“There Will Be No Barriers Any More”

In a new exhibit in Fair Haven, Andres Madariaga has confronted his fellow painters with a question: What does it mean to be a “Latino” artist?

A wide range of answers emerge from the works Madariaga has assembled for Metamorphosis/Metamorfosys, a new show at Arte Gallery, the Latino-focused exhibition space and cultural center on Grand Avenue in Fair Haven.

Madariaga was born in Colombia and graduated from the Educational Center for the Arts in 2005, and was accepted as a visual arts student at the prestigious Cooper Union in Manhattan.

With the encouragement of teachers and family, he re-ignited his work and and has been showing at Arte, Artspace, and other venues.

Asked by Arte founders Danny Diaz and David Greco to curate his first show, Madariaga has developed Metamorphosis/Metamorfosys with the young artists he knows. Its aim: “To engage an open discussion about the identify, placement and growth and evolution of Mestizo and Latin American artists in the United States.”

During a tour of the exhibition, which held its opening reception last Friday, Madariaga put it more simply: “I wanted to erase all stereotypes of what Latino artists should be.”

That said, all the young Latino artists he knows are engaged with the questions of dual identity that Madariaga struggled with as a youngster.

He posted to question of how participants see themselves, as people, as artists. “Is it where you’re born or where you choose to live?”

“I constantly had to explain to people that I’m from Colombia,” he said of his growing-up years. His point: He’s into Gabriel Garcia Marquez—one of Madariaga’s portraits in the show is of the great Colombian novelist—but Bob Dylan as well.

To make his point he invited 10 emerging artists ranging in age from 17 to 35 to contribute work.

For Israel Sanchez, who lives now in East Haven but met Madariaga when they were both students at Wilbur Cross High School, Metamorphosis/Metamorfosys is a first-time public exhibition.

“I’m really excited,” he said while waiting for his parents to arrive for the occasion.

In a brief interview at Friday’s reception, Sanchez acknowledged the influence of surrealist—and Spanish—painter Salvador Dali. But he said what really grabs him in this work are deep questions about the world’s origins about which he reads in philosophy as well as well as the faith traditions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

Sanchez will be graduating in December from the University of New Haven with a degree in graphic design. You can see it in the black-and-white patterning of his work. He concurred with the curator that his art—art in general—has to come through finding your own visual voice, but one that is not limited to ethnic heritage.

“We’re influenced but not defined by our native culture,” Madariaga said.

Photo courtesy of gallery.

Painter Liz Frias’s photo-realistic London phone booths (pictured) and Mexican born Sarahi Zacateco’s moody Buddha image (at top of the story) are exactly the kind that break the stereotype of what is expected of Latino artists.

Madariaga offered an analysis of one of his own works in the show, “Cafe Americano” (pictured).  It’s an intimate and up-swept perspective of Audubon Street, near where he went to school at Educational Center for the Arts.

Prominent in the foreground is the facade and sign of Koffee? on Audubon, the hang-out for students and local java addicts.

I confessed to Madariaga that one of my stereotypes of Colombia derives from being a victim of a barrage of advertising over the years about quaint Juan Valdes and his cute burro bringing bags of fresh coffee beans down from the hills. He responded that, yes, as a Colombian native he loves coffee, but “I want to reclaim the idea, the Koffee? of New Haven, and not the stereotype.”

Then he pointed out the color pallette in his work and said, “Matisse. There will be no barriers any more.”

The other young artists in the show include Rebeqa Abram, Eduardo Alvalez, Gabriel Cardenas, Cecilia Collantes, Gabriela Margarita, Alejandro Rojas, and Brian Ruiz.

Metamorphosis/Metamorfosys is on view at Arte Gallery, 19 Grand Ave., weekends through June, from noon to 5 p.m.

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