Here is what I wrote to accompany the video–written December 21, 2005:
On an early Sunday morning, December 4, 2005, I woke up to fluffy falling snow. The streets were fairly quiet since they had about two inches of coverage. I got up and got ready to drive over the George Washington Bridge to meet Ric. I wasn’t feeling well the night before. I had a headache that wouldn’t go away and a slight fever so I barely had my usual four hours of sleep. On this morning, the number of sleep hours didn’t matter. I was spending the day with Ric, my friend, my muse. It had been a year since I’d seen him.
I made it over the George Washington almost two hours later than planned, partly due to snow, but mostly due to my lack of getting out of bed early enough to deal with the predicted accidents on Route 80. Over the bridge I quickly made it to Payson Avenue. Outside the color was a beautiful six percent grey. The snow had stopped but it covered the city streets enough to hide the dirt. I waited outside Ric’s apartment in the car. I kept it running to keep the heat going. Across from Ric’s apartment building was the entrance to a large forest filled park. A grandfather walked by, pulling his granddaughter on a blue plastic sled. I laughed out loud as I watched her grab the snow she passed, balled it up and whacked the back of her grandfather’s head with every third step he took. It wasn’t malicious. It looked like pure innocent fun which must be why the old man didn’t seem to mind. Either that or he, too, was taking in the sight of the light shade of gray surrounding him.
Soon after, I saw a figure approach my side of the car. The car window cracked from the ice as I rolled it down. Ric stood beside the car with his purposeful bedridden, disheveled look. I cracked a smile and said, “Wow, you have a lot of hair!”And so began our journey up north to Kilingsworth Connecticut. We were going to meet his younger brother, Felipe, another talented artist in the famous Molina family. The purpose of the visit was to film a documentary on Felipe. I had been wanting to document Ric and his family since almost the inception of our acquaintance. My immediate need was for a class assignment. I am often a nonconformist, and one way of displaying that for this class was to film six hours of outtake, digitize two hours of the footage, and edit for about twenty. I think it was more pain than just reading a few books and writing a paper. But my experience will be much longer lived than a paper I’d eventually toss into the corner of my studio.
I made Ric drive. I planned ahead to do his interview in the car. Ric is an accomplished musical artist, writer, songwriter, singer, producer. He also has talents in speaking. He can talk, and talk, and talk for hours about himself and his family. The great part is that every word is captivating. I knew he would have beautiful insight into the surrounding atmosphere of Felipe’s younger life, and I knew I’d want to capture it.He talked about Felipe’s childhood, describing how he was able to appreciate things outside of the realm of normal childhood understanding, like studying yoga, advanced reading, and learning bee-bop on the violin. Felipe’s initial artistic interests lived in the musical arts. He had drawn some illustrations as a child, but never pursued his natural talent. He wanted to play music. Along with the violin he studied the saxophone and bass guitar. He played music into his early twenties, developing practice and work ethics that would reflect in his future as a painter.
Ric spent his early adult life living with Felipe in New York City. He summarized this time as a period where Felipe stopped developing his visual skills altogether. He was pursuing music alone, perhaps attempting to follow his brother’s success as a musician. Ric was unsure of Felipe’s future potential with music and remembers a significant time when that all seemed to change. It was May 17, Felipe’s birthday, when their father came to visit from Florida. Felipe was in his early twenties.Felipe and Ric were raised under the affect of their artistic father, Alvaro Namen. Much predilection can be attributed to the father’s career as a successful illustrator and painter. It was not that Ric and Felipe were pushed into studying and practicing the arts, but all around them on every wall was a result of their father’s lifetime of practicing a craft. He practiced until he reached perfection. And then he’d sometimes destroy the result. His lesson was to pursue the need of that little voice inside – the one that makes an artist’s need to create. He created art because he had to, not to sell it, not to show it in a gallery, but because he was driven to express himself. It was that drive that his sons picked up on. Ric had it, and found his direction. Felipe had it, but was heading down a path of expression that would not be a successful outlet.
Ric remembers May 17 as the day of the “secret watercolor meeting.” Alvaro showed up to celebrate Felipe’s birthday, but more importantly, to discuss his direction as an artist. Ric was not present for their discussion, but afterward, Felipe had a gift from his father – a new set of watercolor brushes and an inspiration to begin painting – again.
We pulled into Felipe’s driveway – a modest house, very New England. The slippery snow discouraged me from looking around too much as we were greeted by a large golden retriever. Inside his house, four bouncy children appeared. They were all tiny, like Felipe’s build. As he greeted us he instantly looked familiar. I felt I had known him for years since I had known him vicariously through Ric. He was handsome, thin and wearing a big smile as his presence took over the room. I was afraid I wouldn’t metaphorically fit into his work space. He definitely needed a small space to contain his emanation.He offered a cup of coffee, made a pot, and the camera began to roll. His winter work space is within the house, due to lack of heat in the outside barn. The barn looked intriguing but he was not anxious to show it due to the weather. He studio was familiar – exactly how I would keep it. Paint brushes were crammed into cups on his color board, paint strokes and dabs were all over the walls and wood floor. Canvases were hidden behind each other. A bare light bulb glowed in the corner.
Felipe played and act of false modesty. He was shy to start speaking. He kept commenting on how crazy it was to be speaking with him when there’s so other many artists out in the working art world. He knows he has talent and he knows he can speak to his process and inspirations. I knew he needed about thirty minutes to warm up and admit it in beautiful words. And he did.He spoke of his inspirations, touching lightly upon his father’s influence at an early age up to his current working relationship with other artists such as the bass player Jaco Pastorious. He mentioned famous names such as Francis Bacon, Michelangelo, Jimmy Hendrix, and even Martin Luther King, whose every speech he has recorded on audio tape. He talked about his favorite forms of inspiration which are simply looking at art, noting what he sees and why he sees what he sees.
He tried to explain his process, which seems like something too strong to put into words. Felipe has the same drive his father possesses – the need to create – the need to make something. He draws constantly, referring to things he sees in front of him, and sometimes a literal translation of his dreams. His dreams are a big influence and he often paints what he saw in his thoughts while sleeping. In his gallery shows he often leaves out his sketchbooks for visitors to see his process.He’s taken on a new direction with his work of the past year. He’s gone from an illustrative, petite detailed, colorful style to bolder shapes, larger proportions and abstract approach. It’s a very new look from what I’ve seen in Ric’s possession the last few years. Felipe feels it’s the artist’s necessity, and almost responsibility to change. He describes creativity as constantly evolving, with artists having the ongoing problem of creating something and “screwing with it.” He finds his influence to change mostly in people – his family, his church, his colleagues and even his pets. He calls his family experience a “bigger bag to dip into” for life experience. It was beautiful to watch him describe his sons’ evolvement in their own drawing skills. His best way to be the best artist he can be is as he says, “to experience life.”
I stayed with Felipe for almost five hours that day. I could have filmed more, but felt the family tugging at him from behind the studio door. It was a Sunday and I was afraid to interrupt to much of his family day. I left with the feeling that I knew I had something great on tape. I intend to document him again, maybe visiting in the Spring when he’s working out in his barn. I felt our conversation was so strong that I knew before I’d film him again, I would have to edit this quickly and then set it aside to digest.