The Art and
Spirit of Miguel Tió
An Introduction by Brigid Marlin
Miguel Tio’s paintings are strikingly original. They impress both by their beauty and by their strange ambiguous and otherworldly imagery.
When I first saw Miguel’s work on the internet, I felt impelled to write to him, to thank him for what he had created; it was both a delight and an inspiration to me and to other artists. So it was a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to write an introduction to his work.
Because of Miguel’s original mind, I felt it would be most interesting if the article took the form of an interview, and I was fascinated to have a glimpse into the struggles and high points of the growth of this brilliantly talented artist.
Marlin: What were the artistic influences in your early childhood?
Tio: I was not surrounded by art in my childhood, even though my father studied painting at the National School of Fine Arts in the Dominican Republic. My grandparents didn't like the idea of my father becoming a painter. There were no art books or paintings in my house. It was the common thought at that time that a painter was a drunken person who would die sooner or later out of starvation. I never got to see one of my father's drawings until I was a teenager.
Marlin: When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
Tio: Ever since I could hold a pencil in my hands I can recall making drawings. When I was 9 years old I discovered that I could do something better than my teacher; it was drawing and every time a drawing was needed on the blackboard I was the one in charge of doing it. At that age I began to recognize my aptitude for painting.
I remember always wanting to be an artist and perhaps because I was a fat child and one of the worst students in school I probably felt that the only thing that would get me noticed were my drawings. I remember one day while exploring around in "El Malecon" area of the city of Santo Domingo, by the sea and as I was searching through the garbage, I saw a familiar object which when I pulled it out turned out to be one of my own paintings of a basket with fruits painted with bright tempera colors. It was a very weird sensation because I had thrown that drawing away a long time before and it seemed like somebody took it and kept it and after months of having it, this person threw it away again. It was a child's painting but I was amazed by the idea of somebody wanting to have my painting.
I really decided to be a painter when at twelve years old I began to assist at the Art School and my mother said to me: "I am allowing you to study painting but you are going to go to college and study a real career. I want you to understand that painting is just a hobby and you are not going to be a painter". She said this last sentence very clear so I would not forget it or perhaps she was trying to convince herself of that.
Probably because of my rebellious nature at that age, I made the decision to be a painter at that precise moment.
Marlin: Later on were there any artists who influenced you strongly?
Tio: The first artist who caught my attention was Goya. While in school, I had to study his paintings and was very impressed by his life and his subjects. My next big discovery was Salvador Dali, when I saw Dali's painting "Leda Atómica" I was amazed and deep inside I said to myself, that's the kind of art that I want to do some day. I think of Dali as my main influence in those days.
Before I knew I was a visionary artist I did research for spiritual art and I got to see the works of many spiritual artists on the internet but only the names of Andrew Gonzales and Brigid Marlin come to mind. I remember your paintings "The Annunciation" and "Meditation on Emptiness" both of which caused a very deep impression on me. At that time it was difficult for me to remember an American name but I would never forget your paintings because they would influence my works later on. This interview is an eye opener to me because it is unveiling many other connections to your works.
For example I saw them again in 2003 when I participated at the exhibition "Brave Destiny" at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center; I had my first opportunity to see the works of many important visionary artists. I didn't really know the meaning of visionary art until then.
Marlin: Did you attend Art or Design school, and how did this affect your
Tio: I was twelve years old when my mother enrolled me to the School of Fine Arts in the Dominican Republic. The required age for enrolling was 14 and my
mother lied about my age while turning her face towards me and staring at me with very penetrating eyes at the right moment to stop me from opening my mouth to contradict her.
Later on, I would
study for five years with the artist Elias Delgado. Most of what I know
now I learned from him; he instilled in me the basics for the artist
that I was to become some day.
I also studied graphic design in college but when I was about to graduate I dropped off because I didn't want to have the title. I was still in college when I did my first and second solo shows.
Marlin: Has it been a great struggle for you to keep going as an artist?
Tio: It has always been a great struggle. Back in my country I had to turn to commercial art to survive; I did a lot of sunflowers and still lives. When I moved to New York in 1994 I decided to paint only for me and from my heart. I started working on scenic and fabric painting to pay my bills; I would paint every night after work. I didn't have much time to go to parties or enjoy a normal life and I cannot say it was a sacrifice because I just knew that I had to do it whether I succeeded or not as an artist. I also I have to say that after searching for happiness I discovered that I could find those moments of
happiness right here, sitting in front of my easel.
New York City is probably one of the hardest cities for a visionary artist. I have submitted my images to many juried exhibitions and galleries with no response, and it has been like that for years. In general the art of the Old Masters has been forgotten and the level of painting has been reduced to a meaningless art with no essence. It appears to be that there is no interest in the kind of art that feeds the soul.
Hopefully this will start to change and a good example of that is Icosahedron gallery which is like a lighthouse that can be seen from the shore in the middle of the storm.
Marlin: Does your work reflect your philosophy of life, and how does the
spiritual side of life affect you and your work?
Tio: My work definitely reflects my philosophy of life and the spiritual side has an intimate connection to it.
I was introduced to the spiritual world by my mother. She knew that I was going to need information that would explain things that were happening to me as well as to my sister; through her we had access to many books that opened a whole new fascinating world, the world of the souls. These books helped us to loose the fear "to feel", "to hear" and "to see" by understanding these phenomena. Considering that we were living in a very religious country and in consequence with many taboos it was something that had to be kept in utmost secrecy.
Spirituality is in
my everyday routine and in my work. I consider bringing this subject
onto the canvas as an important part of my mission as an artist. This is
precisely what has kept me working for many years. I have seen some of
my images before in dreams and meditations or felt them by intuition.
Sexuality is also one my subjects but I never felt that it would
diminish the spiritual side in any way. Demystifying prejudices is also
part of my mission as an artist.
For my work ”Moments of Inspiration", I felt by intuition some of the figures that are in that painting. The image of my guide, I saw on my meditations. I knew he had been inspiring me with my paintings. He was a painter himself, probably Italian. I couldn't see the details of his clothes very well other than he was wearing a hat and a black cape. I called my mother in the Dominican Republic and she had a vision and started to describe to me the details of his clothes. The two figures wore some kind of monk robes. I just knew that they had to be there and that one was young man with an almost feminine face and the other was an older man with a long white beard. Originally, I was going to paint the robes white but while working on them I suddenly felt uncomfortable using white. Later on while talking to my mother, she had another vision where she saw an image of both wearing brown robes. They were both painters; the older man the master and the younger the student; in her vision, the younger one was painting a mural and the older one was sitting on a bench looking at the work.
I hope some day I'll know who they were and why they are on the painting.
Marlin: Miguel, it has been fascinating to hear of the way your talent has developed, it was obviously a strong call, that persisted in spite of all the obstacles that were put in your way.
I believe that you are greatly gifted and people who buy your work now will find that they have invested in an artist with a great future.
I wish you every deserved success with this exhibition.