Artists Juan Ledesma and Cornelius Tulloch explore cultural identity at Anderson Ranch
Miami-based visual artists Juan Ledesma and Cornelius Tulloch got more than they bargained for when they were accepted to do an artists residency at Anderson Ranch this winter.
“I’m going to be completely honest: It didn’t occur to me that I was going to be here during the winter,” Ledesma said with a laugh. “I have friends that have come here in years past. It looked like such a such an incredible space and opportunity. I should have known they came in the winter because I saw those pictures, but for some reason, that didn’t click until after I was given the opportunity to come in. I had to borrow an appropriate coat.”
He and Tulloch spent five weeks at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village as part of Oolite Arts’ Home + Away travel residency program, in which each artist received a stipend, coverage of their accommodations, and travel costs along with studio visits with master artists.
“The great thing about coming to Anderson Ranch is being able to kind of just, like, rethink what I’ve been doing and have this time away to really reflect on the work that I’m creating and to step out of my comfort zone,” said Tulloch.
Tulloch — an U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, was named a 2023 YoungArts Jorge M. Pérez Award winner and, last year, was recognized for being an emerging black artist by Instagram — grew up painting and drawing and studied architecture at Cornell.
He said he never considered his parents artists in the traditional sense but, now as he looks back, realizes they were both creative. His father is Jamaican and often made things that harkened back to traditional crafts. His mother “always had a creative mind for color.” He credits them and the confluence of his Jamaican and African American heritage for most influencing his work.
“I’ve been delving into the idea of a Creole. Creole is, in a sense, a language that comes from two other languages joining together to create a whole new language.” he said. “I’m trying to create a Creole for my artwork, where I’m merging these two different visual, spatial languages and creating this new language that I think for me describes the Caribbean American narrative. I think about these kinds of cultural shifts, in my work, but also in myself.”
Stepping out of his comfort zone at Anderson Ranch has included experimenting with the UV printer in the digital fabrication studio, which he has been using in connection with some of the sculpture work, printing on wood, and different architectural materials.
He’s using imagery from Jamaica and Miami to create his artwork, always searching for what feels quintessentially African American versus quintessentially Caribbean, in ways he can fuse them together and what’s created in the “in between” space.
“I exist in this place that exists between cultural tradition and heritage from the Caribbean but also, like, assimilation to American society,” he said. “So I’m really intrigued by how I can create a visual language, color palette, and an architecture or sculptural language to describe these things.”
Like Tulloch, Ledesma’s point of view and work is heavily influenced by his cultural history and experiences. He was born in Lima, Peru, and lived there until his family immigrated to Florida when he was 15 — a moment he called pivotal because it’s the time when a child begins to transition to adulthood.
“An artist mentor of mine in college pointed it out to me. They’re, like, ‘Oh, you’re a third-culture kid like me.’ And I’m, like, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well, it means you’re in between two cultures, and you have to kind of adapt,’” said Ledesma. “I’ve been thinking a lot about that because there is a perspective that you gain by being outside of both your cultures. It’s influenced what I’m making.”
Ledesma said that even though he’s always had the support of his parents, it took him some time to commit to life as an artist. He grew up playing guitar, painting, and drawing. In college, he explored a double major in art and “something more practical” like mechanical engineering or business as a backup plan.
He soon realized that no matter how hard he worked, he didn’t have the drive to pursue his plan B and decided to explore a career in art exclusively, in the process finding some similarities in bridging both cultures and mediums.
“I was going to be a painter, and then I could never figure out what to paint, so I was, like, well, sculpture feels more natural to me, so I went the sculpture route,” he said. “But I realized all these conceptual courses that were being taught to me and talking about materiality in a specific way were a little bit foreign to me because I came from a music background, as well, where materiality takes on a completely different sense. I kind of intuitively understood that my practice needed to bridge those two passions in a way like visual arts and, like, music, sound-based media.”
His time at Anderson Ranch has been dedicated to continuing his exploration of the synergy between visual and sound-based media, finding ways to use sound as a material and working on a series of drawings that explore the idea of sound and music collaboration but in different mediums. He describes his style as an “improvisational, almost music like approach to drawing.”
But of course, one of the best parts about being an artist in residence at The Ranch are the diverse facilities and studios that are open to all residents to experiment and explore other mediums that they don’t usually work with.
That, and the weeks in nature, with no distractions from their work.
“I’ve gotten the opportunity to experiment and, like, step outside of, like, the pressures of having something conclusive at the end of this, and I actually think that’s a really important thing for the artistic process,” he said. “I get room and board and food and a studio and, like, all the facilities and all the time in the world for the next five weeks. That sounds incredible, and it kind of is.”