“My prescription has always been “are other people comfortable with what I have to say?”Eddie Arroyo, March 2021
Daniela Canizares is a Sophomore at Florida International University, majoring in Psychology. She was born in Cuba but moved to Miami when she was 15 years old. After graduating, she is planning on becoming a School Counselor.
Eddie Arroyo was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 2001.
Even though he was living in Miami, this did not influence his choice of FIU as his university. “It was my only option back then; I was not thinking that far ahead”, Arroyo says when asked about the influence living in Miami had over him picking FIU over any other university. Back in 1995 when Mr. Arroyo started attending FIU, the school was mainly a business school. At first, he was a business major. It was not until after taking an art class with professor John Bailly that he decided to focus on painting. Besides professor Bailly, he also mentions professor Edward Hopper as a key figure in his decision to become a painter. He says professors Bailly and Cooper were his biggest inspirations when deciding to switch majors.
When asked if all the manifestations going on in the world right now regarding gender have had any influence on his work at the moment, Arroyo says that when one paints, there is an emotional component to it. He is very much interested in bringing this component out when reflecting this. Regarding his opinions as to nowadays issues, he finds it interesting, even refreshing. He says that when he was going into the art community in the early 2000s-2010s, the society was in the middle of the color-blind moment, where money, class or race was not an issue. He finds it refreshing because back then, he was feeling the tension whenever people had an opinion on what he was doing and saying at the moment. It was not always the case that art was related to political issues. He feels like his artwork is not political itself. More like in the world we are in right now, it is trendy to politicize everything surrounding us. He says that when talking about his work, he finds himself at a very strange place because everybody is interested in the political meaning behind it. He is not used to talking about his artwork in those terms. However, he says he has no problem talking about politics, he is just strange about it.
When asked how important was the cultural identity for him, Mr. Arroyo says that when creating art, he does not find himself within the “cultural identity” terms. He sees it more as the place he finds himself at at a given moment. He sees it as the context you as a person find yourself in. For example, if you were to live in Paris, you will have your own identity based on experiences. What you have learned will change who you are as a person. He is aware of this phenomenon and term. However, before talking about it, he would like to understand his place on it. This does have an impact on his job. However, the greatest impact is not only on where he is, but the moment as well, and what needs to be done at a particular time.
Subject of Artwork
When Eddie Arroyo is creating art, he says he feels identified with a particular moment more than anything. The country and region are already portrayed on the canvas, but the moment itself is what he is interested in: what caused that “moment”, and the steps it took to lead that decision, which is what he likes to talk about concerning work.
He bases his artwork around the process of gentrification. As he explains it himself, gentrification is a process where wealthier people take over neighborhoods where mainly people of low income live at. He likes to portray this as it is the cruel reality we are living in, not only in Miami but in the whole world. It is a controversial topic, but he feels like it needs to be talked about. It exists. It is happening. It should not be ignored. This problem leads to the many homeless we see in the streets. It has been existing, but now it is the moment to take action over it.
When asked why he does not tend to use bright colors for his work, Arroyo says that he likes to use neutral hues to give an idea of the quiet, thoughtful moment that he is trying to depict. He likes to point out that now and then he will have a piece of work that is brighter than others, but there is always a grey-ish tone to them. He explains he does this to give people a more meditated piece of art. It is always done in a position where he hopes to give his audience a meditated work and based on his experiences, he feels like painting has always been a very meditated process.
Exhibition and Project History
Besides his past jobs at the Whitney Museum of Art, in New York, and the Spinello Project, in Miami, recently he had an exhibition where two paintings were at the New York Academy of Arts. The paintings shown came from an exhibition he already had on the Spinello last year, called “Safe Space” in response to the George Floyd movement. Most of it was centered in Miami and the demonstrations happening around his neighborhood at the Design District. He explains that he went down there after the riots, and started creating a series of paintings based on the pictures he took of the place. When he was asked to exhibit at the New York Academy of Arts, he was still in contact with someone active in organizations he met through the Whitney Museum of Arts. He says he was not sure about showing that kind of job in a museum because of how controversial it could have been, but he is glad the museum accepted it and he is glad about where is at right now.
He briefly mentions that pretty much everything that is going on in the world right now (political-wise), happened after George Floyd. He says that right now in the art world, there is that sensitivity to race, class, and, culture. His point of view on it is that it has been discussed before. However, right now, it is a whole new conversation, “it is being trendy”. He says that he is interested to see how these movements are going to transcend, economically speaking, for everybody, and how is the world going to work after it. He is very skeptical about the topic in general.
Something that surprised me about Eddie, is that he says he used to be ignored for making people feel uncomfortable with what he had to say. “Once you start making people feel uncomfortable, they tend to walk away”, Eddie says. He explains: “As a society, and whatever background you are talking about, socially, we are not conditioned to talk about controversial topics, which makes it very complex for artists”. However, he strongly suggests these “emotional labels” should be left aside and talk about them.
When asked about what he would consider his most important experience, without a single doubt he says that it would be being invited to the Whitney Museum of Arts. He thought it was going to be another group exhibition, even though in his head he knew it was not going to be like that: it was New York, the Whitney is one of the most important events. However, he was trying not to stress that much over it.
Being able to have this interview with Eddie Arroyo was a great experience. I contacted him through Instagram and despite all the inconveniences with COVID, he was more than willing to have an interview with me through Zoom, especially after I mentioned I was a student from Florida International University. Seeing how fellow graduates help each other once they get out of college makes me see that we are a big family. He was pretty helpful and patient, since the audio in my computer kept going on and off. After we finished the interview, he sent me links regarding what was going on in the world right now, as I showed enthusiasm when he was giving me his point of view on these topics.
Having to research before interviewing him, taught me different terms I had never heard before. For example, his main technique, gentrification, was a world I did not know about. Even though I had researched before, he was more than welcome to explain it to me in a way where I could better understand it, and not just read it off the google search bar.
While researching before the interview, I got to see his paintings for the first time, and right after the interview, I took a look at them again. The colors, the textures, the painting as a whole, tells a story of the pain the community is going through. Something I specifically liked about his art, was that he does not discriminate when he is showing these movements. In some of them, he even shows the Latino community, and has some signs in Spanish. For me, it was great to see this group being portrayed.
Through Arroyo’s art, the audience can sense so many of the political and social issues going on in the United States nowadays. However, he tries to turn the views towards what is going on in Miami. Something I found curious while interviewing him is how different he is from others artists. Instead of going to the place to paint at the moment, he rather takes pictures and later puts his thoughts and visions on a canvas.
I had never interviewed anybody, and having the pleasure to interview Mr. Arroyo was a unique opportunity. I learned a lot about why he uses neutral hues. It is all about the artist’s perspective, but once it gets to the public, it is open to their imagination. However, that much “openness” surprised me a lot. When he said he was happy movements like the ones going on around the world are happening, I was shocked. It might be tough times for people right now, but for artists, it is the perfect moment to expand their collection. They can show so many emotions throughout a painting.
This interview was mostly educational; however, it opened my eyes to a completely new perspective. Having to spend most of my college experience online, has not given me enough opportunities to reach out to others, especially, other people outside my major. I love learning about the history of a community and since I am not from Miami, being able to see this community from another person’s point of view is always a magnificent opportunity. Having the pleasure to interview him, made me eager about learning what is going on in the world right now, and what can we do to call for action. Even the minimal act can make a big impact. A painting, for example, can reach out to others and show them what needs to be done. It is a call for action.
It was great to see people who went to the same school as I am going to right now, be successful and follow their dreams. It makes me think that as long as you have the strength to follow your passion, you can do it. The key is to never give up.