Farley Aguilar, Miami's New International Art Star
Farley Aguilar answers the door of a modest Edgewater duplex while clutching a frosty gin and tonic and sporting a teardrop-creased fedora that would have made Indiana Jones beam. Clad in a Night of the Vampires T-shirt, plaid socks, and sandals, he heads to the inner sanctum of his rumpled bedroom, where his art career began.
Courtesy of Anthony Spinello/Spinello Projects Portrait of Farley Aguilar in his studio.
Inside, graffiti fills the walls, rising toward the ceiling like gunmetal veins of cigarette smoke.
Surrounded by hearts, one of the phrases reads, "Farley loves Kizzy." Another declares, "Farley is blind." Scrawled with a pencil years ago, the words are an odd diary of his budding relationship with Kizzy Gonzalez, the woman Aguilar calls the love of his life and his muse.
"There are also portraits of Kizzy and myself, just very spontaneous, drunk stuff. For some reason I never have wanted to paint over it," he says.
The self-taught artist points to one of his early paintings hanging on a wall near the foot of his unmade bed. The image depicts Aguilar and his longtime girlfriend decked out in circus garb and holding hands while standing near a dinosaur and a unicorn.
Courtesy of Spinello Projects Farley Aguilar from The Veil Reprised Series
"I must have painted this around 2005. When I look at it now, it's a very odd image, so ridiculous, but I like it very much."
Back when he created it, Aguilar never dreamed that his budding creativity would hit full stride only a few short years later or that he would soon be selling out an entire collection of his works at a major art fair.
But that's what happened this past March at Volta NY during the prestigious Armory Fair when his dealer, Anthony Spinello, sold 25 of his paintings and drawings in the $1,000-to-$10,000 range to major U.S. and European collectors within an hour of the fair opening its doors. The weeks to follow would bring love from the New York Times and a sold-out show in Basel, Switzerland.
It's heady territory for a blue-collar kid from South Miami. The 35-year-old Aguilar was born in Nicaragua and moved with his family to South Florida to escape the political turmoil back home.
His father, Bayardo, was an accountant, and his mother, Delia, a homemaker. The family struggled to make ends meet when they moved here in 1981.
"My mother worked as a hotel maid, and my father did bookkeeping," Aguilar says. "My brother, Bayardo Jr., is ten years older than me, so it was like having a third parent. He also had to find work to help support our family, so I was always left home alone."
Growing up in a working-class household left little time for art appreciation, though both of his grandparents on his father's side were talented artists. "My grandfather was a sculptor, and Grandma was a painter who painted pictures of the Virgin on banners for religious processions in Nicaragua," Aguilar says. "But all the things they created were lost during the earthquake that destroyed Managua back in 1972."
As a youngster, while his family was busy working long hours, Aguilar exercised his imagination by inventing games.
"I vividly remember entertaining myself for hours on end by creating my own baseball games when I was 9 or 10," he says. "I would enact the whole constitution of a game -- all nine innings -- playing pitcher, batter, and every player and kept running statistics since I was good with numbers."