Most artists, when they begin a new work of art, have a preconceived notion of what they're about to put down on the canvas. But Guido Mena does not. He simply begins with a line and takes it from there.
"Inspiration is a dangerous thing. A lot of artists wait to be inspired, but I just try to be inspired doing the work process itself," Mena said.
That process is more intense for Mena than for most. Because Mena is colorblind, he must complete an entire painting in a single sitting; otherwise, when he returns to his canvas later, he's unable to match the colors he's already used. That vivid colors are an integral element of Mena's style makes his colorblindness -- and his success in overcoming it -- all the more awe-inspiring.
"I start building the lines and start letting them suggest something else," Mena said of his work, where his background in commercial design and illustration and his desire to produce high quality art converge.
As a freelance artist, Mena has produced murals for American Airlines Arena, NASDAQ, Disney World, Target, and more. He caught the attention of Bacardi U.S.A. Inc. and produced a number of murals and creative projects for them, until he was asked to become director for their in-house art department. Mena held the position for 12 years before branching out on his own to produce his signature style of linear defying art.
Mena says that though his colorblindness makes his work more challenging, he continues to excel in a field he knew he wanted to pursue since the day he was able to pick up a pencil. During high school at Coral Park, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Art and went on to study at the Pratt Institute in New York and then the Academy of Art College in California.
"Everybody has obstacles in their life, and you just have to make it work for you. I'm not special there. Sometimes people will focus on your disability and not what you can do," Mena said, reluctant to address the issue of his colorblindness at all.
He's so reluctant to speak about his colorblindness, in fact, that during his entire stay at Bacardi, no one knew about it.
Mena's work has garnered recognition, not because of his unique visual perspective, but because he has created a style for himself that no one else can duplicate in the same manner -- one even he himself has trouble explaining.
"You're trying to create an illusion on two-dimensional paper, and like a magician, if you try to explain what you're doing, you take away that illusion," Mena said.
He is one of six artists who will be featured as part of the Contemporary Expressions exhibit at the Cremata Gallery this Friday. Each artist's unique vision contributes a piece of a hexagon to explore the dynamics of contemporary art. The exhibit will run in conjunction with Viernes Culturales and feature the works of multicultural artists including Cristina Alzualde (Argentina), Carolina De Panfilis (Venezuela), Astolfo Fuenes (Venezuela), Katiuska Gonzalez (Venezuela), and Rocio Granados (Spain).
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Contemporary Expressions opens Friday, September 12 and runs through Wednesday, October 10 at Cremata Gallery, 1646 SW Eighth Street, Miami. Opening reception is September 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. Open Friday, September 28 for Viernes Culturales/Cultural Friday's Art Walk from 7 to 11 p.m. For more information call 305-644-3315.