for the love of art, for the social and personal impact art can create. It motivates people, and recently in Boston and surrounding towns, public art is creating a presence that is worth supporting.
- Website: www.felipeortiz.com www.frescoexchange.com
- Email: Felipeortizart@gmail.com
- Instagram: @felipeortizart