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DANIEL CORREA MEJÍA: Sacred Masculinity

If we’re totally honest, we’ve become so used to the unjustness of the patriarchal structures that we live in, we tend to demonize men altogether. Even if this is understandable considering the gigantic damage the patriarchy does in all areas of life for women, men and our planet, demonization naturally does not help the issue at all 

The last four years have shown it can always get worse, however, and if there’s one thing we’ve had an overload of, it’s toxic masculinity. It is this that makes artists and spiritual men like Daniel Correa Mejía seem almost unreal, too good to be true. In our imagination they trigger an unfortunately still fata morgana-like image of an emotionally mature and healthy, equal future in which all genders and non-binary and LGBTQ folk connect, vibe with and on each other, unafraid of their emotions and unmasked true selves. 

Sounds a bit over the top, right? But that’s what I’m saying, how used we have become to the opposite, to the status quo that basically makes everyone miserable.    

Daniel Correa Mejía, photo credit: Tobias Brust

Daniel Correa Mejía, born in Medellín, Colombia and raised there and also in Brazil and Mexico, knows a thing or two about the difficulties of growing up in a machismo society, both as artist and, god forbid, gay man.

Maybe that’s why his work always seems to emanate a certain male sensitivity and beauty, a serenity flowing around the men he depicts. 

It may sound exaggerated, but the pure joy I get from looking at his paintings and the scenes they show is extremely powerful and soothing.

Firstly because they touch something in the viewer, whether male or female, something that sets a subtle healing process in motion that makes us realize that it is not only ok to be naked and in touch with Mother Earth, the elements, the moon, the stars and nature; rather, it is essential and necessary for mankind to heal.

And secondly, they make you feel warm and excited, excited for the love that is this universe.

I would also like to believe that it is helping men to feel kind and powerful in their sexual identity, without any reason to go on fulfilling the unhealthy expectations put on them from childhood on.

So, I can’t imagine any better time than now to dive into Daniel’s works and words, following his first solo show which took place at the Fortnight Institute in New York, giving us the ideal backdrop for this interview. 

Daniel Correa Mejía, photo credit: Tobias Brust

Elements of Life

Which of these elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) would you choose about your practice or yourself, and why?

In my practice, I try to be aware of the essence of life. And all these elements are keys for it. How aware am I to a specific one, changes from time to time depending on what I am living and observing, as also in which season of the year it happens? Sometimes I become aware while painting, others while looking at nature, or situations in my daily life. When I think about them, it makes me feel how we are connected through all these elements, and each one is existential. 

I also give symbolic content to my color palette, where also the four elements are embraced. I normally paint with red, yellow, blue and violet. Each one with it’s own meanings. While I am painting these meanings and attributes are on my mind and I feel, with the forms that I paint.

For me, it is kind of a spiritual trip because I start to see how the colors that have significance merge with each other and create an image much more complex that carries them.

Daniel Correa Mejía, Estrellas y Agua
Daniel Correa Mejía, Estrellas y Agua

 Like when I am painting a sky, and violet embraces it; the mystery of the sky. I am painting a red body, and a little blue comes up; gender thoughts, gender unions. Yellow comes into the body; we are made of energy, we are sunlight.”

Red for blood, earth, and feminine power; yellow for sun and light, the only way red and blue can merge; blue for masculine energy, sky, and water; unanswered questions provoked through the subtleties of violet.

Is there a particular situation or memory that come to mind that that inspired you to become an artist? 

As a child and teenager, I was a lot on my own and it made me express myself through drawing and later writing. This solitude has been a great catalysator for becoming an artist for sure. I was 2003 on a scholar exchange in Germany, and spending time with myself made me realize I wanted to pursue painting as something important.

When I got back to Mexico I started painting classes with a great artist named Betina Garro; she let me be totally free and guided in a very delicate way; I discovered the magnificence that painting can be.

Arriving and settling in Berlin in 2010 was for sure also an important changing moment and a confirmation that I needed to do for my coming out as an artist. 

Daniel Correa Mejía, Hermandad


Life beyond rationality

How does your spirituality feed into your work?

I seek spirituality in my art and I look for answers and images on nature, like trying to solve the mystery of existence.

I do not have any particular religion, but I do see that life is very very enormous and there is perfection in everything that we see like the tiniest insect is a functional being, that is breathing and existing;

I try to stay always astonished for all. I think that being spiritual is not giving anything for granted and looking at life as something that goes beyond our rationality.

Painting gives me inner peace and hope in life.

While I paint I feel myself at the present moment, I manage to disconnect with the vanishing of time — for me, that is the most precious gift and that is why I am in love with painting.

The painting also makes me more aware to go with open eyes through life. And at the end painting and my life start to nourish each other.  

Daniel Correa Mejía, Hermandad

Daniel Correa Mejía, Paisaje Interno

You recently had your first solo show at Fortnight Institute in New York. How did the connection come about and what was the theme of this show?

I am very happy that Fortnight Institute arrived unexpectedly to me. I think that the important events in life arrive when we are not looking for them; they come as surprising gifts.

When Corona began and galleries closed, many artists started showing each other’s works through our Instagram stories.

A great artist Miranda Fengyuan Zhang – who I met in January in NY while I participated in a group-exhibition at Mendes Wood DM – shared my work through her story.

Fabiola Alondra (co-founder of Fortnight Institute) saw Miranda’s story and showed an interest in my work.

So, Fabiola, Jane, and I started having a very organic e-mail and video-call exchange and after a while, they invited me to have a solo exhibition.

