Latino Art speaks louder than words

Isabel Sesma, a Mexican born artist, illustrates a portrait of Mexican icon María Félix at Alberto Linero’s Gallery in Miami’s downtown art district. Félix was a film actress of the 50s. She is characterized by her strong personality and rough direct responses.

By Raisa Camargo


Strong aggressive imagery provoked puzzled expressions from more than one passerby Saturday night in Miami’s downtown art scene.

Portraits illustrating Fidel Castro surrounded by Snow White, the crudeness of a Toro’s rear end, and dark brush strokes of women adorned the walls at Alberto Linero’s Gallery during the evening hours of Art Walk, an exhibition of various local galleries in the Wynwood downtown art district.

Still, up-and-coming artists said they weren’t fishing for curious gestures. They just let their expressions flow.

“At first, I had a capacity and an innate talent,” said Dario, using his artistic name. “I saw the capability to make a line that was easier than saying a word.”

Dario’s formal name is Dario Posada. He is a Colombian painter from Medellín.

He painted his first mural at the age of twelve. His first images were often violent portrayals of war, death and satire evoked with primary colors that was inspired by the political angst in Colombia during his adolescent years. He won scholarships and gained entry in the prestigious Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

“I come from a popular barrio that was poor and with a lot of violence. So, there were two options: participate in the violence or live by art,” said Dario. “ The best exit was to focus completely in art. Until today that story is still present. That war that I repeat in all my work.”

Dario’s exhibition is a collective reaction to a theme he has been working on for the past 11 years.  He says the association of Cuban history with the rest of Latin America is like compiling a puzzle. He is constantly recollecting ideas, images and studying history.

 His work is a mimic of the gallery’s theme: “Related.” The purpose is to convey an image and its association whether it’s subconscious or physical.  The “Related” exhibition was sponsored by Pink Bastard; an art forum that sponsors galleries from distinct artists.

 Colombian native Santiago Betancur, who is also from Medellín, said his piece reflects an underlying message of human injustice.  Betancur blends the past and present, contrasting the primitive age with today’s society. Some of the themes he depicts concern the value of women to hostile greed and materialism.

“There is all this hostile and aggressive language making the other person feel weak and if they’re weak they devour them,” said Betancur. “I’m showing a dark perception that I have. Apparently, I’m boasting about violence or aggression, but it’s not that. I like to produce art that is more reflexive.”

Betancur started as a fashion photographer in Colombia, but then he began to pursue art because of his concern regarding health issues such as plastic surgery and bulimia.  Opposing the fashion in Colombia and yearning to establish himself as an artist, Betancur moved to Miami three years ago.

“I decided to play it all for art: to develop it, structure it and feel it and that provokes self-questioning to a society that I don’t think questions itself as much like the city of Miami,” said Betancur. “I feel it as being very cold, snob and consumerist that’s why I do this type of work because it contradicts what people expect.”

Isabel Sesma, 21, an artist from Torreón, Coahuila in Northern Mexico, who started painting since she was five because her mother is an abstract painter, moved to the United States at the age of 19.  She often portrays human figures mixing black and white with contrasting neon colors. Her style is characterized by a youthful approach intermingled with inspiring quotes in various languages.

 Sesma said she tries not to follow any rules in art; ‘when it’s too much or too little’ as long as it’s complete.

 “It’s like a picture you have in your mind and you want to put it on a canvas,” said Sesma.  “My main objective in doing art is art for young people. Young goes with bright colors, young themes and sexy appealing things.”

 Another theme Sesma utilizes is historic strong women. Her role model is María Félix, a Mexican actress from the 50s who is characterized for her personality that was direct and rough.  Sesma said she embraces Félix’ diva attitude. 

Despite breaking barriers, artists such as Dario, who have accumulated a strong reputation in the global art world, acknowledge that it’s still a shaky lifestyle. It’s complicated when everyone is constantly telling him what is right or wrong, he says. He thinks twice when he starts to see his daughter painting on the walls.  

“In reality, it’s not really that everyone influences me to think whether it’s good or bad to live by art. When I’m producing a work of art or sculpture, it’s that moment when I think whether what I am doing is worth it or not,” said Dario. “It’s a personal question.”