Los Artistas of the Great Lakes, a group of four Hispanic Battle Creek artists, celebrated the opening of their exhibit at the Three Rivers Carnegie Center for the Arts on March 12. The show will be on display for the public to visit through April 11.
Los Artistas of the Great Lakes (LAGL) is comprised of four artists who share a passion to create from their unique point of view, capturing their subjects in their media of choice. Three members of LAGL were first united at the 2022 Great Latin American Expo at The Art Center of Battle Creek presented by the Battle Creek Latin-American Heritage Initiative where their exposition was part of the local celebrations commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month. LAGL says their goal is to come together for the purpose of inspiring everyone who has an artistic vocation or appreciation, and to share their different cultures and inspirations with Hispanic artists and all who love art.
LAGL member Coco Sweezy was born in Mexico City where she got her Master’s degree in Art History. Sweezy has now lived in the United States for several decades, and has taken classes and workshops from nationally-known artists. She had an art gallery in Vicksburg from 1999 to 2018, and has exhibited her work in galleries in Kalamazoo, Marshall, and Battle Creek. Working in pastel, acrylic, and mixed media, Sweezy’s style is impressionistic, and draws inspiration from her native Mexico and Michigan’s nature. Of those coming to visit the exhibit in the coming month Sweezy says, “Nature creates beauty and humans also create beauty through art. I hope to transmit this vision to others.”
Member George Martinez utilizes human hair cut into tiny pieces and then manipulates them on a ground of felt to create portraits. He views his art as innovative and enriching, saying “I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. However, due to typical life needs, my art was asleep within me for decades.” Martinez has created more than 70 major large-scale works, had six exhibits, several commissioned projects, and has sold 32 pieces.
Born in the city of Santo Domingo, LAGL member Fausto Fernandez showed an inclination toward art since he was a child. He studied drawing at the Montessori School and worked as a craftsman in various shops and festivals. He takes inspiration for his paintings from a resort town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, Cabarete, which encompasses mountains, lagoons, and white sand beaches. Fernandez studied graphic design and participated in several arts courses at Kellogg Community College in 2003. He has lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico, New York City, and has been in Battle Creek since 2001.
Member Xenia Rose Schafer has roots in the Republic of Panama, and says she enjoys bringing people together with her art. Schafer says the Panamanian culture of her mother’s family influenced her to approach life intellectually, and says her parents raised her and her four siblings to value the decisions of the mind over emotions, to not be afraid to lead, and to help people in need through community service. As a naturalized citizen originally from Panama City, Schafer’s mother taught her to value all aspects of the culture, such as symbols, language, norms, values, and artifacts. She says household chores, studying, and pursuing training beyond high school were the expectations instilled in all the children in her family.
As a WMU graduate, Schafer was an illustrator of manuals at Wells-Index in Three Rivers, later hand-painting window murals as an independent artist in Detroit for over 13 years. At the Battle Creek Kool Community Center she painted a large mural with over 50 figures. Schafer says her art is influenced by the Panamanian work ethic, sense of fun, and love of water, nature, and people. “Artistic expressions are varied within the Hispanic community, and we all find our way to express what we value and love,” she says. “I love people and nature, and find that capturing a likeness is fun because it is always a new challenge.”
Los Artistas of the Great Lakes will be showing at the Carnegie Center for the Arts located at 107 N. Main Street Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 11. Gallery hours are subject to change. Also showing is Lost and Found Horizons: Interpretive Realist Paintings by Suzanne B. Siegel, and the St. Joseph County 2023 High School art show.
Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.