Colombia-born artist Victor Palomino began his career playing music and attending film school in his home city of Bogotá. He sought to broaden his horizons and avoid the violence that had infiltrated South America in the 1990s, so he backpacked around Europe and Israel and eventually landed in Western North Carolina.
“My goal in that time was to be a professional traveler,” he says, “but I met my [now-ex]-wife Sarah Nuñez in Asheville, fell in love and stayed. Settling here gave [me] the time and space to focus on visual art.” By trading the mountains of central Colombia for the mountains of Appalachia, Palomino continues, “I was lucky to find a community, art, friends, experiences, and extend my global family.”
Palomino will showcase a series of dynamic mixed-media painting and sculpture pieces at the DeSoto Lounge. The exhibition Transitions opens Thursday, July 6.
The pieces selected for that show use acrylics, paint and pastels, as well as tile, glass and wire. Palomino uses the texture of these materials, in addition to repetition and bright, contrasting colors, to create rich compositions that evoke visceral themes. The mixed-media paintings have a folk-art feel, bringing a playfulness and deep mystery to the occasionally serious subject matter. Like looking through a window into the present, the viewer is taken by the emotionality of the work.
“I believe that art is a universal language and a vehicle to understand cultures,” says Palomino. “An artist’s role is to tell the stories of the times and cultures, keeping traditions and creating new ones at the same time.”
In addition to the more two-dimensional mixed-media pieces, the artist will display his sculptures created with aggregate layers of colored wire. These are a varied set that range from humanoid and organic freestanding figures to highly geometric wall pieces. The humanlike bodies contort themselves to reveal the artist’s intuitive understanding of form and three-dimensional design, again infusing color to draw the eye and vary the rhythm. Like digital wire-frame models brought to life, every angle reveals a different aspect of personality.
“Art should keep creating as the viewers observe,” says Palomino. “It should create questions, reactions and feelings.”
Both the mixed-media paintings and wire sculptures seem to capture the energy around the subject and create a uniformity of composition through that energy.
“I like showing at DeSoto,” says Palomino. “It is a different experience than a regular gallery. There’s more room for conversations and for unexpected viewers to find art. … I hope they leave with a new story or question about life, humanity, culture and their relationship to it.”
Palomino’s other contributions to the community range from producing “La Radio” on AshevilleFM to CHIVA TOP, a school bus retrofitted for providing creative outlets and educational opportunities to area Latino youths.
For “La Radio,” Palomino and his co-host, Andrew Rainey, play the roles of journalist and DJ. Every Monday at 6 p.m., they deliver relevant news, music and interviews to the bilingual and Spanish-speaking listeners in the area. “The Latino community is growing and becoming an important presence in WNC,” Palomino says. “Having said that, WNC still has discriminatory practices against people of color ingrained in the culture [as well as] some of the harshest anti-immigrant, anti-black and oppressive structures [in the country]. … I hope that, through my art, these sentiments are felt, and people are moved to act.”
He’s also still involved with music: Palomino’s band, Los Bad Hombres, recently played a stint at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and opened the Latin cultural festival Hola Asheville.
When asked how he manages to be effective at so many endeavors, Palomino laughs. “Every day is different, but I use one activity to decompress from the other. For example, playing music helps me decompress [from] hours of computer work like writing or editing audio or video. Painting helps me decompress from music, and soccer helps me decompress from painting.”
And from soccer? “Soccer doesn’t need decompression.”
Palomino continues, “I not only use mixed media in my art, my life is a mixed media of expressions of art, love and abundance. I try to find balance between production and relaxation.” Around town, he can be seen with his sketchbook filled with ideas for future projects. The artist works with found and recycled materials, another step in the process of letting the creation guide the creator.
When asked what Asheville and Colombia can learn from each other, Palomino smiles. “Asheville needs to adopt some of the Colombian spontaneity. It can use more colors and diversity. Colombia can use some of the Asheville love and guardianship for nature and the outdoors.” He thinks for a moment. “But in general, Colombia needs more barbecue and Asheville more empanadas.”
WHAT: Transitions opening
WHERE: DeSoto Lounge, 504 Haywood Road, desotolounge.com
WHEN: Thursday, July 6, 7 p.m. The show remains on exhibit through Sunday, Aug. 6