Pablo Soto Campoamor
b. March 24, 1975
I am the son of Cuban immigrants, the first of my family to be born in the US. Both of my parents are from Havana, but the family roots spread across the island east to Bayamo, south to Batabanó, and west to Artemisa. Miami is my hometown, and Havana my second home. Growing up at the dawn of Hip Hop, and straddling two worlds, negotiating competing identities, I lived between "La Saguecera" (South West Miami), Hialeah, and South Miami. Spending long periods of time with my family, and people in Cuba had a profound effect on my cultural identity. Art has always been a central part of my life. I come from an artistic family. Spirituality, storytelling, food, ritual, and music were woven through the fabric of my family. Sacred, and surreal memories are the landscape of my visual vocabulary. The themes, and symbols that emerge from this landscape, continually animate and inspire my art.
My first formal teacher was my stepmother, Maria Lino. At eight I had my first job as her apprentice, painting life-size replicas of iconic western artwork for houses on the real estate market. For ten years I painted graffiti on public and private walls as a founding member of DAM727 crew (one of the oldest graffiti crews in Miami). Later I shifted from the spray-can to the pencil and brush. Life in the Bay Area has also influenced my artwork, and presently informs the style of my expression. African, African-Diasporic, and Native American motifs emerge throughout my body of works, the foundations, as well as the juxtaposition of ancient symbols, with modern codes, and cyphers. I’ve lived and worked in Oakland for 26 years. Painting, playing, and teaching Afro-Cuban music, cultivating friendships, and raising my family is what I spend most of my time doing.
Images evoke memories, scents, sounds, and tastes. These memories contain the fabric of our identity, the music of our soul. I paint what I know - my life, my people, OUR things. Cafeteras, drums, beads, rice & beans, rattles, lottery tickets, guava pastries, cowries, tiles, tumbadoras, cigars... But not just that. I also paint my life as a youngster growing up during the dawn of the Hip Hop age, on the east coast. Boom-boxes, mix-tapes, fat laces, and, most importantly - graffiti. These works document an exploration of my identity as a man, a father, son, husband, grandson, Cuban-American, Latino, Afro-Latino, Caribbean, musician, educator, activist, and friend.
I take mundane objects, and scenes from childhood memories, and "re-contextualize" them as illuminated emblems. The vibrant, motley, multi-layered color backgrounds are inspired by a variety of influences. I populate these regions with ancient, and modern symbols - in the way a DJ would sample and loop to create a beat. The geometry, spacing, and patterning is inspired by clothing, quilts, folkloric costumes, animals, music, tile mosaics, plants, religious iconography, food, and coffee. In this way I seek to convey the beauty, irony, and contradiction of my evolving identity. The warm echo of my Caribbean past, and the magical reality of my ever-changing present...