April 16, 2013
Student Experience Spotlight: Diego Suarez
: Self Portrait by Diego Suarez.
Cornish student Diego Suarez (Art ’16) shares how influences from Spanish, Mexican, and Indian cultures have transformed his journey as an artist and a student.
“My first language was Spanish, until the age of four, when I went to pre-school and started to learn English. My family comes from Mexican and Spanish decent, so I grew up [with] and I still go back home to a family that speaks Spanish, and that’s how we communicate. I don’t really associate myself with a particular identity. I mean, obviously my background roots me, but growing up in two different cultures and with language barriers has made me question my cultural identity. I’ve always had to teach myself things at school [when] I was struggling since my mother couldn’t help me with homework or anything because of language barriers. I went to a small private “hippie” middle school that enriched me with knowledge of the world and it was a unique experience, definitely different from a traditional public school.
I grew up watching the Spanish news channels as opposed to watching American TV, so I was aware of rapes and wars going on when I was six. In retrospect, I was exposed to so much violence going on at a ridiculously young age and it’s crazy, but MANY people are living in those events we see on television. It made me upset that we don’t appreciate much except our cell phones or our Facebook notifications.
I’ve also been associated with Hindu and Buddhist culture since some friends’ families are very spiritual. There’s a Hindu spiritual leader and guru, Mata Amritanandamayi (or simply known as Amma) who travels around the world doing humanitarian activities and she is known as “the hugging saint”. She dedicates her life to alleviating pain, physically and emotionally, through an embrace. She’s embraced over 32 million people. I started going to see her when a friend’s family invited me, and it completely transformed me. I felt (and still sometimes feel) alien when I’m there, since the majority are people who come from India and are completely Hindu…and then there’s me. I associate with the spiritual aspect of that, and I’ve just been exposed to Hindu culture though week-long retreats.
In short, I don’t have a cultural identity since I’m a medley of multiple cultural sources and environments. I don’t know and I think it’s ok not to know and to simply be, since we’re all people in the end and where we come from doesn’t necessarily have to define us.
I struggle between making work about important issues and making something simply beautiful. Also I’m interested in all the arts, though I’m only a visual artist. I draw inspiration from all the artistic disciplines Cornish offers, and it’s important to be exposed to all of the arts and to meet people from those areas. It expands your mind and creativity!
I’m just a freshman, so I have plenty of time to experience much more of the Cornish spectrum. I see myself using art as a tool to teach and open people’s eyes as well as to support myself. So there’s two sides: being a professional artist here and supporting myself in galleries and whatnot, and then there’s using art around in other countries to aid in some way for selfless reasons.
Cornish is very in the now. It’s very contemporary, and I find it important to be around art happening here and now so I can maneuver around it and try to make some sort of impact [with my work], I hope.
Being exposed to a variety of cultures and drawing from every one of them has made me see things from a global perspective. As an artist, the cultural aspect of me has made me conscious of things happening now around the world that we tend to be oblivious about, and I have found it important to address these things in some of my work.”
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