“Each grain really represents a being or living thing, you know? Metaphorically, then you’ve got billions of living things and they’re all working together to create something beautiful,”

Joe Mangrum, Sand Artist

As part of arte_FITS.Foundation’s artist residency program, Puerto Rican born and based artist, Rodrigo Montenegro, produced Danza del Viento, an artisan sculptural series that aims to explore the revitalization of nature through balance and movement. Throughout the years Montenegro has developed his sculptures with a variety of methods and materials ranging from sand to stone. The mystic element in each piece becomes essential as he sculpts the esoteric messages and figures that ultimately form the artwork. In a more commercial approach, Montenegro has been known for creating stone and sand made furniture and company logos.

The Interview

SmartArt: Where did you first hear about arte_FITS.Foundation?

Rodrigo Montenegro: I was working freelance for an event design company who wanted a sand-made logo and romantic dinner for their client, the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Dorado Beach. Afterwards, the hotel began to hire me directly to create the same setting. I met the Foundation through the Ritz-Carlton, the growth of my profession has always been through connections.

S.A: How did your work in the artist residency program of arte_FITS.Foundation begin?

R.M: I sent a proposal and met with the head curator of arte_FITS were we spoke about the essence of the Foundation, nature and contemporary Earth Art. A couple of weeks later I produced a small three piece exhibition: a seahorse made of sand which I placed in the Foundation’s studio, a wooden-made bow and arrow that stood outside, and a movable installation made with dry tree branches, that I later titled Danza del Viento, positioned in the parking area. As I showed the arte_FITS team each piece they became more and more persuaded by the concept. Once we reached the last piece, a breeze blew out of nowhere and the installation began to move in the most beautiful and circular way; a year later the artist residency began.

S.A: Tell us about the series Danza del Viento and the micro-sculptures you produced during the artist residency.

R.M: The beginning of the series, Danza del Viento, was very interesting. I was walking with my dog through the forest when he grabbed some tree branches and wouldn’t let go, so we took them home. A sudden inspiration led me to balance the branches and then I thought, “it needs a base” so I got a wooden platform and began to work on the concept. Besides the seven installations that make up the series I ended up producing, overall, eighteen pieces. The micro-sculptures appeared during the search of Danza del Viento and became a very pivotal aspect of both the exhibition and the residency.

S.A: What was the process of creating each installation and how does their individual movement and balance relate to their titles?

R.M: First, I created the bases and then cut the trees, it was a process of assembling the materials. The trees and their names appeared as I worked on them because I didn’t know who they were at first; the exclusiveness in the naming of each piece is what gave them their unique strength. After cutting the wood, I selected who went with who because the concept of Danza del Viento is about balancing two branches and its projection in the movement. The part of the ‘dance’ (the movement) was a revelation, each one had a reason. For example: Tequila has a sort of white color, like the Mexican drink, and the balance and movement makes her seem as if she was under the influence. Mano has a beautiful anecdote because even though it hadn’t been finished, Carolina’s friend, Virginia mentioned wanting the piece. I named Twister due to its spiral form; it’s movement, two branches joined with a rope, was found in the mangrove. The last piece that was produced was Lazo who is also made with two joined branches that make the upper part seem like a bow.

Araña was very special because I did my own gallery night before the inauguration and as I walked through the artworks a sudden light came out of nowhere and hit Araña directly, suddenly the piece began to move. There was no wind blowing that night, she has her very own energy. The piece that satisfies me the most is Huella. Although I had the base, I went through trouble finding the wooden structure. One day in forest I found this branch full of termites and brought it back to the studio. Once the insects were exterminated I cut a piece of the trunk and saw a footprint that had the texture of real skin.

S.A: How would you describe the collaborative chemistry with arte_FITS.Foundation throughout the artist residency?

R.M: The Foundation was very much a part of what was produced because they provided a lot of ideas that I was very receptive to. Being in the artist residency program of arte_FITS felt like home, a home that gave me an awakening as an artist, mainly because I had never been motivated to create so much. It was a beautiful and eventful month and a half were I worked day and night. Every morning I would wake up, walk through the Pterocarpus forest, and feel a spark as if the whole space was communicating through its strength and energy. To take the remains of forgotten trees and give them life was a very fulfilling experience, it was nature’s rebirth.