Charlene Uresy says art is in her DNA

Photo courtesy of Charlene Uresy

Charlene Uresy is an Afro-Cuban-American self-taught artist who paints African symbols on repurposed furniture. Heavily influenced by her heritage and culture, she discussed her unique work and the meaning behind it.

“I’m not only creating something beautiful, but I’m also teaching a culture. A culture many people throughout the world do not know,” she says about her work.

When did you become interested in art, and who inspired you to pursue visual arts?
My interest in art is deep in my DNA; I can trace my interest to my childhood. As a child, I would draw geometric shapes and symbols, not realizing many of these shapes are African symbols that communicate a thought or expression. Over 25 years ago, I started to research these symbols and learned in many African cultures women paint the outside of their homes with symbols telling you something about the people who live inside the homes. I’m doing this women’s work by painting these symbols on furniture. Friends who visited my home saw furniture that I painted for myself and encouraged me to participate in gallery shows and art fairs.

What are three of the best things about being creative?
Africa is known for the bright colors you see all over the continent. In being creative, I’m forced to think how I will use the bright colors, with the symbols, on furniture to tell my narrative. I’m excited and even more empowered doing my research, and love sharing the knowledge of the symbols with people who have an interest in my work. Many times their reaction is an “aha” moment and informs them about the greatness of African people. All of this keeps my creative juices flowing.

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