“Creating art is the mission I was born to do, creating art was in my past, it’s in my present and I sense will be in the future of the journey of my soul.”
Miguel Tio was born in the Dominican Republic in 1959, he grew up in the Capital of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. He doesn't like remembering his childhood since it consists of a lot of internal struggles and unhappy memories. He was not the best student in school by the standards measurement in those days. He was always questioning authorities and made his own strong opinion despite the rules. He was never an easy passive student who would obey his parents or school rules. He hated school and never liked to be told what to do. However, art was his comfort in those years. He discovered at nine years old that he could draw better than the classroom teacher and since then, art became one of the two things he loved the most; the other was to be left alone in the house to play with his few toys. No wonder many years later he would become an art teacher working for a Studio in a School organization in the New York school system.
After High School Miguel went to college. He liked it a lot since it was his choice whether to take classes or not. Miguel was once free to make his own choices. He turned into a much happier person. At 19 he moved by himself and started making a living with his paintings and at the same time he was studying graphic design in the university.
Miguel considers himself very lucky to have many good memories of his artistic career. He remembers very vividly his first important solo show in Santo Domingo. His work was not matured enough for a show; hence, he received much rejection until he was able to have a show in Gallery Paiewonsky, in Santo Domingo. The opening day was crowded with people willing to see his work. Since the place was small people had to take turns to get inside the gallery. Miguel feels that it helped it was very well promoted and that all the paintings were nudes. He considers the best of his memories were during the solo show that he did at Icosahedron Gallery in New York in 2006. It was a huge gallery and he was able to exhibit most of the works done in the last five years. Again, he was impressed by so many people that came to the opening night. Miguel witnessed a person crying in front of his 9/11 painting titled “8:30 AM” and he asked her why this painting moved her to tears. She said that she used to work in one of the towers and she was one of the people who made it out before the collapsing of the building. “8:30 AM” helped her to have peace and it was the first time she was able to look at a 9/11 related image. For Miguel, the best accomplishment for an artist is to touch somebody in any way such as healing, connecting memories, by awaking emotions, etc. Another experience he recalls that touched him deeply was a young couple whom he had never met. They rented the gallery to have their wedding during his exhibition; they were familiar with his work through the internet. Miguel felt very honored, although he deeply regrets not having the clarity of mind in those days to give them one of his works or at least a print as a wedding gift. Joining the Society for Art of Imagination opened the door to so many group shows around the world as well as so many great friends.
Miguel Tio’s art exposes us to those human qualities and characteristics that sometimes we choose to ignore…or are indeed fearful and/or insecure to face. For we all have that aspect in us that we don’t dare admit. It is that constant battle between good and bad, light and dark, material and spiritual. Through dream-like imagery his message is potent. Miguel offers us firsthand what it would feel like to integrate our whole selves, without regret, without remorse, without doubt -for we all carry such a light.
Q. What role does the artist have in society?
A. To create art that will stir the soul of the observer or at least to leave a seed that will germinate in the future.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. As a child and also throughout my life I have been very close to my sister, I think the best memories I have is singing Christmas songs with her during the holidays.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. A painter. However, as a child, it was a fantasy.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. The oldest one that I can remember is a Basket with fruits on it, it was done with tempera colors, I might have been 8 years old and I remember this drawing only because I founded twice as garbage. The first time must have been my mother who must have thrown it away. However, it seems like somebody took it out of the street and kept it for certain time. Then it was discarded and this time ended up in the Malecon, a well-known avenue in front of the sea in Santo Domingo. I was fascinated by finding my drawing and the idea of somebody wanting to keep it.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I started to get noticed in art school when I won the 3rd prize in drawing during the end of year exhibition; my mother noticing my enthusiasm said to me: Miguel I know you like art and it’s something you can do whenever you like but I want you to understand that art is just a hobby, I want you to be successful with a real career; and she stated very strongly: “You are not going to be a painter.” And at that moment I realized it was precisely what I was going to be and I never had any doubts.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. I have always been interested in the old masters, I tried exploring different styles but I would always come back to the human figures and the importance of Draftsmanship and developing technical skills. It was a blessing when I moved to New York and I started to find Artists like Ernst Fuchs, Brigid Marlin, Alex Grey and many others. I realized then that I was a visionary artist.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. I aim to express in my art what cannot be seen.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Giving a straight honest opinion…I am still learning to sugar coated first before going to the point.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. Perhaps I missed some parties and some friends’ birthdays, but that is okay.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. I would say that I have some influence from Brigid Marlin, I learned the Mische technique (egg tempera and oil glazes) from her in 2006 and from there all my works have been done on the technique. But I am inspired by many artists, anything that touches me, inspires me.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Not for me, sometimes I feel my studio crowded with presences and these energies depend on the painting that I am working on. For example, when I was working on a portrait of a singer friend of mine who bases her music and work on investigating indigenous cultures especially the Tainos in the Caribbean. I started to feel many presences in my studio, I could even smell them. Then the smell of burning sage started to inundate the studio, I know burning sage is good but I didn`t like it and it was getting so strong that I had to stop working. So, as I stopped, I said to the invisible presences: If you want this painting to come to life Please don`t burn sage here, I appreciate the inspiration but this is too crowded for me. And I left the studio and came back the next day and everything was calm, with no presence or smells. I have to say that I love working during the Summer in my studio in Pennsylvania; I am alone - Well, not exactly, I have three cats- in a house in the middle of the woods and I only see people during the weekends.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I love gardening, when we bought the house in Pennsylvania, I was fascinated by the energy coming from nature, I became a gardener. I spend during Summer a lot of time outside gardening.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. The goal of art is to nurture the soul, is a journey into the heart of the observer.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. I consider success to reach a certain level of technical skills in order to be able to express meaning and beauty through art, but the highest point of success to me is to be happy, lo love whatever you do and to irradiate that energy.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. That we are all connected and the changes that you wish to be manifest in this world-first have to start in oneself.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. Brigid Marlin used to say to me when I was learning the Mische technique from her: If you want to get really good at something the key is to have patience and to work, work and work.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. To be honest and true to yourself and to choose for a career something that you love to do.