Orlando Pelaez

  • Visual Art
Orlando Pelaez

“This fellowship is allowing me to fully realize a brand new awakening! A new day where the indigenous part of me wants to follow the sun that rises over the mesas and the vastness of the desert!”

Orlando Peláez’s first Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship in 2001 led him to central Mexico to explore his Native American background. Six years later, his 2017 fellowship was an opportunity to further explore questions of cultural heritage, this time in the American Southwest. From Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks to New Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo, from Mesa Verde in Colorado to “the spectacle” of the Grand Canyon, the landscapes struck Peláez with awe. When he wasn’t totally speechless, he spoke with other artists and gallery owners. “I had the opportunity to chat and visit with gallery owners and artists during the entire length of the my journey. I was pleasantly surprised when I brought a portfolio with samples of my Western works and people were very impressed!”

The fellowship was largely an opportunity for Peláez to develop his project: a mixed-media commentary on childhood memories and the American Western aesthetic through the lense of 1950s and 1960s comic book traditions. Peláez collected vintage comic books that “capture the visual inspiration, pop art reverence and romanticism of the west, its people and its landscapes.” He then used these visuals
as inspiration for a body of work that pays tribute to the Native Americans romanticized in his childhood memories. Growing up in Medellin, Colombia, Peláez lived in a time when a child’s typical day could begin with a western film in the morning and end with a game of “Cowboys and Indians” in the evening. “I wanted to make a statement in the name of art and Western accouterment,” he said. “The lasting effects of this entire experience are very emotional and spiritual. As I walked on the Native American homeland, especially the pueblos, reservations, and rock dwellings, I felt blessed. One can feel the presence of the creator in every handful of red sand; every touch of the rock.” Today, he hopes that the art scene in Indianapolis will welcome his “new direction into the Southwest culture.”

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