Studio Updates

Studio updates from the photo-collage artist Mark Guglielmo

Magical musical moments in Trinidad de Cuba

On my second trip to Cuba, back in February 2016, I went with some friends to a beach outside Havana to get some much needed sun and sea. While relaxing, two musicians appeared on the sand by my beach chair and started to sing.

It was the classic Cuban folk song "Virgen de la Caridad," dedicated to the patron saint of Cuba, which I'd never heard before. The song, the sea, the sun -- the profound beauty all hit me at once.

 Raúl's trusty six string

Raúl's trusty six string

By the end, they were five, each new member appearing as the song progressed, adding depth, dynamics, beauty. It was a most surprising development, out of nowhere.

I wanted to give them a huge tip, but only had a few dollars on me. I was so transfixed but sad I couldn't return the gift. When they finished, they thanked us and continued on down the beach.

A year later, I returned alone to Cuba, this time to Cienfuegos and Trinidad. On my second day in Trinidad, I was wandering around the old, winding cobblestone streets of the historic district in the early afternoon. I'd just eaten lunch and wanted to explore. I heard a lilting voice float up over the trees. Something about it rang a bell.

"I know that voice," I thought to myself. I listened some more. "Where do I know that voice from?" Then it hit me. That’s the same voice I heard on that beach a year ago. I followed it to a cafe around the corner, walked in, around the bar, and into the courtyard. There, I found Raúl Cutino and his brother, this time with 2 new accompanists. I was right. It was him.

 Raúl and his brother in Trinidad de Cuba flanked by their bass player (right) and a grateful goumba (left)

Raúl and his brother in Trinidad de Cuba flanked by their bass player (right) and a grateful goumba (left)

I introduced myself and we reminisced. Graciously, they played "Virgen de la Caridad" again. Raúl told me the particulars of what it's like making a living as a musician in Cuba. It sounded rough.

He worked 7 days a week, playing for 12 or more hours per day, received a fixed salary, barely enough to survive, and spends months away from his family, traveling up and down the island wherever his promoter books him and his band. 

I bought his newest CD entitled Creación Latina and gave him a big tip. It was great to reconnect with them.

 The view from the museum's 2nd floor in Plaza Mayor in the historic center of Trinidad de Cuba

The view from the museum's 2nd floor in Plaza Mayor in the historic center of Trinidad de Cuba

Trinidad is a beautiful city, filled with charming people, spectacular views and gorgeous architecture, nestled on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean with the Sierra Escambray mountains climbing steadily to the North.

The streets are winding, with many dead ends. I got lost a bunch. They were purposely designed to confuse pirates hundreds of years ago, after the town was repeatedly ransacked. I recommend it highly. It's a place you could spend a lifetime.

The people are so hospitable and gracious. On another afternoon stroll, I walked by a house blasting music from the living room, all the windows and doors open to the street, as so many Cuban homes are in the warm Caribbean sun.

An arm reached out, between the iron grate window, offering me a glass of rum, as I paused to listen. I'm from New York. We don't trust nobody. But my intuition told me to go for it. So I accepted the glass, took a swig, and chatted with the 4 brothers who lived in this house and were celebrating a birthday. They invited me in.

 Strangers become brothers in minutes thanks to the huge hearts of Cubans.

Strangers become brothers in minutes thanks to the huge hearts of Cubans.

They were stone masons and artists who owned their own business creating patios, signs, and other decorative pieces for local businesses and hotels. I spent a few hours talking with them. One fellow gave me the hat off his head.

They showed me all the construction they’re doing to add a few bedrooms to their home and told me that I have a place to stay when I come back. We danced and sang along to the merengue and bachata beats blaring out the speakers. I was in heaven.

So much synchronicity on my adventures in Cuba. I've rarely encountered such generous and giving, warm and welcoming people in my life. It makes sense their patron saint is the "Virgen de la Caridad" or "Our Lady of Charity."

