Carlos Estevez at Sulfur Studios

In 2015, carlos estevez was on his way to an artist residency in Charlotte, North Carolina when he stopped in Savannah. Some of his friends, local architects, encouraged him to see the well-planned layout and design of the town center for himself. Estevez had plenty of time to explore Forsyth Park and a few adjacent plazas.

But the brief visit makes a lasting impression: a few years later, he completes “Savannah,” a large-format work, in oil and watercolor pencil, depicting an aerial view interpretation of the precise geometry of the historic district. Estevez swore that one day he would return.

And this month, thanks to the curators of Sulfur Studiosfamed Miami-based Cuban visual artist Carlos Estevez returns to Savannah as part of Sulfur’s On ::View the artist residency program.

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From Wednesday to November 5, Estevez is focused on creating a body of work entitled “Cities of the Mind”, in which he will study “urban planning and the history of local architecture to understand the socio-political roots of settlements human beings, their implications for the past and their projection into the future.

Growing up in Cuba, Estevez is quick to point out how having access to less can actually foster more creativity.

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“Cuba is like another planet. It is a geographically and politically isolated island,” Estevez said. “Things move slowly, which makes for lots of time with yourself, and being alone lends itself to observing the people, places and nature around you. Cuba also taught me to be inventive and creative with supplies, as I didn’t have many. The limitation became the inspiration for the invention. I had to be creative to be creative, does that make sense?

carlos estevez

Estevez got lucky when he was 11, accompanying a friend who had signed up for an art school entrance exam. There was also room for Estevez to take the test, and he spent a few hours sketching a required still life arrangement plus a landscape of his choice. Although his friend was not selected, Estevez was, and the serendipitous opportunity changed the course of his life.

“Fate put art in my path,” Estevez recalls. “All that time I spent drawing, being creative, using my imagination to make things out of whatever was around, unknowingly helped me get into honors middle school. When you leave with innocence, without knowing any sense of the benefits, sometimes it can open doors.For this test, I did what I was doing.That was all I knew.

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After college, Estevez was accepted into an art academy high school, then graduated from Cuba’s University of the Arts. Over the past 30 years, her talent and rigorous training have earned her top-notch international residencies in London, Paris, New York, Boston, Charlotte and now Savannah.

'Ciudad Celeste' (2017) by Carlos Estevez

In his work, Estevez seeks to “reveal the unseen realm to the mind that lies beneath the visible world”. And he achieves this by incorporating symbols, lines, dots and circles to create pieces in which elegant geometries underlie the architecture and swirl above like constellations. The patterns further give rise to a sense of order commanding the seeming machinations of the chaos within.

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“I’m fascinated by symbols, they’re universal,” Estvez said. “The circles are important because across cultures they represent infinity, the cycles that come and go, that come back. In technical diagrams, often with many circles, I look for metaphors that I can translate into colors and shapes and superimpose on the human experience. This process that I am describing is itself a circle and a principle of creation. What we create is based on what and how we choose to observe the things around us.

A piece designed by Carlos Estevez.

Estevez will be in the ON::VIEW studio on Saturdays during his residency from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. with his artist talk taking place October 22 at 2 p.m. His residency ends on November 4 with the unveiling of his works created in Savannah.

“Art is a magical business,” said Estevez, “Art and its magic will connect me with the people of Savannah and their stories. What I create will document my encounter, and I’m excited to discover how my experiences will influence what I create, how new people, their stories and culture will become symbols and metaphors in my work We are all universes unto ourselves, through art I seek to find the hidden spirituality that unites us all .

IF YOU ARE GOING TO

What: About::See Artist in Residence, Carlos Estevez

Where: Sulfur Studios, 2301 Bull Street, Savannah

When: In the studio from October 12 to November 5; Artist Talk, Saturday, October 22, 2 p.m.; Project final, Nov. 4, 5 to 9 p.m.

Information: sulphurstudios.org

Mildred D. Field