Interview with Santiago Galeas

INTERVIEW WITH SANTIAGO GALEAS: Winter 2017 Painting Resident

Santiago Galeas is a wildly talented young Latino painter from Philadelphia. In an art world dominated by painting, Santiago’s oil portraits of people of color are truly spectacular and original. It is very exciting to support such a young artist (25) and see where his career will take him.

 

It seems that your residency was incredibly productive. Tell us what you accomplished. It’s okay to brag!

I worked on five paintings! I even finished one. That’s actually a lot for me. I have been struggling to balance my day job with my studio practice but the month I spent in Chapala was the most freedom I’ve ever had to do my own work. Normally one painting will take me months. I work very slowly so it was a treat to get so much done. All the work started in Chapala will be included in a solo exhibit at A Seed on Diamond Gallery in Philadelphia, PA this coming August.

 

How did you organize your time while you were here? Readers are often curious about how an artist structures his time.

I would go out in the mornings in search of potential portrait models, and I would also explore Chapala or run errands. There was just so much to see: lake, mountains, shops, Malecon, and of course the Mexican people. Afternoons and evenings were good times for working, but I didn’t really stick to a strict schedule. Having the freedom to work at any time was invaluable.

You were included in Art Miami this past year. That’s quite a feat for a young, emerging artist. Give us a flavor of your experiences at the biggest art fair in the US.

Miami was incredible! The work at Art Miami was very diverse and it was my first time there, so I got to explore the city as well as see the exhibits that were going on. It was impossible to fully experience the art scene in just one weekend and I definitely intend to go back.

How does your ethnic and creative background influence the imagery in your paintings?

I think being Latino, and especially Peruvian, I feel a responsibility to represent indigenous cultures in the images I worked on while in Mexico. My mother was born in Cusco, Peru and  much of her heritage was preserved in my upbringing. It was super useful being able to converse with the Mexican subjects I wanted to work from. I’m fascinated by the endless varieties of Latino diaspora, so being in a location so rich in its ethnically diverse culture was awe-inspiring. My work is largely influenced by an academic training with roots in the French atelier. It’s great being able to portray populations that I wouldn’t normally see in this style.

We loved your application portfolio and were moved by your portraits painted in a unique expressionistic style. Talk about your approach and how you choose the people you paint. Who did you paint while you were in Chapala and how did you find models?

Thank you! The paintings in this blog post show two locals from Chapala. One was a woman who sold me a blanket at the market along the Malecon. The other is one of the Voladores who do their incredible spinning dance right by the lake. I asked them both if I could take a couple photos of them for a painting and they obliged. It was towards the end of the residency when we took that trip to the villages in Michoacán that I got a ton of references for future paintings. Generally I try to paint people who aren’t often represented in the contemporary painting realm. In this case I wanted to paint as much of the indigenous culture as I could while in Mexico.

Lake Chapala is a gay retirement mecca . What was your experience here as a gay man?

I had no idea! I didn’t really experience much of the gay scene while I was in Chapala because I was painting so much. It’s nice to know that this would be a welcoming community for me and my partner.

What were some of the highlights of your residency?

The four days we spent in Michoacán were so great for immersion. It was the only time I wasn’t working on paintings but I was taking a ton of reference photos the whole time. I realize it wasn’t a standard experience for the program so it was even more special and I’m grateful for all of the work local photographer Xill Fessenden put into organizing this trip. Also, traveling with the other residents really made the experience very special. I miss them!

What could be improved in this residency program?

I couldn’t say. I can see the impact that this program has had on my work already and am just thankful to have been a part of it.

Artist Website: http://www.santiagogaleas.com/

Interview in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/santiago-galeas-subsurfac_b_8074640.html


Testimonials

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Kristen and I  would like to return each year.

Orion Kugel,Photographer

We have one word to describe the our experience here at 360 Xochi Quetzal, and that is MAGIC! The casita is very spacious, allowing for lots of room to create. It is very comfortable and clean, and has everything you could possibly need for your personal residency. We especially enjoy spending time on the relaxing balcony. Cobra and Chris are available and very helpful. The Residency Handbook in the casita addresses all of our questions in detail and offers suggestions for things to try around the area. You will often hear live music in the early evening from the Malecon. It feels very safe here, and even more secure having the Red Cross right across the street. It has been a wonderful experience, and Orion and I would like to return each year.