My Public Art Project for the City of Loveland, Colorado

I am very excited to have been awarded a public art commission by the City of Loveland, Colorado to create two custom photo-mosaic murals, each four by eight feet long, for permanent display in the lobby of their Chilson Recreation Center. I was selected out of 213 applicants. It's a tremendous honor and my first public art commission.

They wanted art that would be "vibrant," "full of movement," and that captured the activities that take place in the rec center. I proposed doing 2 mosaics that were essentially portraits of regular townspeople engaged in their activities in the center. This way, the pieces could be an homage to the citizens of the town for many years to come. Children will be able to see themselves portrayed in the pieces 50 years from now, while the elderly can be remembered visually long after their gone. 

The facility is very unique in that it houses all generations of people, including a pre-school and a senior center, along with multi-purpose gyms, basketball courts, a pool, racquetball, dance studios, pottery, billiards, ping pong, etc. I also wanted to portray the three stages of life: childhood, middle age, and old age since the facility attracts all ages. 1,400 people a day walk through the hallway that will house the pieces, connecting the main entrance to the center, so the pieces needed to be universal and have wide appeal. Here I demonstrate the 3 potential locations where the 2 framed mosaics could be hung when finished, one view in each direction from the lobby to the gyms.

I flew out in early November to present my proposal. I returned in late January to take the photographs. I made 3 visits to the rec center on 2 separate days, spending about 12 hours capturing 3,500 photographs in total. I made sure to get a wide spectrum of activities and to capture people of different ages and backgrounds.

I also got images of the building's exterior, as well as some pictures of the distant Rockies mountains, nearby trees, plants, grasses, and shrubs. I wanted to have the option of portraying the physical location of the building, not simply the interior and exterior, but local nature, to give a better sense of place. I ended up developing 2,400 4x6" photographs, and labelled each group of shots according to subject matter, so that I can easily access what I need when I am working on the composition in the studio.

Next comes the process of composing the murals. I had no idea what I would do. I had spent a bunch of time looking through all the images. It helps me get a sense of what ingredients I have and to envision what I will create. But where do you start when you have 2,400 images? I went for the people, assembling portraits of a bunch of the people that I had photographed up close. That gives me a good sense of which portraits are strong, and are begging to be seen. I realized early on that it would be the people that will draw you in to the artwork. The physical building, while having an extremely valuable purpose, is not that physical beautiful. It's the people that fill the space with soul and meaning.

At this stage, everything is in flux, every image is considered, and I'm moving slowly forward, sometimes backwards, adding and subtracting, trying different ideas, letting the creative spirit move me. I am not married to any end goal or end product, I am simply allowing the images to speak to me, to tell me what to do. If my eye likes what it sees, I explore it further. If I don't like what I see, the balance is off, or the energy is dead, I retreat and head in another direction. It's like groping in the dark, feeling the contours of the wall to find out where to go. Looking for the light, being present to the flow, getting comfortable with being lost. In this stage, there are many discoveries, many moments of joy as pieces come together.

I take breaks to gain perspective. I work for long and short periods of time, depending on my mood and what I have planned for the day. Sometimes I become so absorbed I lose track of time. I become one with the piece. My looking takes me over and I am simply the observer. I have to come back into my body and check my posture. Many times I've strained my back working on these mosaics, because they're large, they require me to bend over them to interact with the pieces and tape and untape them. I'm midway through the first mosaic now, and will post an update when I'm further along.

Mark Guglielmo
Oxford University Press picks my mosaic for Cover of new textbook

My photo-mosaic El Pintor Lincoln Camué | The Painter Lincoln Camué from my Cubaneo series has been chosen by Oxford University Press to be the cover and back cover of the new 5th edition of their popular Psychology textbook Sensation & Perception by Harvard University professor Jeremy W. Wolfe. Here's a look at the book's artwork.

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They also chose my photo-mosaic "Albero della Vita" to be the lead image for Chapter 4. The last edition of the book sold 5,000 copies and is used by undergraduate students in colleges and universities around the world. The thought of my artwork floating around classrooms, desks, bookstores, and book bags of thousands of young people makes me very happy. It's another exciting, new way my work can reach people.

