Diógenes Ballester
1690 Lexington Ave. (106 St.), 4th fl.
New York, NY 10029
e-mail: [email protected]

© Diógenes Ballester, 2005.

Collective Memories, 2002, woodcut carving.

My current work is about a quest for the transformation of oral history and collective memory of cultures that have experienced the syncretic process of globalization in our postindustrial age. It manifests as images of madamas, altars, and the organic materials of life imported from "third world countries" to metropolitan cities like New York and Paris.

My primary artistic mediums are encaustic painting, charcoal drawing and installations. In producing encaustic painting, I apply the wax medium on linen or wood. I mix the wax medium with dry pigments, oils and/or turpentine to provide a rich translucent or glazing effect. I create images and texture with a variety of surfaces including impasto, solid colors, and scratching. The application of heat over the entire surface of the painting enhances the different kinds of texture and transparent effects. Most of my paintings are made on multiple panels, which allows the possibility of composing and recomposing dynamic compositions. After the painting is recomposed, a new overlapping of images, layers of colors, brush strokes, gestural lines and transparencies are created enriching the surface of the painting. These techniques like the theme of the work, then, encompass a mixing and layering of multifaceted elements.

A similar process occurs with my charcoal drawings made by using vine, compressed and powder charcoal on paper. I fix the charcoal, while working on the piece, with a solution of bees-wax, varnish and turpentine. Some of the characteristics of these drawings are the depiction of an atmospheric effect, positive and negative space, a variety of textures, the combination of organic images and abstracted forms, and a feeling of dense space.

This process of recomposing paintings and drawings led me to create installations. I like to use the main ideas of the painting or drawing as a metaphor for the installation. The installation, though, takes on its own dimension as it responds to the image and ritual embedded in the painting. The relationship between the painting, organic materials and sculpture gives the sense of a large altarpiece that I am looking for in my work.

Recently, I began to incorporate objects that conceptually represent the environment of the country where I am presenting the installation. For example, in "L'energie de la Terre" presented in Paris, France, I used wood chips to represent how nature reclaimed what belongs to her in the hurricane that devastated many of the trees in "Parc de Vincennes".   In "Globalization, Postindustrialism and Syncretism" Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I used the element of charcoal and the basket in which woman carry the charcoal to market, along with a large encaustic drawing to represent the difficulty this country faces as people have to deforest the countryside to create charcoal for cooking. In Cuba as part of the series "Globalization, Postindustrialism and Syncretism", I used sea rocks and sculptures of African gods to depict the African influence on that culture.

Most recently, I used the theme of oral history, the conveyance of information and the lost tradition of the book for an installation entitled "Keeper of History - Holder of Dreams". In this installation, I combined classical art with experimental new media art including the incorporation of digital video sound and internet transmission. This exploration consisted of projecting a real time video of one of my artist's book from my studio to a gallery via cyberspace where I had displayed an installation of a large blank artist's book, a charcoal drawing on tree stumps, a large wood book holder and recorded oral history stories from a DVD player.