For this Interview, I met with Colombian native, Wilmar Pabón at his home studio in Tampa. We spent a great time over a home-cooked meal, followed up with freshly squeezed juice prepared by THE ARTIST! The time flew by fast, while we were talking about Wilmar’s heritage, art and Hispanic hospitality, all surrounded by art.
Plana Urbanos by Wimar Pabon
NV: When was the first time you identified as an artist?
I started drawing at an early age – I was nine-years old. It was very personal; just me and my notebook. When I turned 17, I met a great friend and teacher, who introduced me to the fascinating world of art in his studio. While I hadn’t realized it at the moment, life had dealt me an auspicious hand; I was able to interact with reputable artists who influenced me greatly. I started to paint in acrylics and oil.
By then, I had already created my studio at my parent’s home. However, it wasn’t until 1997, when I was invited to participate in an art exhibition with the theme being industry and culture that I realized who I was supposed to be. It truly moved me. Being surrounded by such fabulous talent and having others look at and appreciate my work made me feel like a real artist.
NV: Your mixed-media pieces are so colorful and unique. Tell me more about your technique and when you first tried it?
I grew up around tailors. My mother would make clothes for my brothers, family members, neighbors, and of course, me. My uncle had his own shop and designed suits and hats. Plus, my native city is considered a top industrial and fashion city on a national and international level. Therefore, I grew up with color, fine cloth and string; the only thing missing was for me to make it my own legacy.
At Wilmar’s Art Studio in Tampa 2017
One day, a few friends invited me to an exhibition titled, Quilt Patchwork. It was very interesting, but it left me wanting. I expected to see quilts like the colorful creations full of harmony of my grandmother and mother. There was nothing that was sewn together. It felt like something was lacking; the hand of the artist stitching his or her creation – something personal and powerful. That stood with me.
By 2001, I was living in the United States. I had an idea, which I thought unique and fascinating. Instead of just painting on a canvas, why not affix the canvas to the actual wall, and paint on it there? When done and it came time to mount the painting, I needed to trim the canvas. What I found were bits and pieces of all sizes and colors that I couldn’t imagine parting with. That led to the epiphany of piecing together or sewing my paintings.
Canvollage in progress
I started by patiently painting many fragments with plain colors and lots of thread. This was so I could generate patches in many colors, with the right texture and composition. Then, I would mix the plain colored patches with the snippets of painted canvas to created realistic creations, among others. So, I called my creation “snippets and patches.”
But I found myself with a dilemma. You see, I found it difficult to work in just one style; I was too diverse. It frustrated me, because I felt it lacked an artistic identity. But to my surprise, I was being myopic (having too narrow a vision). What I thought was my biggest problem, rapidly unfolded into my solution. I realized I could paint whatever I wanted and sticking to one style was NOT identity, it was a self-imposed limitation. Those little pieces of canvas, cloth and thread where like cells in the hands of a creator, and I could make them become whatever my imagination could conjure. Therefore, in trying to create an identity, I created a new genre, which I call Canvollage!
NV: Wilmar, you came to the US from Colombia. Do you see any major differences between the art community here and there?
Definitely! In Colombia, we have super-talented artists. We have many social and cultural activities that promote art, as well as much public art for all to enjoy – which is one of the things I miss most. However, artists need more support from institutions, industry and the commercial sector. The monetary support is lacking.
Here in the United States, art is an industry on to itself with all its splendor. You have collectors, galleries and museums who promote art and artists constantly, because it not only benefits society – it benefits them by helping to keep the doors of business open. Not to forget the art festivals across America! Yes, there are stark differences.
NV: How are you dealing with changes in your life?
Well, life is short. I keep being reminded that I need to be patient, persevering in my endeavors and goals. Plus, being a man of faith, I truly believe all things are possible; which is why I work unceasingly hard.
NV: What advice or words of encouragement can you give a person who is losing their creative flow?
TIPS FROM THE ARTIST
1. Rest is good. Especially, time in and with nature.
2. Technology is good and very helpful. It’s amazing what one can do on a computer: draw, create realistic CGI and other technologies.
3. Take advantage of transitions in life that help promote new ideas, events and spaces.
4. Reading is a wonderful stimulus. It opens your mind, which can open doors.
NV: Your home is full of unique and interesting pieces. When you buy stuff for yourself, what’s important for you?
Work in progress
I really enjoy getting things for my family, friends and, most importantly, my kitchen. Also, I like to take care of myself, resting and breathing (biking, running, soccer, yoga).
NV: What are your future plans and where can we see your art?
I love design, as it applies to all things – especially the human form – which I consider moving museums. Therefore, the direction I am leaning towards is functional art on the streets, buses, airports, etc. Wherever a transient would be found.
Moreover, my ultimate goal is to have my art in the world of the patrons: the collectors, galleries and major promoters, which for me are the museums.