March 3 – April 2, 2017
Osvaldo Mesa is a Cuban born artist living and working in Baltimore, MD. Growing up in Miami, he started taking painting classes at the age of ten with a Cuban artist who had studied in Spain, so his training has been very traditional. In college he was introduced to Abstract Expressionism and began to reject much of his previous training breaking up the canvas stretchers and tying them together with canvas, and then adding paint to the surface. He moved to Baltimore to attend graduate school at Maryland Institute College of Art Mount Royal.
In Miami, Mesa lived in a prominently Latin environment, and moving to Baltimore he began to notice that he was different from his “American” classmates, and describes it as “culture shock for this Cuban boy.” Mesa began to investigate his own culture and personal history, recalling Sunday dinners at a surrogate grandmother’s house where he would sit in a rocking chair and stare at her household Santeria shire. He loved trying to figure out what all the different components meant. Recalling the local botanicas and the smell of incense that would travel out into the street, his work developed to include deconstructed canvases and wood, with spiritual elements, especially those with an Afro-Cuban feel.
Mesa continued to work this way for several years after graduate school, and grew into more sculptural and installation work. A few years later he began teaching full time at a community college in Baltimore, and says he remembers “watching my students paint still-life scenes and saying to myself ‘hey, that looks like fun,’ and at the same time I felt that my work had hit a wall and wanting to move in a different direction.” He says he did not care about style, period, or technique; he painted what he enjoyed, mixing Latin American Baroque with Surrealism and Abstraction. These changes led to this series of paintings, Billboards, bringing together what makes sense to him visually and demonstrating who he is as an individual.