Special thanks to Mark Siddall and everyone at Sinauer Associates for making this happen. I am very grateful for this wonderful opportunity. Here are some more pictures of the new book.

Cubaneo opens in Boston on Friday Oct 6th!
Cubaneo 2017 Poster TO PRINT.jpg

BOSTON, MACubaneo is a new record-breaking traveling exhibition of photo-mosaic murals, interviews, and field recordings by Northampton, Massachusetts-based artist Mark Guglielmo. Curated by David Guerra, it runs from October 6—27, 2017 at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, 85 W Newton St, Boston, MA with an opening reception on Friday, October 6 from 6:30-10pm (Art Walk). There will be an artist & curator talk on Thursday, October 19 at 6:30PM and a closing reception on Friday, October 27 from 6-8pm, all in the gallery, free and open to the public.

Guglielmo’s images are a record of the ethnic and cultural heterogeneity that characterizes the Cuban people by going beyond what is commonly defined today as Cuban. Cubaneo is the term used in Cuba to refer not to the Cuban identity but to the ways that identity is expressed. Cubaneo then includes all the idiosyncrasies of Cubans including its reflection in Cubans’ unique contemporary language. While access to what’s Cuban may be achieved without even visiting the island, exposure to Cubaneo can only be achieved in Cuba, immersed and surrounded by Cubans. Only then can their behavior, including negative attitudes, their interactions and aspirations, their feelings and ways of being and living reveal itself. These mosaics capture the essence of Cubaneo, leaving behind the foreign and naïve views often used by other photographers looking to depict this island and its people.

For this project, Guglielmo visited Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Havana, and Viñales shortly before and after President Obama’s landmark trip to Cuba in March 2016, the first by a sitting US President in 88 years. In February 2017, Guglielmo returned to the island, this time to Cienfuegos and Trinidad, just two months after the death of Fidel Castro. An homage to Cuba at this historic moment, this project chronicles a dynamic and rich culture full of heart and soul.

Each mosaic is handmade by taping together hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individual photographs. Neither a computer nor Photoshop is used. Culled from dozens of audio interviews, Guglielmo recorded in Spanish diverse Cuban voices and perspectives, which will be part of the exhibition. This is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery. It debuted in Northampton, Mass in June 2017 and has since become the most attended show in the 40-year history of APE Gallery with over 3,500 visitors in 26 days. In February 2018, it will travel to galleries in Cienfuegos and Trinidad, Cuba.

Mark Guglielmo received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Haverford College, Pennsylvania in 1992. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, The Sun Magazine, Arts New England, and Preview Massachusetts. A former rapper and hip-hop producer, he has collaborated with Eminem, Cut Chemist, Evelyn Harris, and Young@Heart Chorus, helping to launch their Prison Project and still participates in weekly rehearsals with the incarcerated at Chicopee Women’s Prison and Northampton Men’s Prison. His instrumentals are the soundtrack to hundreds of TV shows including Pimp My Ride, America’s Next Top Model, and The Real World while his paintings and photo-mosaics are in private collections around the world.

David Guerra, Director of A R E A Gallery, is a lawyer and an independent curator based in Boston. He studied law at the University of Havana, Oxford and Harvard University. David founded A R E A in 2016 as an alternative to the contemporary art gallery, active in both the primary and secondary markets. A R E A is an interdisciplinary space to celebrate art, design and architecture. His passion for innovation in the arts has led him to collaborate on a variety of projects and exhibitions as a photographer and curator in Boston.

For more information, please visit markguglielmo.com or call Julia Cseko at 617-927-1717. For press inquiries, please contact the artist at info@markguglielmo.com or the curator David Guerra at info@area.gallery

Download Press Release PDF

ibaboston.org | markguglielmo.com

Mark Guglielmo
How I make my photo-mosaics

I am often asked how I make my pieces. Many people can't quite figure out my process just by looking at the finished product. Some mistakenly believe they are the product of one large photograph cut up into many small pieces. It's actually the exact opposite. Each large-scale mosaic is the product of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of small, detail, close-up 4x6 inch photographs taken from different angles and sometimes even on different days. Because of this confusion, I decided to document the making of my most recent photo-mosaic.

