Public Artist, Muralist, Mosaic Artist
ABOUT: “I’m a global artist, I’m an American artist,” proclaims South Bronx native Manny Vega. Vega’s public murals and mosaics have become iconic in El Barrio. Instantly recognizable by their striking tropical colors and meticulous composition, Vega's pieces are not only beautiful, but also embody the diversity that El Barrio contains. Vega’s latest work, which is “based on [his] own ties with culture and history,” features an ensemble of unlikely combinations-- observers will note a magenta Amy Winehouse riding on the back of La Muerte en Bicicleta (death on a bicycle), encircled by hundreds of spiritual white doves, which were affixed to the mural by community members at Vega's behest. It’s no wonder that all kinds of “people immediately relate to [his art]”. His work not only “create[s] an invitation for people to have art in their lives"; through his work, people's lives, as colorful concoctions of blended experiences, become art.
COMMUNITY VISIONS: Vega hopes to see more El Barrio artists receive the guidance and the funding that they need. As a self-proclaimed “product of [the arts programming at] El Museo,” which pays for the majority of his works out of pocket, he wants to “stimulate a culture of people that, no matter how hard times are, will put a little money on the table for the arts,” especially for the training of young talent. Manny would also like to see East Harlem’s artists take a more prominent position in the neighborhood’s public life. While standing on the street corner at 105th and Lexington, Manny is greeted at least four times within thirty minutes with everything from a boisterous “wassup Manny!” to a giant kiss on the cheek. His status as a local legend seems linked to his constant physical presence on the street as well as his willingness to act for the community in spite of financial obstacles; he hopes that others will look at his example and think, “Wait, there’s something that I can do.”