Box Burners

S2019 E2 | FULL EPISODE

Box Burners: Rafael Colón

When Lenore Grossman developed an illness which required hiring a trainer, Rafael Colón answered the call. Through time, Lenore came to realize where his true passions were. “Rafael saw himself as a lover of art,” Grossman says, “but I saw him as an artist.” Watch as this Marine-turned-artist bends the rules of what constitutes a canvas and finds support in unexpected places.

AIRED: November 21, 2019 | 0:05:48
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TRANSCRIPT

Colón: A lot of people always use the excuse

that their neighborhoods were bad,

and that's the reason why they couldn't do

what they wanted to do.

I want to show them that it doesn't matter

where you come from.

It's all about your drive.

♪♪

♪♪

My name is Rafael Colón,

and I am a skateboard and violin artist.

♪♪

♪♪

I encountered art through comic books.

In the Marine Corps, I used to doodle,

but it wasn't anything serious.

It was only a few years ago

when my daughter actually decided that she wanted to match

a skateboard to a sneaker.

And that's when I started to research how to do art.

And something happened.

I was just hooked.

And I started creating art.

We went to a skateboard shop in the East Village.

And the owner happened to be there.

We walked right up to him,

and I explained to him what I wanted to do.

And he just hands me a skateboard.

And he goes, "Here, just do what you want to do,

but bring it back so I could see what you did."

And when I created this Frankenstein creature

on the skateboard, my daughter decided that she wanted me

to put it up in the shop,

as opposed to having it for herself.

And so, when I brought it into the shop, he loved it.

He put it up on the wall.

And then three weeks later, the skateboard sold.

I knew I had something.

And so that's when I started researching

and figuring out how can I get better

because I didn't go to any formal school for art.

I had to learn the style of whatever master I was painting.

I immersed myself in the artists.

And because I learned their style,

I was able to appropriate it,

and I put it on a skateboard.

I began with the basic guys.

Michelangelo, Raphael. Renaissance, right?

For me, it's not appropriating their art.

It's displaying their art.

Because whenever I do a master, I put their name first.

Mine is second.

I'm just the guy that put this master on the skateboard.

You don't want to take away

from that master.

You want to enhance him or her through your art.

That's why I like to appropriate these styles of these masters

that hardly anybody knows --

like, oh, you don't know Artemisia Gentileschi?

Look at this, on a violin.

And then they're like, "Who's that?"

Oh, look her up.

The interest grows now

on that particular artist,

and that's what I like doing --

I like to just give curiosity.

Art has opened my eyes

to a whole demographic of human beings

that I never would have come across.

♪♪

My name is Lenore Grossman.

I am an art consultant.

Most of my work lately has been with Rafael Colon

and I have tried to places work

where I think it would be most beneficial for him.

I first met Rafael about five and a half years ago.

I needed a trainer because I had an illness

that required that I work out.

And so who walked into my life but Rafael.

He started to do Asian art.

And I said there's only one place he's got to be,

and that's at the Asia Society.

When he started doing the violins,

I decided that the best place he had to be

was at the Metropolitan Opera.

And then I decided: I have to find him a gallery

that would be out of the box.

So I thought about Ron Feldman

because Ron Feldman discovered Andy Warhol.

He let me talk to him,

and we actually talked for about three hours,

and he's going to put Rafael in his show next summer

of up-and-coming artists.

I do all this for Rafael

because basically he really saved me.

He gave me more life,

and I wanted to give him life.

I really hope that he'll be recognized.

I hope that people will see how talented he is

and that he will always be satisfied

with being an artist.

♪♪

♪♪

One of the more interesting parts

of who you are -- you make changes.

You stay with the wood.

Right, right, right.

But you make changes, and you're not afraid of change.

You have this encyclopedic mind for art

that is like my own personal Wikipedia.

He thought of himself as a lover of art,

but I thought of him as an artist --

and I think that's the way he feels about himself now.

Now, yeah. Back then I didn't.

She saw something that I didn't see.

These are just panels of art,

and it's been around for centuries.

So I'm just -- just exposing it a little bit more

to people who might relate to the skateboard

more than to a big, giant canvas

that may not even fit in your apartment.

But a skateboard can.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

Colón: A lot of people always use the excuse

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