Daniel Correa Mejía, Paisaje Interno

The show at Fortnight is about the night and unanswered questions about our existence that can awaken in us while we are alone, pause and reflect.

Like looking at the stars and wondering about what it is all about. A lot of the images came to me while I observed the night in Berlin while walking through Hasenheide park and the airport Tempelhof, after a studio day. When I cycle back home, I try to stop and walk slowly and watch the sunsets, their colors, the moon, the trees, the stars and all this gives me a lot of images of glimpse moments.

Also, a lot of images come to me while I wake up in the night and also precious moments of my private life.

I am a man: little do I last and the night is enormous

Daniel Correa Mejía, Sin entender comprendo
Daniel Correa Mejía, Sin entender comprendo

Soy Hombre: duro poco y es enorme la noche  – was the title of this show, can you tell us what this means to you, where it comes from and do you write poetry yourself?

The title is an extract of the poem titled Hermandad of the great Octavio Paz. I read this poem some years ago and since then, it is always appearing in my practice. Sometimes when I am painting, the poem just pops-up in my head and I feel it describes what my work is about.

Is not that I am painting from the poem, but the poem just expresses so perfectly into words what I feel at this moment.

Daniel Correa Mejía, Tú en Mí

One night I woke up while trying to sleep again I thought about the title for the show and the poem came to my mind.

It felt so right to take that part of it as a title.

I love that part of the poem, because for me it expresses this holiness of life, how space, the night is much bigger than our own existence, and it expresses also an astonishment for life and its cycles.

I also write parallel to my practice, sometimes they are just meditations on life, others are based on and about paintings I did.

I am very happy that Fortnight Institute is publishing a book with my paintings and drawings in dialogue with my poetry – Also having a title from Octavio Paz fits perfect for a poetry book.

I think poetry and painting go together by hand and complement each other so great. Each one awakens on the other, what each cannot express, and I find this beautiful.

Reading poetry is bringing images and feelings to our headword afterword. And describing a painting with poems I think is the most beautiful way.

I am also very thankful and happy to have the epilogue of the book written by curator and writer Chris Sharp.

Daniel Correa Mejía, Tú en Mí

Art, a sacred aspect of humanity

In your imagery we can find the sacred site of masculinity, a transcending and beautiful expression of it. What is your inspiration for these works, are they channeled, do you mediate before painting or have some kind of ritual?

I feel art is a sacred aspect of humanity and I respect a lot what painting means. I feel I can only paint believing that, otherwise it does not make sense for me.

With my work, I want to show my knowledge of life, but from an aspect of astonishment and observation, form the instant of the revealing present.

I try to meditate and look for routines where I can awaken this. Like doing slow walks every morning in the cemetery next to my home and give time to observe slowly the trees, the flowers, and the surroundings on it. 

As a gay man, the male body is for sure an inspiration for me, not just sexual and erotic, but also as a reflection that I am a body that breathes, and with my painting, I want to honor and venerate my sexuality and the living being I am. The nude male bodies I paint are also a reflection of my constant meditations on the fleeting aspects of time and life.

The most difficult and precious feeling in life…

Is there an author that inspires you or a book you are reading you want to share?

My work is mostly fed more from what I mentioned before. But Fernando Pessoa is one of the great writers whom I always return to. Reading his poetry just connects me to existence and awakens in me a lot of beautiful melancholy — a feeling that I look for in my practice. Lately, I haven’t been that good a reader, I don’t find the time for it, and it is difficult for me to concentrate.

Maybe due to Instagram, what concerns me because it is addictive, but on the other hand, it has been a super tool for sharing my work. It can be also because I started playing the piano — what makes me extremely happy, and playing music takes my mornings and my evenings away, giving me less space for reading. In the end, we just have limited hours to do activities, and it’s difficult to have everything balanced; I wish I was a better reader.

Right now I am reading El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I read it when I was a teenager and it is beautiful to read it again as an adult because it expresses a lot about what love is about: the most difficult and precious feeling in life.

I am also reading Sombras de Obras from Octavio Paz, a collection of articles and essays about art and literature. 

Daniel Correa Mejía, Ha escampado y la Luna saldrá


The glimpse of the moment

Please tell us what your looking forward to this year in terms of exhibitions?

I have a group exhibition at the museum MAMM in Medellín, Colombia this year. It makes me very happy to show for the first time my work in Colombia and in a Museum.

I would love to do more projects between Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico — places where I grew up and feel attached to. I have a few Projects cooking, but it is too soon to talk about them.

If you could, what would you change in the art market? 

The art market is crazy and reflects the complicated capitalist world we live in, so it gets into a business, where I get lost.

For sure there are special persons (artists, dealers, curators, and collectors) that really are passionate about art.

But I think the art word urges more honest and sensible art. I talk more about Berlin, where I live and are closer to.

I feel there is a lot of superficial art that gets too much attention that it doesn’t deserve.

I would love to go to galleries and feel more touched by the shows, but mostly I find them too cold, too rational, and boring;

I feel reading the press release becomes more interesting than looking at the exposed work in such beautiful locations, and then I ask myself: is visual art not about image-making? 

Daniel Correa Mejía, Ha escampado y la Luna saldrá

Aesthetics and Process aside, which emotion you want to trigger with your work and why?  

I try to follow feelings instead of technique with image-making.

With my works, I want to transmit the glimpse of the moment; the magical present moment that connects us to the eternal.

For me, that is what painting is about.

Follow Daniel on Instagram or find out more about his work and upcoming shows on his website.

Author: Esther Harrison