African Art by
Biography of Michel Delgado
Biography of Artist Michel Delgado
Self-taught artist Michel Delgado grew up in Senegal on the west coast of Africa near a community of artists. Art came to Michel Delgado emotionally rather than academically. The weavers, woodworkers, crafters and painters provided a constant attraction for Michel.
Marginally interested in school, Michel would run away from classes to work with the village artisans. Drawn by their work, the many colors he saw there, and especially the feeling of creativity and acceptance that he felt among them, Michel would spend hours with them everyday working on burlap, the most inexpensive material he could find. Even in his early work, which reflected a primitive aspect of African art, Michel sought one medium that would capture all that he saw--the work of other artists, the color, and the feeling.
In his second year of high school, Michel dropped out of the traditional education program to pursue art. At the same time, the government had given an old navy building to the nearby village artists to support the development of a cultural center in the town. Michel spent his days there, and in the evenings, he attended night school to complete his high school degree. One of seven children, Michel was the only one in his family to pursue a creative outlet for his expression. As his life diverged from his family's expectations, Michel was under pressure to prove his worth as an artist. He found support from Laye, a friend working in the town's theatre. Laye acted as a guide to Michel, inspiring and motivating him to express in images how he felt in the presence of creativity. Michel worked hard to bring his work alive, to develop self-expression, and to support himself as a student and a developing artist. Still it was frightening to be faced with his own survival without the emotional support of his family. The burden he felt to defend his worth to them would be a driving and destructive force for years to come.
An opportunity to earn his family's respect and confirm his choice to be an artist presented itself when Michel's uncle asked him to create the logo for an African festival to be held in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. Michel worked hard on his idea, finished the logo, and sent it to his uncle, never to receive any response. The silence confirmed the absence of support and understanding that Michel felt from his family. At the same time, a friend living in Europe encouraged Michel to move with him to Paris, so that he could live and learn in a larger artistic community. Feeling the lack of family understanding, Michel seized the opportunity to find more of the same support he had found in the small artists' community. In Paris Michel met artists and writers, visited exhibits, and immersed himself in a culture that in a period of seven to eight years expanded his outlets, helped him develop his style and confidence, and created opportunities for him. The role of an artist was confirmed and validated in the lives of many around him who succeed with full-time careers in art, and Michel too was able to support himself as a commercial artist. Although Michel enjoyed professional success, unresolved issues with his family haunted Michel. At the same time that he was working hard on his art, drugs and life on the street were reminders of the insecurity that came from the lack of his family's acceptance.
A decision to spend time with his mother brought Michel to Cape Cod when he was 27, but he found life in New England disorienting and frustrating. Michel had to learn a new language, a new way of life and had re-establish himself professionally. To do so, he had to start from the bottom again, working in a factory to support himself. While turmoil was a constant in Michel's life, art kept him grounded, providing a place that he felt safe and accepted, despite external conditions. The landscape and climate in New England did not suit Michel, so he moved to Florida drawn to the heat, the color, and the people. Key West fit a childhood vision that Michel had of himself living as artist on an island.
Finally Michel is at a place in his life where he has opened up a new world. Michel believes essentially in the potential for human growth. Woven in the fabric of the natural world, his work is compassionate and reveals that he understands the pain and solitude of immobility and silence, but he also knows joy, learning and love. Having chosen to be an artist, taking pride in his life's work, focusing on his career, color and creativity, Michel has established himself in the art world. He works full-time, year-round as an artist, contributing to the art community in group shows, team shows, and solo shows. He works in fine art and commercial art in a variety of materials and media. His work has appeared on record covers, in American Lifestyle and Paradise magazines, in an exhibit at the Hambridge Center in Georgia, and is held in private collections in Cape Cod, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maine, Africa and Europe.