Installation artist Diego Mireles Duran discusses artistic process while working on a new mural in Mexico and the difference between now and former work.
When I get hold of him in May, Diego Mireles Duran is in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico working on a mural as part of a ongoing project in the town. He's been on the move lately as part of his artistic process.
In January and February, Diego was at House of Eternal Return working on a mural (featured in the photos below). He'd created some flowing veins of fire over a vibrant animal-like pattern of abstracted shapes. But now, he was on to other things. Through a sponsorship by Josephine's Mx, a local cafe in San Miguel, Diego was creating new work for the Muros en Blanco (white walls) project.
"It’s kinda a lifestyle I’ve cultivated: traveling," he says. "I was in a position where I was working as a visiting artist, day-to-day in studio life creating work—it became almost more honing craft versus articulating questions and looking for some kind of sense of myself. A year ago, I left my home and everything else and rolled the dice and by way of travel, I figured out if there were parts of myself that needed deeper questions answered. Not questions related to the art I was creating—what style do I want to achieve—but who am I?”
Duran traveled to a Buddhist monastery, he says, "to ask those questions and have teachers and guidance. Of course, that’s a question that doesn’t always have an answer. Still, I feel more connected to the origins of what I want to cross. This brought me back to Mexico, where I was born, and I gathered a lot of inspiration from it: cultural, colors, smells. It’s given me a new optical language to borrow from.”
For this current project, environment is informing Duran's process. "San Miguel de Allende is a very specific place architecturally and culturally—like Santa Fe," he says. "Materials for buildings and locations, they’re all very considered. I like how the colors occur by chance, which is kinda how I work. Each house picks their own colors, and they go together by chance. Great!"
As he worked on the mural, Duran considered how the project could "...complement the buildings around me. I didn’t know. And towards the end, because I used a masking technique—masking tape—exacting where I was peeling off all this stucco, it created this interesting effect where there was a perfect marriage between what was on the wall and its rawness plus the gradients of the colors that I had applied. It magically presented itself to me—this textured, multicolored snake began to emerge and it went perfectly with the neighborhood. It was what I wanted to achieve by accident, but at the same time I was very aware of place, geography, the town.”
Diego's mural finished up as a green, pink, yellow and orange pastel-colored snake emerging from a horizontal line pattern of black and white stripes.
He goes on to talk about how his travels have begun to expand how he thinks about art and the process he’s involved in, "It’s become about letting go of the idea of yourself. Being able to give yourself to every moment. This means constant change and not being afraid of that. It’s OK to move out and to explore different realms; don’t worry how you’ll be perceived. You’ll be perceived as many things, but able to try many things also.” The answer seems almost cyclical.
I ask him how his former working practices in studio art feels to him now. "It was creating a stagnation in my work process. I got fixated on traditional standards. Creating a brand for myself. Some way to make a creative hook. A way to reference Diego. This became something like a box. I wanted to depict something, but it wasn’t just a standard of craft or a style.”
But, I wonder, how does his old style contrast with the new, "In a lot of ways it’s very conflicting. It’s going against the whole stream of the creative pulse, which is consumer based, but, for now, I’m starting from scratch. It’s hard to pursue, the things we want to do. The things I want to plan for are still going to be me. They will resemble my past works. But I feel like I’m starting over again.”
Finally, Diego and I talk about Meow Wolf, he reflects on it after discussing the step away from consumer art and the studio in connection to his idea of ‘starting over again,’
"That’s what’s cool about Meow Wolf. It isn’t fixed. There’s so many different shapes and dimensions. I feel like it has a maximalism which is fun and relevant. it keeps our minds noble. It keeps them going. It’s really cool in that it’s this giant umbrella that can shape-shift into so many things.”
Currently Diego is getting ready for another fellowship and, not surprisingly, at another monastery.