Over the span of 8 days, I shot 18 stop-motion videos using an app that triggered my iPhone to take a photo once every 5 seconds. I then edited the videos together and sped them up to reduce 28 hours of work into 2 minutes and 42 seconds. As is often the case, the initial idea is abandoned in favor of a final piece that bears little resemblance to both where I began and the actual view that was photographed.

 "Bucanero, Playa Ancon," Trinidad, Cuba, Photo-mosaic, 2017, 46 x 68 inches

"Bucanero, Playa Ancon," Trinidad, Cuba, Photo-mosaic, 2017, 46 x 68 inches

I've been experimenting with photo-mosaics since the late 80s. One day, back in high school, I was sitting in my photography class, absent-mindedly leafing through an art book our teacher had left out for us. I came across a small picture of a photo-mosaic by the English artist David Hockney, called "Pearblossom Highway" and it blew me away. I instantly knew that I wanted to try my hand at that same style of art.

 David Hockney " Pearblossom Hwy., 11 - 18th April 1986, #2 ," Photo-mosaic, 71.5 × 107 in

David Hockney "Pearblossom Hwy., 11 - 18th April 1986, #2," Photo-mosaic, 71.5 × 107 in

Over the next 20 years or so, I did a few small mosaics made up of 10-20 photos each.

 "Tommy in Head Harbor," 1995, Photo-mosaic, 7.5 x 18 in

"Tommy in Head Harbor," 1995, Photo-mosaic, 7.5 x 18 in

Then, in 2007, I decided to finally try my first large-scale collage. It was quite an experiment. I went into Prospect Park one frigid winter day and lay down on the roots of a massive, old elm tree that had always caught my eye. Looking back up the trunk of the tree, and out into the distance, I used my film camera and proceeded to shoot 4 or 5 rolls of film, a total of about 180 detail photos. Then I had them developed as 4x6 inch prints and got doubles so as to have more ingredients in case I needed them in the composition phase. The finished product ended up very differently than a realist interpretation because of the angles I had chosen to shoot from, which was an interesting lesson for me. It turned into an abstract piece and set the tone for my future work, which combines elements from the actual scene I witness, yet often is mixed with different perspectives to yield a vision that is often imaginative and decidedly not literal.

 "I C U," Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 2007, Photo-mosaic, 55 x 69” 

"I C U," Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 2007, Photo-mosaic, 55 x 69” 

Mark Guglielmo
The Love Pours In

The energy is abuzz, the excitement palpable, people are showing up in droves. It's opening night for my new exhibition "Cuba In Transition: Narrative and Perspective." 

The overwhelming support this project has received thus far has blown me away. People of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life are having a profound, visceral connection with the work and are spreading the word. The gallery was packed for 4 hours straight, with estimates of more than 1,000 attending the opening. 

The press has showed up en masse with glowing features in print (Art New England, El Pueblo LatinoSpringfield Republican, Valley Advocate, Greenfield Recorder, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Preview Massachusetts, Take Magazine, El Sol Latino), on radio (New England Public Radio's Tertulia, WHMP's Bill Newman Show, and WTCC), and television (NBC22 Mass Appeal, ABC40 Better Western Mass).

A friend gifted delicious Cuban catering, two others all the wine, my favorite videographer Kazuhiko Iimura donated his services to capture the event (video above). The local Cuban and Latino community have embraced the work, a tremendous blessing I don't take for granted.

For an unplanned project hatched on the fly, it's been way more than I could have imagined. Where will it go from here? No one knows. Special thanks to all who came out for gifting me and super-curator Waleska Santiago-Centeno with this magical moment. I'll cherish it forever.

