On Thursday, guest artist Jofree Contreras, known as Fabrico, gave his first ever “artist talk” at a virtual event held by Adelante. He discussed topics ranging from immigration policy to Instagram activism, providing attendees with insight into how he navigates life as an artist and as an undocumented immigrant.
Contreras is known for his graphic design, which often addresses Latinx identities and immigrant rights. “He contrasts the seriousness of these topics with his unique style, which utilizes a vibrant color palette and often pays homage to various cartoons, such as Fairly Odd Parents and Peanuts,” Adelante’s co-president, Alexandra Gulden ’21, wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Describing himself as an “open book,” Contreras shared the many personal difficulties throughout his life that led him to becoming an artist. One major challenge was his parents’ decision to leave him in Ecuador while they established a life in the United States. “My grandparents have told me … [my parents] didn’t want to see me cry or anything so they just left without saying goodbye,” Contreras said.
Contreras’ experience as an immigrant helped him to understand the power of art from an early age. When he finally joined his parents in New York and began school, he struggled to make friends because of his inability to communicate with classmates. Contreras recalled watching cartoons in hopes of improving his English. Inspired by the style of the cartoons, he began sketching the characters he saw on screen and handing them out at school in order to build connections and make friends. “To me, as a kid, I figured out that a visual thing, an art piece, could be understood by multiple cultures,” Contreras said.
Today, Contreras mainly produces digital art, which he posts on his Instagram account. Last year, Contreras posted a digital illustration of the statement “undocumented immigrants pay taxes,” written in colorful bubble letters. The post received thousands of likes, encouraging Contreras to continue creating similar illustrations that confront prejudice and misinformation surrounding immigrants.
Another piece he shared during the event was the statement “DOCUMENTS DON’T DEFINE YOU,” written across a billboard. As Contreras noted, the piece was designed to uplift other immigrants. “[Documents] are just pieces of paper,” he said. “You can be whoever you want to be … Don’t let [a document] make you think you’re less than a human being, because you’re not.”
Currently, Contreras is focused on creating art that examines immigration policies under the Biden administration. He is also working on pieces expressing gratitude for migrant workers and their contribution to the workforce during the pandemic.
Contreras draws artistic inspiration from a variety of sources, such as cooking shows, Looney Tunes and the news. However, the main motivator behind his work is the dedication and perseverance of his parents. “Immigrants are artists because they make something out of nothing,” Contreras stated. “In a way, I’m pursuing what [my parents] already are: an artist.”
Contreras’ art can be found on his Instagram, @fab_ricoo. To further promote Latinx culture at Kenyon, Adelante is looking to host more speakers and is currently organizing cultural tastings and fundraisers. Adelante’s meetings are held every other week on Fridays at 5:15 p.m. and are open to the entire campus.