Kristen Pobatschnig, Painter
“Applying for the free Winter residency of Xochi Quetzal was the start of many positive transformations. The silence I found for myself during the residency, allowed me not only to write the best last chapter I can write at this stage of my evolution, it also granted me a most sought-after introspection moment during which I read my dreams and studied ancient Eastern writings. The serenity of the lake and presence of other artists inspired me to get mentally ready and organized for my future as a novelist. I am particularly fond of spending the holidays abroad with ‘strangers’. It always infuses me with these wild insights and whims. Our group was just lovely, the artists one by one very interesting. Cobra and Christian are warm and graceful hosts who made life easy. All in all, Xochi Quetzal was a weighty meditation, a poetic experience that carried me through the rest of Mexico in newness and will resonate long after.”
Heidi Souffriau, Writer
“I was partly inspired to apply for the Xochi Quetzal residency by The Retro Cocktail Hour — a popular Saturday night radio show on Kansas Public Radio 91.5 that features exotica music (a form of tropical jazz).  My hope was for the palm trees,  lakeside sunrises, and culture of Chapala & Mexico at large to inform my creative process.  These elements did precisely that, and the generous hospitality of Cobra & her partner Christian provided me with a cozy composing environment.”
Note from Staff: Listen to the music created during Andrew’s residency -Winter 2016
Andrew Morgan, Composer, Musician

Chapala is a safe, spiritually charged, beautiful place. Wild horses run through town.  It’s a place where you greet strangers on the street.

I walked along the lake in meditation a great deal. I hiked the looming cerro overlooking town. I biked all over the countryside. I wrote, documented, created composed soundscapes utilizing field recordings, and built small maquette light sculptures based on my experiences. I attended traditional temazcals, and sat alone in cathedrals.

It was pivotal for me in a spiritual sense more than a career advancing experience. I’m very grateful for it, and Deborah Kruger is a wonderful advocate to keep in contact with. I truly recommend the residency.

Justin R. Lytle, Sound Artist & Sculptor

My residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal in summer 2015 was both restorative and productive.  I was inspired by the beautiful studio and the surrounding Chapala  / Jalisco region.  The setting worked well for me in terms of inspiring and completing new work, and learning the history and customs of the area.  The flexible residency requirements allowed an easy engagement with other residents, and encouraged me to participate in Chapala and Guadalajara communities.  There are many contemporary art venues in Guadalajara, which are an easy bus ride from Chapala.

Michael Pribich, Sculptor

“Not only was this residency situated in one of the most beautifully mystical, culturally resonant, and stimulating settings imaginable, it also managed to be both peaceful and galvanizing: the perfect combination for immersing oneself in a creative project without hesitation or distraction. Deborah and Christian’s home was an oasis. One of my fellow residents remarked to me that “this place has amazing energy for getting work done,” and I wholeheartedly agree: the atmosphere seemed to hum with a low-key, generative productivity, one that helped me get closer than I’d been in many months to actually fully realizing and finishing a long story. I wish I was still there among the bougainvillea, the jade vines, the dogs and the pelicans.”

Suzanne K. Rivecca, Author

Chapala has become my home away from home. The Xochi Quetztal residency is run efficiently. Cobra and her team are friendly, accessible, and professional. My stay in Chapala is enhanced by the personal relationships I have developed with several of the team members. The casita I stay in is very well maintained and fully equipped. The studio area is large and ready for me to engage in art as soon as I arrive.  The weather is always fantastic. The lake, the town(s), the life, the restaurants, the view, the very friendly local people all call me back again and again. I love it!

Zahava Sherez, Sculptor

“This was the most work I’ve ever done in a single month in my life. I will never forget what an incredible experience this was and I thank you for honoring me with a residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. The reference material I gathered throughout the trip to Chapala, Mexico is going to fuel my work for years to come. Thank you for everything! You run an incredible residency program!!!”

Santiago Galeas, Painter