It’s almost a requisite—exotic birds very commonly accessorize colonialist art. And it’s troublesome; not only does their domesticity in popular works suggest clipped wings and containment, but the birds are made to preside over situations of exploitation and racism—as simple, helpless, pretty things. Gonzalo Fuenmayor, a Colombian artist based in Miami, embraced and appropriated these fetishistic tendencies as he began to take shape as a fine artist. His black and white charcoal drawings invoke themes of colonialism, performance of identity, and exoticism.
Birds are used in Fuenmayor’s work as a means by which to explore cultural cliches often associated with “the exotic”. Most birds in his pieces are tropical or living in tropical rainforests. In contrast, he also uses swans, typically associated with the establishment and elegance. The imagery is then juxtaposed into contexts that raise issues of belonging and place. These, along with a wide range of other impressive, commentative works, feature in new hardback, Tropical Burn (Delmonico Books/Oolite Arts)—a subversive survey of artworks through a lens of “theatrical tropical symbolism”, created during his residency at Miami’s veritable Oolite Arts.