Art walk 2018 creative spotlight: Sergio Villamizar- "Art can serve as a wake-up call and inspire us to action..."

Sergio Villamizar from Bogota, Colombia was raised in a neighborhood where everyone new everyone and the kids played soccer on the front lawn of his house:

- "I spent hours drawing and sketching, it was my favorite thing to do. However, I was also the witness of injustices and violence; I still remember an experience when I was around 11 years old and was at a movie theater with my sister when all of a sudden the movie was shut off, the lights were turned on and several soldiers walked into the movie theater looking for and taking by force any male they could find who looked old enough to fight; most of those kids probably ended up dying fighting the guerrillas in the jungles and mountains of Colombia. Of course, the government didn’t send the soldiers to abduct the kids from affluent neighborhoods. I also saw a neighbor getting shot because she walked out of her house after a government imposed curfew and a student protester being tied up against a light post and beaten with a helmet by a soldier. These are some of the things that I saw growing up and that I will always remember.

Art is something I've gravitated to and did as a past time without thinking of it as art. I would draw, experimented with layers of colored crayons, scratching the superficial layers to reveal the colors underneath, and on occasions would glue cutout figures and pieces of fabric, this would be called mixed media today. In nineteen eighty, at the age of 14, I got my first camera, an old 1950’s fully manual German camera and that’s when my passion for photography started.

I borrowed the idea of icons from Kehinde Wiley who borrows from famous paintings to create a sort of icon which addresses issues of class culture, the spectacle and the commoditization of not only black American Culture but also black American masculinity. I also relate to the ideas of Ron English and Shepard Fairey; for instance English addresses issues of simulacrum, capitalistconsumerism and the idealization and sexualization of the body, subjects which I also address in my works; and Shepard Fairey appropriates contemporary images to question consumerism, capitalism, imperialism and the status quo, things that I tent to do in my works as well. 

My ideas come from the environment that surrounds me, posters, billboards, magazines, television, the internet, books, philosophy, current events, etc. I enjoy reading everything from science fiction to art history and philosophy and ideas come to me in those readings. Some of my favorite philosophers are Baudrillard, Rolland Barthes, and Guy Debord; some of my favorite photographers are Bresson, Hockney and Kertesz.

My inspiration comes from the same aforementioned streams of images, pseudo-news, reality shows, bill boards, and fashion magazines, comic books, movies, as well as from newspaper articles, books and literary magazines. Sometimes ideas pop into my head when I am working out, driving or shopping and I have to stop and write them down before they disappear into the void. Thus putting the idea on paper would be the 1st step in my artistic process. I then proceed to make very raw sketches and to look for images in magazines, and on the web that might work for that particular idea, I may also photograph models and props to create Photoshop collages, while at the same time doing research on the issue I want to address, as well as the symbolism that may be appropriate for that particular image I am working with at the time. During the second stage of the process, I start to create a digital sketch in Photoshop using found or photographed images; many times it is easier for me to go into the studio and photograph a model, rather than trying to find very specific poses or gestures. This is where the image begins to take form, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the bodies of the saints (current work) are created from the body parts of various images. Once I am content with the body and general posture of the saint I begin to think about composition, iconography, background, animal consort and the arranging and rearranging, cropping, and editing process begins and continues until I am satisfied. During the third stage is when I begin to work on the digital hatch drawing utilizing the Wacom tablet, The digital sketch serves as a reference, which I may follow very closely, although many things can change in the drawing process, based on the need of the medium (drawing white on a black canvas), as parts of the composition become abstracted or simplified and as others get reinterpreted. I see every step in the process as an evolution that culminates in the final image. Technically the entire piece is created with white hatch lines drawn on a black background, where I want black I simply don’t draw any lines, where I want white I draw the lines closer together and somewhere in between we can see the shades of gray. The lines are straight or curved to fit the contour of the subject matter, and I usually put more emphasis in regards to detail on the figures in the foreground in relation to the background, which, I usually simplify and stylize. In the past I have also worked exclusively with photographs, mixed media various print making methods (silk screening, woodcuts, intaglio), water color, markers, pencil drawings, etc.

My work is a balance of both, it always starts conceptually as I believe art is about ideas, however, I am a strong believer of the “visual arts,” therefore, the image must be strong and well-rendered. 

I am an artist who is concerned about social and political issues within contemporary mainstream, modern America such as unrestrained capitalism, consumerism, zealous nationalism, and xenophobia. My work is a critique of American values, class iconography, and branding. In my latest work, I am drawing a parallel between the Christian religious myth of the saint and our contemporary, secular, superhero mythos by borrowing from 13-16th century European image structures and motifs, as well as contemporary comic books, together with constructs that support intent toward propaganda, persuading the audience to see the immediacy or impact of the message. 

In a way, I am not sure which one came first, however, I am concerned with social issues in my art and in my personal life I have been a member for over two decades of the Gifts from the Heart Committee whose mission is to help poor families and their children in Jersey City by contributing toys and clothing during the winter holiday season. In addition, I have served as coordinator for the Diversity Stride at my place of work for 15 years assisting the American Conference on Diversity, whose mission is to educate our youth, promote diversity and help create and enhance a society that embraces social justice for all. Furthermore, I have also assisted with the Relay for Life to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. 

I enjoy spending many hours by myself, either taking pictures, making prints, creating or editing images on the computer, or painting. Now that I have two small children and my alone times are most infrequent it is getting harder and harder to keep making art.

I believe that Art helps me stay grounded and remain conscientious, it seems that we are spending more and more time engaged with technology and gadgets and it’s easy to get distracted with the simulacrum and forget what is really important.

I have always done art for myself. The entire process from beginning to end is about communicating ideas, feelings, frustrations, etc. and it has a cathartic effect.

I believe that art has been (Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War, Picasso’s Guernica, Botero’s Abu Ghraib series, etc.) and can continue to be a vehicle for social change and it should be used as a tool to deconstruct and critique our current socio-political climate. Art exposes and helps resolve issues of social justice and can shift the way people think about the world. Art can serve as a wake-up call and inspire us to action.

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