By GIOYA MCRAE
For Montclair Local
Andres Chaparro is a mixed media painter and collagist, whose jazz-inspired abstract art sets the scene for the Montclair Jazz Festival. His artwork portrays a myriad of jazz artists from John Coltrane to Miles Davis to McCoy Tyner and includes an undercurrent of political and social statements reflecting the world’s inequities. His work has been featured in the Montclair Jazz Festival’s posters since 2014. This year’s Montclair Jazz Festival poster features Chaparro’s depiction of Billie Holiday, titled “Lady Day.” Andres Chaparro lives in Hartford, CT with his wife and children. He will be exhibiting his work at the Montclair Jazz Festival on Saturday, Aug. 11 in Nishuane Park, as he does every year. Crooks Press featured Chaparro in Making the Cut Vol.1: The World’s Best Collage Artists, published in 2017. Learn more about Chaparro at chaparroart.com.
How did you become connected to the Montclair Jazz Festival?
This is going on six years that I’ve been working closely with the organizers of the festival. Initially, a mutual friend, musician Yunie Mojica was working at the Montclair Jazz House Kids. The organizers Melissa Walker, Christian McBride and the staff of the show all decided “We need a face to this jazz festival and we want it to be in the form of artwork.” They wanted something a little upbeat, something that really stood out and could identify with the festival. Mojica said, “I know Andres Chaparro the artist, and you should check out his work.” The rest is history.
I understand you were introduced to jazz as your artistic influence at a very early age. How were you introduced to jazz?
It was purely accidental. When I was around 12 or 13, I was just flipping through channels on the radio before going to bed. I came across John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme.” “Love Supreme” basically changed my life forever. Really. That was my initial introduction and then it was just going on this lifetime journey of discovering jazz and various jazz musicians.I didn’t even know what I was listening to initially. All I knew was that I connected with it on a very spiritual level.
How do your politics and social issues influence your work, and how important is that?
It’s directly aligned with my artwork. My social beliefs, political beliefs, and my views on the world’s inequalities and disparities are all represented in my artwork. So, it’s just not these portraits of jazz musicians — it’s portraits of great artists along with some of the plight that they endured and some of the issues that still plague our society.
Your art seems to be very emotional. What do you want your audience to get from your artwork?
I’m very careful that I don’t spoon-feed too much information. I want people to decipher my work based on their own personal experiences.I just want people to feel my work. I want to have a positive influence. I’ve had so many people tell me, “I got into jazz because I saw your work.” For me that’s one of the greatest compliments, that it moved them visually to a point where they had to explore where this came from. I think that’s a beautiful thing. I want that to be my legacy.
What’s the most challenging part of being an artist?
The important thing as an artist is to be honest with your work, whatever it is. The worst thing to do is to say, “I’m going to create this because I think it will sell.” For me that’s not the right approach. The right approach is to create what’s in your heart and then let it find its way. I just create what’s in my heart and I’m honest with it. It’s a very vulnerable place. If you ask me, the biggest challenge is putting myself in that position to be so vulnerable. But I also accept that that’s the nature of this business.