 An elated artist and curator celebrating the fruits of our labor. (Photo: Ed Cohen)

An elated artist and curator celebrating the fruits of our labor. (Photo: Ed Cohen)

My Havana Haircut

I was walking the back streets of Havana with my friend Roger, just wandering, seeing where the day would take us, as I often do in Cuba. On a quiet side street, we passed a young man standing out in front of his house next to a humble assortment of hair cutting tools assembled on a tiny table leaning against the wall. 

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He had a fresh haircut, the lines were impeccable. We knew he was a great barber. So we stopped and each got a cut on the sidewalk under a tree, while the old ladies chatted in the doorway across the street and a stray dog lingered. I'll never forget it. To this day the best haircut I've ever gotten. It cost $1.  

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Mark Guglielmo
My new exhibition 'Cuba In Transition' running June 1-25 at A.P.E. Gallery

Mark Guglielmo Cuba in Transition: Narrative & Perspective on view June 1-25, 2017

A.P.E. Gallery
126 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060
Tel 413 586 5553 | apearts.org
Gallery hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12-5, Friday 12-8. Closed Monday.

Opening Reception: Friday June 9th 5-9pm with DJ Bongohead
Narratives & Perspectives from the Cuban Diaspora, A Bilingual Conversation: Saturday June 17th 2pm
Artist & Curator Talk: Thursday June 22nd 6pm
All events will be held in the gallery, free and open to the public.

Curated by Waleska Santiago-Centeno, Cuba in Transition: Narrative & Perspective is a new exhibition of large-scale photo-mosaic murals, interviews and field recordings by Northampton-based artist Mark Guglielmo running from June 1-25, 2017 at A.P.E. Gallery, 126 Main St, Northampton, MA with an opening reception on Friday, June 9 from 5-9pm (Arts Night Out) featuring Special Guest DJ Bongohead.

Each mosaic measures 5 to 15 feet long and is handmade by taping together hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individual 4x6" photographs. Neither a computer nor Photoshop are used. Culled from dozens of audio interviews Guglielmo recorded and conducted in Spanish, diverse Cuban voices and perspectives are presented on portable mp3 players. It is the New York-born artist's second exhibition with the gallery and will travel to Cienfuegos and Trinidad, Cuba in February 2018. 

Guglielmo visited Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa in July 2015 and Havana and Viñales in February 2016 before President Obama's landmark trip to Cuba in March 2016, the first by a sitting US President in 88 years. In February 2017, Guglielmo returned to the island, this time to Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba, just two months after the death of Fidel Castro. An homage to Cuba at this historic moment, this project chronicles a dynamic and rich culture full of heart and soul, melded in the crucible of isolation: geographically, economically and politically.

A bilingual community conversation “Narratives & Perspectives from the Cuban Diaspora” on Saturday June 17 at 2pm will include six local Cubanos including Smith College Dance Professor Dr. Lester Tomé, Maricel Lucero, an ESL teacher at Holyoke's Paulo Freire Charter School whose father is a martyr of the Cuban revolution, Gloria Caballero, a faculty member at the MacDuffie School and researching her second Ph.D, Springfield resident Aristides Lima (80), who spent his first 50 years in Cuba, respected Cuban music expert Pablo "DJ Bongohead" Yglesias, and Miguel Periche, a Holguin native and founder of local Afro-Cuban dance group Iroko Nuevo. An “Artist & Curator Talk” will take place on Thursday June 22 at 6pm.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, curator Waleska Santiago-Centeno, a graduate of Harvard University's Museum Studies master's program, has mounted more than 20 critically acclaimed Caribbean art exhibits in New England, including "Nuestras Abuelas / Our Grandmothers" at UMASS, Wheaton College, Westfield Athenaeum and the Wistariahurst Museum and "Madamas: Women, Madonnas and Mothers" at Westfield Athenaeum and The University of Rhode Island. 

Sponsored by NEPR, Daily Hampshire Gazette, El Sol Latino, WGBY, and WHMP. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Poster by Francesco Belvedere at StudioGestalt.

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