Tucked in the back of Casella theater these days a man with a long graying ponytail has been feverishly painting – on a grand scale.
And after October break, his work – a mural on the side of Haskell Hall – will be unveiled.
The painter is Peruvian artist Persí Narváez who will speak at the unveiling about his work and what drives him.
"Vermont inspires me, as everything does. I love the history here, the people, and all of the green."
The exact date is to be announced because it is unknown exactly when the painting will be finished.
Narváez has painted murals in Rutland, Vermont, as well as Boston, New York and countless other locations.
Workers in the Fine Arts Center, where his work is being carried out, say the can’t wait to see the finished product.
“I’m excited to get to see one (a mural by Navárez) on campus all the time! He’s got such a vibrant color palette and style to his art that really catches the eye while still so realistically representing the structures he paints,” said Soundings Manager Sam Green.
Narváez went to art school in Lima, Perú, where he is from. He says he likes to paint architecture, and to add mandalas to his art, which represent the, “elevation of spirituality and the harmony between people and oneself.”
“When I was learning art and starting to work I was trying to find myself. After I make mistakes, I keep that art,” Narváez said. “Our mistakes are what show how authentic we are as people.”
He said (that) his art could only improve after he improved as a person.
“Everything is a process,” Narváez said, “like art, life will be ugly before it is something beautiful.”
Narváez uses a lot of different colors in his works, including the mural he is painting for Castleton. That’s part of the cultural identity of Perú, he said. The people there, especially women, wear very bright colors.
“I interpret, I don’t copy,” he said. “I identify an object and then I add a little of me. Life, for me, is color.”
According to Narváez, he paints to communicate with people who he is and what he believes in. Although he paints mainly architecture, his paintings always have a personal message relevant to humans.
“I really hope the students appreciate it. I think especially in winter after we get over that initial burst of the beauty of the snow and it starts to feel monochromatic and dreary outside, this mural will be an enduring burst of color,” Green said.
Asked how he feels about the fact that not all will be able to understand the message of his art, he turned and faced a set of stairs and pointed before he spoke.
“Let’s say I am on the fourth step from the bottom,” he said, “Some people are on the top step and some people are on the bottom step. It makes sense that the people on the bottom step would only be able to understand those who are also on the bottom step. And it makes sense that I would only be able to communicate with those on my step,” he said.
By that, he means that only those who are on the same level as he emotionally, and mentally will be able to understand what he is trying to say through his paintings.
Along with the mural, Narváez also painted several smaller, but still large, paintings of Castleton architecture that will live on campus too. All of these have mandalas, which is a geometric figure representing the universe, and many of them have the same message.
One of his paintings was two versions of The Old Chapel on campus facing each other, with a mandala in the background.
“This represents internal confrontation, and the mandala represents the peace that comes from internal evaluation,” Narváez said. “People look too much outside themselves criticizing other people and wondering, ‘why is this person wearing that?’ and ‘why did this person do that,’ when really we should be asking ourselves, ‘why am I at university?’ and ‘why am I studying this?,’ and ‘what is my purpose here in this world.’”
According to Narváez and the message he tries to convey through his paintings, only when people look inside themselves and have that internal confrontation does peace and harmony come for you, which you will then be able to share with others positively.
“This life is the only one, so we shouldn’t hate,” he said. “We must find what is important and then there will be harmony. We love ourselves and despite politics, religion, we should love all just as brothers.”
Although his art has changed over the years to reflect how he changes and feels and what is going on in his life, now he uses it to communicate his message of positivity to the world, and now to Castleton.
According to art professor Oliver Schemm, Narvaez’ work is being paid for from donations primarily from Fred and Jennifer Bagley, alumni Lauren A. Lovell, Bob Gibson and Ted and Martha Molnar, Myrmidon Consulting LLC, and Sherwin Williams Paint Store.”
“This was all funded by donations,” he said.
Schemm and the art department have worked since May organizing the funds, housing, meal plan and the month-long showcase for Narváez at the Castleton Downtown Gallery in Rutland.
According to Schemm the installment will run until the end of October.
"He has connections with The Carving Studio," (in West Rutland) he said, "and I myself am a sculptor and have worked at The Carving Studio and taught classes there."
From there, the connection between Schemm and Narváez was born despite the language barrier. According to Schemm they've been communicating via Google Translate and Narváez's friend who's bilingual.
"So I was asked if Castleton wanted a mural, painted by Persí." Schemm said, "So I got the go ahead from Jonathan Spiro to raise the funds and I spent months talking to people and started to raise the funds."
Shortly after, Narváez decided to come here to paint while his installment is in the Castleton Gallery.