×

Art Maker: Mark Guglielmo, photographer and painter

  • A closeup view of artist Mark Guglielmo’s large-scale photo-mosaic titled “El Malecón” shows some of the many original photographs he used to create the piece. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton talks about “Che,” one of his photo mosaics featuring some 2,000 pieces of original photographs he made in Cuba. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton rolls up “El Coche Verde,” one of his large-scale photo-mosaics created with some 1,000 pieces of original photographs taken in Cuba. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A close-up view of artist Mark Guglielmo’s large-scale photo-mosaic titled “El Malecón” shows some of the many original photographs he used to create the piece. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton looks at “El Malecón,” a large-scale photo mosaic he created with over 1,200 pieces of original photographs from Cuba. The piece depicts the esplanade, roadway and seawall of the same name as the piece in Havana. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Some 2,000 pieces of original photographs made in Cuba by artist Mark Guglielmo make up a larger photo-mosaic titled “Che,” a depiction of Che Guevara, a seminal figure from the Cuban Revolution.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Some 2,000 pieces of original photographs made in Cuba by artist Mark Guglielmo make up a larger photo-mosaic titled “Che,” a depiction of Che Guevara, a seminal figure from the Cuban Revolution.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton uses hundreds to thousands of small original photographs to form his large-scale photo-mosaics. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton talks about “Che,” one of his photo-mosaics featuring some 2,000 pieces of original photographs he made in Cuba. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton is seen alongside “El Malecón,” a large-scale photo-mosaic he created with over 1,200 pieces of original photographs taken in Havana, Cuba.  GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Artist Mark Guglielmo of Northampton is seen alongside “El Malecón,” a large-scale photo-mosaic he created with over 1,200 pieces of original photographs. The piece depicts the esplanade, roadway and seawall of the same name as the piece in Havana, Cuba. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY


Friday, December 08, 2017

You’ve probably heard the beats he created for TV shows like “Pimp My Ride,” “Jersey Shore” and many other programs. But former rapper and hip-hop producer Mark Guglielmo has been exploring a very different kind of art over the last few years: traveling to Cuba to reproduce people’s stories in huge photo-mosaics and recorded interviews.

The Northampton photographer and painter, who recently won a public art commission (out of 213 applicants, he says) to produce a large photo-mosaic for a community center in Loveland, Colorado, says his Cuban photo-mosaic project is all about “trying to get to the essence of Cuban culture, in all its complexities and idiosyncrasies. I’m interested in art that jumps off the page, that grabs you, that changes you.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Mark Guglielmo: I’ve been making photo-mosaic murals of Cuba for the past two years; they’re made from thousands of 4” x 6” photos that are overlapped and taped together. I was so inspired on my first trip to the country in 2015. I also conduct audio interviews with everyday Cubans speaking candidly about their lives. I’m interested in storytelling, culture, honesty, as well as the warmth, courage, and authenticity that I find in vast abundance down there. 

H.L.: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

M.G.: I’m inspired by so many things. Right now, my grandma Grace and grandpa Angelo, who raised 11 kids and still found time to help raise me and my two siblings, come to mind. But when I’m working on a piece, I never have a plan, composition-wise. I just improvise. I don’t shoot reference photos of my subjects. I just capture details and then construct a piece. It's a process of discovery. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get there. Sometimes it comes together with ease.

H.L.: How do you know when your work is finished?

M.G.: It’s a feeling. A voice inside me tells me when it’s done. I’ve become more and more in tune with that voice. It tells me everything I need to know. And I’m not just talking about art. I call it my intuition. And it’s my greatest asset. It’s always right and always there when I need it. All I need to do is get quiet enough to hear it. 

H.L.: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

M.G.: Some of my best pieces are mistakes. One time I had my sister come by the studio to get her feedback. I had a new piece lying on the floor, facing the door. But when she walked in, she went around it and looked at it upside down. I was going to tell her that she was looking at it the wrong way until it occurred to me that maybe she was right. When she left, I looked at it the way she had — and decided to run with that. It turned out a hundred times better because of it.

H.L.: What do you do when you’re stuck? 

M.G.: Sometimes I take a break. Work on something else. Take a walk. Being in nature resets me and gets me grounded, back in my body, connected to the big picture. Sometimes I pray and ask for guidance. Sometimes … I’ll wake up with a clear picture in my mind of what I need to do. Sometimes I ask close friends for feedback.

 — Steve Pfarrer