How Local Artist Rey Jaffet Made His Mark on Miami

Courtesy of Rey Jaffet
Rey Jaffet says he's always been a curious guy. That lifelong seeking instinct led the artist to create a visual voice for the misunderstood. His work across different mediums and styles has earned him international recognition, and now, with his artistry on display in the largest mural in Miami, he is leaving an indelible mark on the city that reared him.

New Times recently spoke to Jaffet about how living in the Magic City has impacted his work and what lies ahead for this promising young artist.

New Times: How do you think your Miami upbringing has shaped your art?

Rey Jaffet: Beautifully difficult question, since I feel Miami has taken me on quite the ride, and I feel extremely fortunate to have grown in such an environment. Miami is a stomping ground for a mix of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, which influenced the way I would communicate boldness through my work. In a way, it was a reminder of perspective, that we must be aware and attempt to navigate through others in order to convey understanding. Miami has provided an opportunity and platform for me to turn my ambition into reality. It has also shown me the product of conformity, specifically young people trapped in a cycle of manifesting financial success over pursuing a passion. These realities became a huge part of what I strive to portray, shining light to the real possibility of taking what you love and making a career from it.

You recently completed a project that is going down in the books as the tallest mural in all of Miami; how did this project come about?

This is still surreal to me since it is something I have dreamed about since first stepping into painting. I believe this project has been working its way to the surface for the last several years, beginning back in 2014 when Mr. Louis Wolfson III, co-founder of Pinnacle Housing Group, presented me with the Francis Wolfson Scholarship. We immediately hit it off, recognizing that our passions would someday manifest into something iconic. It sure did. As proud as I am of this mural, it's a great feeling to have it on the facade of the Pinnacle Heights building for people who believe in the same unified message of “We Are One.”
click to enlarge
Jaffet's mural Declaration of Hope.
Courtesy of Rey Jaffet
How much planning goes into a project of that scale, and what was your inspiration for the visuals?

Months of planning and painting, and most importantly, leaving unplanned areas that allow even more room for magic to happen. The visuals express the undeniable beauty of a belief that we are all connected, that we are one. Each individual depicted in the mural supports this truth and radiates the energy of acceptance in our differences while celebrating the strength of our similarities.

You've participated in Miami Art Week since 2011. What’s that been like for you?

From first showing on Miami Beach alongside artists such as Miguel Paredes to live painting exhibitions, limited-edition clothing line collaborations, putting together group shows during the rise of Wynwood while displaying in several galleries at a time, painting various murals and revealing an entire ceiling installation inside the Four Season Hotel, are just some of the areas where I have participated in [Miami Art Week]. Each year has been different.

What have been some of your most memorable projects to date?

They really do continue to surprise and challenge me in the greatest ways, and each project definitely has a story of its own.

Strength of Strains is a massive 110-foot hand-painted mural in Seattle that was sponsored by Leafly and equipped with a permanent light show with music. This was a journey that changed my course of creating. It opened doors to transitioning into a traveling artist. The artwork was created on the spot without a rendering to refer to and is still to this day one of the greatest moments of my life. This one specifically was truly a display of how fun making art for a living can be.

For Category Six, I designed, curated, and painted an entire ceiling masterpiece at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami that consisted of 44 convex and concave panels suspended in a way that seemed as if they are moving.

To spice it up a bit, one of the most memorable for sure would have to be the two eight-foot paintings I donated to Miami Palmetto High School. This was basically for my diploma! My principal had become aware of my passion for art, and for choosing it over class. In an act of kindness and understanding, she arranged to replace a couple of classes so that I would use my time for my artwork instead of school work. I was beyond grateful that someone recognized and wanted to support my ambition instead of forcing me to attend class, so in exchange, I installed two paintings the last day of my senior year as a tremendous thank you!
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Vianessa Castaños is a scriptwriter and producer who moonlights as a travel and culture journalist. She also runs Hustle Juice, an online resource for location-independent professionals and travel junkies.