Curated by Jessica Oberdick
June 28th-August 24th, 2019
It is well known that Christian belief asks their practitioners to welcome strangers into their homes. And yet our current political administration, while claiming to be men of faith, are simultaneously pushing an agenda to detain immigrants and turn away refugees. This exhibition seeks to explore this dichotomy by presenting the work of an immigrant artist within the walls of an art gallery-and more importantly one that resides within a residential home. The work presented represents the world through the eyes of an artist who is offering, through art, the connections he has made with the people around him.The compositions of artist Renzo Velez consist mainly of experimental portraiture-some through digitally manipulated photographs or imaginative layered drawings, but all result in the artist’s personal understanding and viewpoint of the landscapes and people around him. As an immigrant artist from Lima, Peru, Velez brings with him a rich tradition of art making that comes through in the bold colors of the drawings and photographs he creates. But he also brings the eyes of an outsider-an othered individual who has found home in a small West Virginia community. The combination of the artist’s work-rich colored photographs and graphite drawings, creates an ephemeral and dream like view into the artists personal life, an attempt to capture small moments and feelings on paper. By exhibiting the works of artist Renzo Velez within houseguestgallery we seek to shed light on the nature of prejudice and the political status of immigration in this country by presenting the richness that emerges from exposure to other cultures. While Velez’s work offer no political insight or message-we make a political act instead by welcoming the artist and exhibiting his work.
Renzo Velez is a Peruvian artist based in Shepherdstown, WV. He was born and raised in Lima, Peru until the age of 16. Lima is where Velez realized art was going to play an integral part in his life. He grew up inspired by the growing street art movement in Lima, rich Peruvian culture, and the beauty of a small South American country. In 2006, Velez and his family moved to the United States and settled in West Virginia. Ever since, the beauty of West Virginia, a very different landscape and culture, and the friendships formed during this stage of his life, have inspired his art. Velez currently attends Shepherd University in pursuit of a Graphic Design degree.
Renzo’s work looks deeply into relationships of embodiment and place– the ways in which we’re formed by the landscapes of our home(s). Renzo’s work merges landscape/native flora and portraiture in an effort to portray how complex people’s relationships to their environments and experiences are, and the way in which these elements impact who you are as a person. Each of these pieces express these concepts by taking different environments and elements to create a surreal representation of a person.
The dramatic separation Renzo experienced from the landscapes/natural scenes of his home, give Renzo an attuned perspective into these connections. There is a sense of belonging that is built through this series.
Friendship and interpersonal connection is central to these pieces. Each piece is unique, just like Renzo’s relationship to the figure (friend) in each piece is unique. They represent how Renzo feels about people and how people make him feel– Those feelings are complex, and better expressed visually.