Leo Aguirre

So Dispersed, Yet Surprisingly Close

This chapter of Caribbean Linked, from early on, has enabled me to explore avenues that for some time had been yearning for attention. The unification of different mediums through the amalgamation of artists is something that I have found to be an eye-opening experience. Through the exploration of other artists’ works, insecurities and concerns, I have been able to more holistically identify with myself as an artist.

Discussing my work has never been easier due to the openness with which my conversations with other artists are received. This residency, so far, has been a true testament to the power of uniting artists and enabling them to discuss issues that we feel are plaguing society, as well as ideas and concepts that can be orchestrated to make the public more aware. The ranges of topics that are discussed on a daily basis span from gender norms, to ongoing gentrification in some countries (more so in the Caribbean). The experience has been beyond stimulating in every sense.

Along with the immersive dialogue that seems to carry on every day, all of the artists have been very keen about discussing some of the injustices in the art world such as the bureaucratic manner in which some artistic programs function. But an even more openly discussed issue has been the manner in which the education system, in some art institutions, can often discourage an artist. Often having to submit to the stringent policies that certain professors may have can evoke a certain hindrance within the artist because of the inability to grow in his or her particular medium. These suggestions, even sometimes demands, that one should reach out and delve into other mediums is well-intentioned, but disregards the reality that some artists have already explored other mediums and have chosen one that they feel is a more accurate tool for expressing their ideas. Finding common ground with individual artists has brought a sense of solidity to the residency as it works collectively to achieve a greater form of craftsmanship with the goal of attaining of a greater grasp on the self. My recent exploration of art has been aimed at uncovering my identity. Reconnecting with the island of Aruba has brought upon me a sense of belonging and thus propelled my artistic thirst.

Being accommodated at Ateliers ‘89 enables all of the artists not only to partake in a more communal experience, but also allows us to absorb the local culture in a pure fashion, as opposed to being situated in a hotel near the touristic areas. The interwoven locality also exposes to the artists the customs, heritage and values of the island, which in turn facilitates the inclusion of native nuances; this aspect has greatly influenced my work. After revisiting several of the island’s historical sites as well researching the displacement and rapid relinquishment of Amerindian culture, the conceptual process was facilitated.

Often when contemplating what artistic endeavor one will pursue next, one is confronted by a series of questions that seem to encompass ethical frameworks that must be thought of before fully committing to a specific project. Here, I have found the process of committing to an idea easier than usual. Becoming immersed in the island’s culture and revisiting many places that were once areas of meditative practice for my artistic endeavors was something that I found very healthy. Continually I am able to discover more layers to my work as I plan to depict an era through the use of objects and geographic locations on the island.

I have always had a natural disposition toward capturing desert landscapes so the Aruban landscape is beautiful to capture because of contradictory scenery – amidst a blue ocean there is a dry island, adorned with vegetation that seems to have been taken out of a Texan desert. This paradox is something that I have tried to capture and will continue to do so because of its fascinating imagery.

About Leo:

Leo Aguirre was born in El Paso, Texas. After experimenting with a variety of mediums, he decided to pursue film. His film career began at the age of 16 in the island of Aruba where he produced his first two films, Siblings (2012) and Back of Beyond (2013). Aguirre is currently studying film at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2014, El Fuego Detrás, his third and most recent short film, received its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. All three of his short films have gone on to screen at international film festivals and have garnered jury and audience awards.