Today we’d like to introduce you to Rafael Montilla.
Rafael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
“I always knew that I would dedicate myself to art.”
The visual artist reveals here the origin and purpose of his artistic work, which he assumes as an expression of his spirituality and his interest in science.
“Since I was very young, I have given great importance to two aspects that have defined my life: my inner search and my art. Thanks to my constant need to delve into myself, I have had the fortune to travel the world and be enriched by different cultures”, this is how visual artist Rafael Montilla explains the origin of his being and his making. He assures that his existence has developed around the search for oneself and artistic creation.
I have not always had the time to dedicate myself to art, but I have followed the teachings of my oil painting mentor, Lucio Rivas, who used to tell me:” If you do not have time to create the works, you should develop them in your mind. The day will come when you could execute them.”
When did you know that you really wanted to be an artist?
I always knew that I would dedicate myself to art. My girlfriend at that time – the nineties – also had the desire to do it since she, like me, was passionate about art. When we got married, we decided to focus on her artistic training. Odalys Valdivieso is nowadays a great conceptual artist. When we got divorced, I decided to retake my dream of becoming a visual artist and traced a ten-year plan that would allow me to create the work I am now proposing. My strategy was, first of all, to get myself known while developing my proposal. I am convinced that the moment to express and deliver everything that I have created within me, has arrived.
Rafael Montilla participated in 2012 in the collective exhibition “Unidos por el Arte”, and two years later he made his first solo show at the Hernán Gamboa Gallery, where he is currently coordinator and gallerist. That same year I started doing a series of exhibitions in Miami. One of them was called I Love Miami, for which I received in 2016 a proclamation that instituted the date (August 19th) as the ‘Day of Rafael Montilla’, recalls the artist.
Since then, Montilla increased its exhibition activity to the point that in 2017 he participated in 33 exhibitions. In December of that same year, he had his first appearance in Art Miami at Miami Art Fair.
This year, the artist has been present at art fairs in Las Vegas, New York, and Santa Fe, to which he was invited thanks to his Kubos street proposal. “The curator Anny Bello told me that it was time to be more selective when choosing where and with whom to exhibit. From there arose the opportunity to make my first individual at the Coral Gables Museum,” recalls the artist.
The strategy of taking the art to the street was of great help for the artist. “I am convinced that the street is my gallery. I always wanted to exhibit in public spaces, I did not want to do graffiti, because this form of urban expression is not well seen by many since it could damage the walls. The cubes I conceived could be placed on fences, and are easily removed, without damaging the environment. I have placed more than a hundred cubes in the Miami Dade, Broward County, Las Vegas, and New York areas,” says Montilla, who has been interviewed in local and foreign magazines and newspapers, and has exhibited in Miami, Caracas, Toronto, and Madrid.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Nothing is easy. When we set a goal, there are obstacles that are nothing more than evidence to convince us if we really want to achieve it or not. In 1983 I had planned to travel to India for the first time, but one month before the trip the official currency of my country – Venezuela – was devalued. Although the prices doubled, I still managed to travel and stay in India for the three months I had planned.
And as for your proposal to take the art to the street?
It was difficult because it is not something well seen. My purpose was to beautify the city without creating problems or controversies. In the first attempts to do it in Wynwood, I felt very nervous and I even thought that I would not succeed. However, my commitment was stronger than my fear and I succeeded. Thus, the city of Miami became my gallery. Then I felt that I had to overcome what I had achieved until that moment and I created the 3D cubes, which I placed in very busy places. I installed them in certain places and left them there for 4 or 5 hours, always aware of what the results of that experience would be. Placed them in front of the Doral City Hall; on the beach of Miami Beach; in Mid Town; at the Ocean Drive park in Miami Beach; in front of the Coral Gables City Hall, and in other places where they were accepted both by the authorities and by passers-by. Many asks, why I do not get the necessary permits to place my installations and my answer is always the same: “Simply, because when asking for permits the magic disappears”.
What is the biggest obstacle you have faced?
The biggest obstacle one can face is oneself, our negative thoughts. For me, those thoughts are not relevant. Talent is not enough; it also takes courage, discipline, and work to achieve the objectives.
What do you want to contribute with your art? What is your mission as an artist?
I am interested in the internal value of the human being. My work is inspired both in esoteric fields such as spirituality and science, which I take into account to imbue them in my works with a sense of wisdom. I want to bring more clarity to the public conversation about what is happening in the world. People are immersed in a huge amount of information that they do not know how to give a meaning to their life, so they end up manipulated and focused on the external.
My mission, continues Rafael Montilla, “is to provide clarity to each of the observers who come across my works, especially in terms of focusing attention on himself. It is about wisdom, about mindfulness, about expanding our consciousness. It is about taking care of our mind and our body. It is about having control of emotional states. It’s about being conscious of humans. They will not all agree with my point of view and my answers, but I do not see any problem in it. What we should all agree on is to look for the answers inside: Who am I? How can I make this contemporary world better? I was inspired by the ideas of philosophers, spiritual teachers and visual artists who dedicated their lives to transformation by expanding their world from the inside out.”
And if I had to start over, what would I do differently?
I would not change anything of what I have done until today to reach my goals.