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Dive into Jeffrey's World

A Cultural Odyssey Through His Artistic Explorations

By

Jul. 8 2024, Published 3:05 p.m. ET

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Photos by: Randy Lopez

In the heart of the Bronx, nestled within one of his old homes, Jeffrey has transformed a small, unassuming room into a vibrant studio. It is here Jeffrey illuminated the stories of individuals, whereby his artistic journey unfolds. In this intimate space, art comes to life, deeply rooted in Jeffrey’s Dominican heritage, personal growth, and a profound connection to his community in the Bronx.

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Jeffrey describes his latest exhibition, "The Universal Gentry," as a manifestation of empathy, compassion, and humanity. He explains this characterization aligns seamlessly with his overarching message as an artist. Jeffrey states, ‘I work a lot with faces and figures, and most of it is trying to evoke a certain connection’. He persists that this connection is achieved with people that have directly related experiences, but also lends the hand to individuals who don’t or have not had the chance to discover that connection yet. Jeffrey continues to say, ‘I think all of my art, at the core of it, just comes from lived or witnessed experiences’.

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Through our discussion, Jeffrey articulated, "I think my unintentional but natural goal with all of this is just to have my little contribution to the conversation of art history, or history in general," reflects a humble and organic approach to his art. By celebrating, mourning, and illuminating untold stories, he seeks to add his unique voice to the broader narrative of history. This approach suggests that Jeffrey views his work not just as individual expressions but as part of a larger dialogue that spans time and cultures. His contributions aim to enrich this ongoing conversation, providing new perspectives and insights that help shape and expand the collective understanding of art and history. Jeffrey illustrated the absence of recorded history and representation for his subjects, “people experiencing my life.” Although Jeffrey has gauged an improvement in exposure within the last 10 years, this still does not account for the past 30,000 years of art history. By broadening representation, Jeffrey encapsulates, “I want people to be able to see themselves forever, even if it’s not them directly”. This captured iconography can hopefully revolutionize how all people of all cultures have their history correctly documented for the education of future generations; Jeffrey attends to the historical cultivation of his heritage in order to “give people their sense of immortality”. Best expressed through his work on canvas, the medium of oil paint fosters an ‘instinctual’ practice, providing viewers a glimpse into diverse realms. “The making of the painting is more about the process than the finished product.” Drawing inspiration from a deep connection with nature, Jeffrey finds beauty in the ordinary, like sunsets, skies, and the bustling streets of New York. “Rather than just recreating a picture, I want to recreate a moment”.

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When confronted with how his emotions and mood can influence the nature and journey of a piece, Jeffrey candidly introspects, ‘I think the identity in my paintings come from my habits or lack of discipline in the beginning, where originally my intention was to be as perfect as possible with my technique.” He continues to explore how his internal conflict translates externally into the physicality of his brushstrokes, “I can be very rough, but I can be very gentle at the same time. I never had the patience to be tedious and repetitive with my motions.” Jeffrey's artistic process encompasses “making a mess and then cleaning it up”. His ever-evolving practice parallels his personal growth, “As my practice grew I started to use that as a way to channel natural instincts”.

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Delving into his influences, Jeffrey leans into the introspection of his childhood. With his siblings' ages cascading across decades, his most prominent influences are from the overlapping 80’s and 90’s culture, stating, “I grew up in the Bronx, so like hip hop, R&B. Being Dominican, all Spanish music has been very influential.” Exploring how the art disciplinaries intersect, Jeffrey articulates, “I think just energy, movement, culture, the way music swings, I think a lot of it impacts the way that I do my work”.

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Reciting where his entrepreneurial spirit derived from, Jeffrey attributes his success to being brought up in the Bronx. Jeffrey recollects being the kid who “drew tags for other people in first grade for a dollar” to afford a Cinnabon after school, that being the introductory entry into treating art like a hustle. Recounting incidents of fights and deviant behavior, Jeffrey assures that by ‘keeping yourself busy with the good things” such as his self-taught guitar and piano practice, meant that he didn’t partake in delinquency. However, still privy to his surroundings, Jeffrey states, “My experience here taught me how to see the world as it is. Know when to face the dangers but not to be afraid”. Reflecting on his time studying Illustration at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Jeffrey mastered the art of hustling. With his artistic talent already well-honed, Jeffrey credits "Philly," as he affectionately calls it, with teaching him about the crucial interplay between creating art and navigating the business side of the artistic world. “Philly taught me to grind and see art as both creative expression and business”. When questioned about whether he likes being his own boss, Jeffrey simply replies, “Yeah, I’ve always been argumentative. I love my mother, but she’ll tell you”. Knowing his worth, Jeffrey establishes, “I’m not going to let anyone else in the world treat me less than”.

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“I like to focus on truth and what’s right”, “I hope people are more curious about learning rather than teaching”.

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Without a specific sculptor or artist in mind, Jeffrey derives ranging inspiration from musical projects to shows and noir films, where the composition of this genre of art can be admired as a still photograph. He states, “I’m drawn to creators who create an experience and make you feel like the main character in their world”. Referencing Miles Davis’ album for the French film “Elevator to the Gallows”, Jeffrey reminisces about the impetus of how evocative storytelling is enhanced with music. Aiming to curate a holistic experience for individuals, Jeffrey documents, “My work invites people to experience a world, especially for those from my community or culture”.

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Conscious or subconscious artistic process? Jeffrey categorizes his method as ‘intuitive and natural’, conducting subliminal practices of art throughout his entire life. Growing up with immigrant parents, the emphasis on education, career stability, and success took precedence. Attending his inaugural formal art class at 18, Jeffrey's first foray into academic art instruction came during his college years. Honing his discipline, Jeffrey credits his time in a band after college as pivotal for cultivating the mindset and commitment essential for a successful art career, encapsulating, “I didn’t really care about having a career, I thought ‘I’m going to be a rockstar!’”. Catalyzing this shift in mentality, Jeffrey directed his attention to martial arts, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu to hone the principle absent from his work; discipline. “It gives you a trajectory to keep going. If I didn’t have that experience of practicing the sport time and time again, I don’t know if I would have had the same level of work ethic to get me where I am right now”. Discussing the relationship between order and chaos, Jeffrey depicted attaining a balance between the two artistically proves to be a ‘lifelong challenge’. Being “addicted to process and routine”, yet also “addicted to the performance of art”, Jeffrey fights to discover the “fine line” that exists between work and play. Forgiving of his past attitudes, Jeffrey’s learned wisdom accredits, “there’s no real blueprint” or one path to success. This is just his route.

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When prompted to share any upcoming projects or themes that Jeffrey is currently exploring in his art practice, Jeffrey signals a painting titled “Cleo”, adjacent to our stools, based on the statue of a woman, curator of time and observer of history. She is omniscient of everything that has historically occurred in time. Jeffrey’s interpretation of “Cleo” is his ‘modern take’ on exposing what has gone unforeseen for several generations and thousands of years. In accordance with this project, Jeffrey offers another project for the end of fall, reflective on borders and particularly the relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Jeffrey expands, “It’s an invitation to have a conversation about history and culture, and to challenge colonial indoctrination that has created unnecessary animosity”.

To depart, here are some wise words from Jeffrey himself: “My whole life is a risk. If you don’t take risks, you’ll live with regrets.”

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