By Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director
Matt Hardman, Seraphin Gallery Resident
"My work has been called naive. I fill my canvases with intense and basic colors, crisply painted shapes, and meticulous detail; I make work without conventional representational techniques; my work is free from metaphor, irony, and paradox. I paint straightforward narratives, stories of my journey and memories of everyday experiences." - Michel Delgado.
Michel Delgado is a Senegal native, who travels between Philadelphia and Key West creating and exhibiting his work-- which is full of raw and complex spiritual energy. An untrained artist, Delgado has developed his craft wholly from life experience and intuition. Over the years he has ignored the traditional guidelines of what fine art is supposed to look like in order to release his unique style and perspective. Delgado refers to himself as a Visionary Artist. His work comes out of a necessity to express what is inside; surpassing the physical world into a place where spiritual awareness and mysticism defies the primitive visual appearance.
Director Anthony Seraphin has previous experience dealing with the untrained eye, in the form of Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern, whose work is aligned with Outsider Art. When referencing Outsider Art, Jean Dubuffet also comes to mind; Art Informel , alongside Art Brut, focused on creating representations that were heavily influenced by the art of children and the psychologically afflicted. In addition, Outsider Art portrays a slightly broader spectrum-- including all art created without formal training and separate from societal norms and culture. Delgado is inherently an Outsider Artist, in that his work stems from a deeply personal and internal space. Much like the methods of famed Surrealist artists Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.
Michel Delgado starts painting without a composition in mind, letting himself wield paint unrestricted. He allows the subject matter of his work to emerge through a journey between him and his media. These forms materialize and become known to Delgado. As he works with the paint, certain traits compound with memories, experiences, and allegories from his upbringing. Interpreting through this original viewpoint, Delgado brings to life animals and figural representations that carry an essence of being. These entities emanate an aura of life energythat radiates-- vibrating throughout the canvas.
Delgado's work, Something Big Is Coming To... , portrays a confrontational character that stretches to the entire canvas. This figure is not contained by the limits of the space, but seems to reach beyond-- his torso expanding with breath. This strong presence elicits for Delgado a being that is aged with experience. The blackness embedded within the figure (face and spots on the body), represent times in life, moments, trials, and ordeals, that create a new perspective and wider sense of understanding. These physical afflictions of wisdom permeate through the body and are a part of this self. The horns possess an instinctual animalistic quality, while the boxing gloves represent power and strength, but are untied- the hands are free. Freedom and power are entwined for Delgado.
Delgado uses his technique and symbolism to also depict other sides of the human psyche. In Things You Should Not Say, his figure translates as conflicted and oppressed. Where previously there was power and strength, here there is silence. The barbed wire serves as a boundary for Delgado, where this entity is restricted from being able to express itself. The paleness of the face versus the darkness of the eyes shows a severity. The distressed countenance, where the eyes are pleading yet passive, and the mouth is tightened again relays the internal conflict. The chest of the figure seems torn open, revealing blackness and emptiness. It is as though this being is a shell, vulnerable and open-- not being able to heal itself and encased within the static nature of its medium. Delgado activates the background in both works, showing a space that is full of chaotic energy, and sketches of forms that could convey memories or spirits.
This artist's paintings reach deep into the human condition. Life can be felt in his works. Different aspects of personality, emotion, and states of mind appear within his depictions and complex creations. The rawness of his intentions further epitomizes the essence, the reality, of empowerment, freedom, adaptability, suffering, playfulness, confusion, and heartbreak.
Delgado knew he wanted to pursue a career in the arts from a very young age, and spent most of the 1980s in the Paris art scene. Immigrating to the United States in 1988, he continued his career as an artist and shortly thereafter began exhibiting in the region of Southern Florida. In the 2010s, Delgado's work started to become widely known, having been acquired by private collectors throughout the nation and by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. In 2014, his work was featured in the Fox Television Network series Empire, alongside works by Kehinde Wiley.