“Don’t take anything/one for granted. Slow down to breathe, be present but don’t waste time — especially not on the bullshit.”
Harley Cortez is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, and filmmaker. Born in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Los Angeles and NYC. His family is from Guatemala. His childhood was very unique. They were latchkey kids with no real parents around most of the time. His brother and Harley are close but very different. Harley was the creative one, always writing stories, drawing, etc. They didn’t know their father. Yet met him at a lecture of his at the Los Angeles Central Library - he as an established writer of Mayan culture, Martin Prechtel. They visited Guatemala a lot. Harley had a stepfather for a time who was Brazilian— his little brothers are half Brazilian. They moved to NYC after his mom’s divorce and he went to high school in Queens.
NYC was Harley's education. In the late 90’s it still had semblances of what it was like in the 70’s. He won a lot of poetry awards and would read at colleges. He met Jim Carrol at one of these readings. He was the featured poet. Harley was a bit of a loner so he was academic and worked two jobs— but every weekend he would visit the MET or MoMA or the Lincoln center. They were poor so Harley tried to fulfill his own cultural voids that he was denied. Fortunately, he had NYC as his playground. He eventually joined bands and that led him to become a career musician. Always painting in his spare time. A few years ago, Harley began to take art and painting as serious as music, until eventually, it became what he wanted to do with most of his time and life.
Harley’s artwork shows us tiny moments that encompass a huge world. Your world. It is finding the right words to describe a silent scream. His art describes life in a poem-like manner. Where too much is never enough and nothingness only fills the spaces to its complete capacity. Harley’s art depicts those scattered thoughts and illusions that gracefully meet at the intersection of consciousness. When it all comes together and stares at you -and all you can do is acknowledge that little spark that has been ignited within.
The basis of this interview is his focus on art and painting, but it would be a shame not to give the same importance to his music. Harley, through his music, his style, his voice, his lyrics, he transports us to other dimensions where we question our own nature, our own existence, our own reality. His soothing voice simply brings you face to face with a past, a present, and that constant future before you. And just like that, what lies beneath comes to the surface…and you realize that cosmic interconnectedness we are all a part of.