Colombian-born artist Andrés Hoyos makes no bones about it: His work sends an environmental message. Relying almost exclusively on recycled materials, Hoyos creates pieces that he says are meant to bring viewers “into a real conversation about how important it is to have some respect for the planet.”
“Definition of Color,” an exhibition of Hoyos’s works, is on display at the residence of the ambassador of Colombia, with selections from the artist’s “Flying Chairs” series, which includes images of chairs and actual chairs covered with Hoyos’s signature working material: recycled postage stamps. The exhibit also features pieces such as “Into the Forest,” a wooded landscape created with stamps.
Explaining his philatelist tendencies, Hoyos says used stamps have a certain mystique because each one has a history. Moreover, he says, “I love to see how a tiny stamp, put together with another, and then another, changes from being an individual design into a color, a texture, a new pattern.”
Hoyos, who was born and raised in Palmira, Colombia, studied art in the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona, where the abundance of sea glass on the beaches proved an inspiration. He moved to the United States in 1999, settling in the New York borough of Brooklyn, where he’s also a real estate broker.
Creating art with used stamps might seem a tall order in this day and age, when so many communications travel digitally. Hoyos says he was lucky, early on, to have a friend whose mother worked at a senior center and took to collecting — and passing on to Hoyos — the stamps on letters received by the center’s elderly clients, who were perhaps more snail-mail-friendly. Since then, a number of Hoyos’s other friends have funneled their used postage his way.
Hoyos says he has occasionally purchased 2-cent stamps that were essential for a particular color scheme but in short supply in his hand-me-down postage stocks. But mostly, he sticks with the salvaged-materials approach. Environmental responsibility, he says, “is really important for me.”
A street commits suicide. A heart paints the sky with a toothbrush. A man goes fishing with the aid of a pelican. Such dreamlike images float up from the dialogue of “Our Lady of the Clouds,” a play by Ecuador-based dramatist Arístides Vargas that is enjoying a run at the Capital Fringe Festival. The episodic work imagines conversations between Bruna and Oscar, two exiles from a politically troubled nation named Our Lady of the Clouds. The talk between the duo sometimes evokes a surreal or absurdist reality; sometimes it morphs into reenacted historical episodes that may be fictional.
The play’s enigmatic riffs on exile made sense to Stevie Zimmerman, a British-born director who lives in the Washington area. “I’ve lived in the States 22 years, but I still feel like I’m not quite at home,” she says.
Zimmerman stumbled across the script while hunting for a play she could direct in conjunction with the 2014 Wintergreen Performing Arts festival, which had a South American theme. She considered staging Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” but concluded that it would be too heavy for a summertime arts celebration in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
An online search eventually turned up “Our Lady of the Clouds” (“Nuestra Señora de las Nubes”), which appears to draw obliquely on Vargas’s own experience as a native Argentine who runs an influential theater company, Grupo de Teatro Malayerba, in Quito, Ecuador. Puerto Rico-based translator Andrew Hurley had rendered the script into English.
Zimmerman says she was struck by the play’s mysteriousness and resonance. “There’s a lot of it that’s not logical,” she says. At the same time, “there are themes that recur in such a subtle but consistent way.” The silencing of speech is one such theme; betrayal is another.
After wrapping up the 2014 Wintergreen production, Zimmerman says, she and her two D.C-based actors — Edward C. Nagel and Liz Dutton — felt there was more to explore in the text. A second production seemed in order, and Capital Fringe beckoned.
With its offbeat style and simple setup, “Our Lady of the Clouds” is “the perfect vehicle for the Fringe,” Zimmerman says.
Wren is a freelance writer.
Definition of Color At the residence of the ambassador of Colombia, 1520 20th St. NW. Open to the public Aug. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Aug. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Viewable by appointment by e-mailing email@example.com. Visit www.colombiaemb.org.
Our Lady of the Clouds July 17, 19 and 25 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (Lab II), 1333 H St. NE. Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.capitalfringe.org.