Rafael Reyes

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Rafael Reyes, of Ocean Pines Maryland, creates paintings and inlaid wood bas reliefs. His works combine multiple images in a stylized kaleidoscopic effect. This abstraction and layering give the viewer an intriguing visual puzzle to sort out.

Painter Rafael Reyes grew up in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He got his BFA at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he primarily concentrated on sculpture. When he graduated he came to the beach in Maryland with his friends to celebrate. Like so many others he loved the life here so he found work and has been here ever since.

Now he lives in Ocean Pines and his day job is in home maintenance. But the call to make art remains strong and about a year ago he decided that doing small projects here and there was not enough. Though he loved making sculpture and working with what he calls the big boy toys used to fabricate steel, those resources aren't available to him right now. So he has found that painting would have to do until it was.

Rafael Reyes:
"I actually had knee surgery, an ACL replacement, so I was out of, actually off from work for a little over three months. And, knowing that I was going to have this surgery, I built a bunch of canvases. Knowing that I was going to have so much time let me get back into it. And, that's where it snow balled."

Here is how Rafael describes his work:

Rafael Reyes:
"First off: abstract, cubist, surreal; would be my description of it. But if anyone doesn't know what cubism or surreal is, I will just say abstract. What I do is take images and layer them over each other. And then wherever they overlap, they all come through."

"Every line, every color, every shape, there's a purpose to it, because there is an image all involved in it. The layering of images is what makes it abstract."

The result of Rafael's layering and abstraction is a beautiful kaleidoscope effect which allows the viewer to see the original imagery in a new way that sometimes seems like looking through cut glass. This allows him to create engaging compositions with multiple images in a single work.

Rafael Reyes:
"As you can see behind me, this is a commission piece which is the Maryland flag, It has the Maryland Terp icon and there is a Maryland crab in there. It will also have the "Natty Bo" icon, and Bob the Oriole's bird icon. The main premise behind this piece is the Maryland flag. That is the focus and everything else is secondary.

Most of my work is intuitive. If it is something original, for me it will be intuitive. It will be how I'm feeling that day and the next day will be different."

Rafael recently participated in an art exhibit at the Globe in Berlin which was fundraiser for local bike trails. That show challenged artists to create art from bicycle seats. He created a deer scull which gave him an opportunity to get back to his first love sculpture.

Rafael Reyes:
"I used different parts of the handle bars to create the rack. So I was extremely happy with it. It wasn't traditionally colored like a scull. You know normally it would be an ivory or an off white. This was darker. It was a bronze. That was the last show I was in. "

Rafael also has been a featured artist at Burley Oak also in Berlin. One piece he sold there that received a lot of praise and was an inlaid wood Maryland flag with crab claws in his cubist style. It was created from wood recycled from shipping pallets. That piece inspired the painting commission he is currently working on and he hopes to create more similar pieces with the inlaid pallet wood.

Rafael Reyes:
"Well, I'm going to go bigger, 6' by 3' - same thing, uh the Maryland flag, but I want to incorporate the U.S. flag. That will be a "little" undertaking. Again, everything will show through. It's layers. It will look abstract but it will have essences of the U.S. flag and the Maryland flag. Paint-wise what I want to get to actually is aquarium scenes. I'm gonna do a lot of panorama style canvases, long canvases - five foot by one foot, six foot by two foot."

"When you do one painting, my goal is: I want to outdo that painting with a better painting. I want to create a large body of work. I want continue of course, creating art. I want to show it. Of course I want to sell it. Ultimately I would love for this to just be what I do full time. "

Rafael cites Marcel Duchamp as one of several artists who have influenced his style. He says that the words of one of his college professors, Paul Ben-zvi has also stayed with him.

Rafael Reyes:
"He would always go: you must always attract the attention of the viewer. The next important is "sustain." And he would go: "Sustain, sustain, sustain." He would do that for like thirty seconds. And then he'd be like: "Reward." And that stuck with me too. Initially when you look at my work you see abstract. The longer you look at it, an image will pop out. You'll be like "Oh, I see it now!" So that's part of why I like doing the style that I do."

With that approach Rafael does attract, sustain, and reward the viewer looking at his work. Rafael also does portraits and accepts commissions.