Queer Colombian-Canadian artist explores identification in new exhibit – CBC.ca

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Creating art is a healing process for Andres Garzon.

The London-based artist has woven together his experiences of growing up religious and queer as a first generation immigrant for his new art exhibit — and finds beauty, humour and meaning along the way. 

“I think we all have a journey of self-acceptance, whether it’s through a religious lens, whether through its immigration,” the 25-year-old said.  “I really wanted to give a full picture of my experience and that was my main focus.”   

The solo exhibit, No Soy El Sol Que Quema (I Am Not The Sun That Burns), opens Saturday evening at Good Sport gallery and studio at Richmond and Dundas in London — and includes a collection of paintings, linocut prints, ceramics, oil pastel and graphite drawings. 

25-year-old artist Andres Garzon is an artist-in-residence at Good Sport gallery and studio exploring identity, culture and family in his new exhibit. (Michelle Both/CBC)

“I was experimenting with everything, and I also love the romance of painting and the easy spontaneity of drawing,” said Garzon. “I really wanted to kind of work every muscle that I could when making the exhibition.”

He also made a book full of dream logs, diary entries, poems and drawings for the exhibit translated into Spanish by his brother to reconnect with his first language and involve his family in the process, he said. The title, ‘Mi Libro de Historias de Amor,’ translates to ‘my book of love stories.’ 

Keeping a diary over the years gave him “a really strong impression” of the journey to get where he is today. 

Garzon created a book filled with diary entries, dream logs, poems and drawings as part of the exhibit, all translated by his brother. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Coming out as gay was a transformative experience. Through his artwork, he reflects on how his relationship with his family and culture connects to his experience growing up Jehovah’s Witness along with his identity as a son, brother and queer person. 

Garzon moved to London from Bogota, Colombia with his family when he was a child, a new beginning that required sacrifice and dedication from his parents, he said. 

Lyrics from Colombian salsa band Grupo Niche inspired the title of the exhibit and reminds him of his upbringing. “That music has always stuck with me. We used to listen to it at family gatherings,” said Garzon. 

The art show is the story of where he is now — reconnecting with his cultural roots and finding the essence of God or the divinity in his life despite the challenges he faced, he said. 

A man sits at a desk in his art studio.
Garzon has found the artist community in London to be very supportive and tight knit. While it’s been a long journey to make London home, he said he feels very connected here. (Michelle Both/CBC)

It’s been a long journey to make London home, but said he feels very connected here now, describing the artist community as “very tight knit and very supportive.”

Garzon is an artist-in-residence at Good Sport, which he described as a volunteer-run art collective that offers free exhibits to the public.

Being around people who are excited about creating art and supporting emerging artists in an accessible way has been amazing, he said. 

Linocut prints are laid out on a table by the artist
Lovers Rest is a linocut print part of Garzon’s exhibit. The show also includes oil paintings, porcelain, printmaking, oil pastel and graphite drawings. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Garzon hopes the public will recognize their own similar journey of self-acceptance in the exhibit. 

“I hope it connects with people,” he said.

“I hope that my family enjoys it — it’s kind of a love letter to them.”

No Soy El Sol Que Quema (I Am Not The Sun That Burns) opens Saturday, August 20 at 7 p.m. — and will be on display until Sept. 3.

Good Sport is located upstairs at 402.5 Richmond Street and is open Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m. or by appointment. 

The London Arts Council funded the exhibit through the community arts investment program.