Are you here for the Luis E. Toledo del Rio article? Wonderful! And not a minute too soon. Real life… pssht. It’s been a little too heavy for a little too long. Great escape, here we come! A word of caution, though. Once we arrive at our canvas destination, be prepared to abandon all earthly cares for the duration of this journey.
And just like that – poof! – they’re gone.
Ahh. It feels really good to hover in this plane of existence, doesn’t it? Have you noticed that – right here, right now – it is physically impossible to cling onto the jagged edges of the reality that hasn’t quite been working for us? Succumb to the blessed intoxication of Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s deftly wielded paintbrush. There you go, that’s it. Scooch a little closer to your screen and knock back a metaphorical shot or two. Are you feeling the mood-elevating buzz of art admiration?
This is not a place of restraint. Either go big or go home! The sur-reality of Luis E. Toledo del Rio works in a far different way than what we are accustomed to. Here, swooning over the astoundingly seductive drape of oil paint-rendered fabric is done with unabashed delight. There are no ‘socially appropriate octaves’ to adhere to, so eek! to your heart’s content about insect wing lashes, floral headdresses accented with precariously perched libations, and the occasional crescent moon nestled into a catch-and-release cage.
Please do enthusiastically marvel at Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s elaborate tapestry of kaleidoscopic butterflies, blooms, birds, and baubles the way your much younger self may have. With reckless abandon. Be fully present, wildly excited, and true to your authentic self – the self that comes alive in the presence of divine visual inspiration. Flap your art geek flag as willy and as extra nilly as you want. Gravity-defying, partially peeled citrus fruits accenting rich brocade robes really ARE cause for celebration!
Luis E. Toledo del Rio isn’t just trying out this ‘painting thing’ until something better comes along. That becomes abundantly clear even if you slow your scroll for a mere two seconds to linger on any one of works contained herein. The Cuba-born, Miami-based artist is in it for the long haul. Though barely into his 30s, he knows what it’s like to suffer the slings and arrows of a craft that simply must be nurtured despite conspiring forces.
In the early days of Luis’ career, he refused to allow his limited financial means to brush-block him, so garlic rice became his meal du jour. Over and over again. When art supplies became entirely cost-prohibitive, his resourcefulness went into overdrive. How many artists do you know who have transformed bedsheets into canvases? Did they ever use printing press artist pigments as an oil paint alternative, too? When the call of the muse ends up becoming a cacophony, an artist gotta do what an artist gotta do.
There is no mournful violin swelling up in the background, however. Admittedly, creative expression is a part of Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s bloodline, from his famed poet grandmother and theatrical mother to his accomplished classical surrealist painter father, Enrique. Of course, talent is not always preordained. When asked if he knew he’d become a painter, Luis emphatically states, “Absolutely not.” Despite his family’s ongoing encouragement, there was a point when his father had all but given up on the hope that he would apply himself artistically.
Everything changed when Luis turned 15. His desire to create art really began to take root. When the time came to narrow his focus, he attended an art-based high school with the intention of transitioning to music. Everyone knows what happens to teenagers though, right? Passions explode. When I started my second year, I realized that I wanted to be a painter more than I ever wanted to be a musician,” Luis admits. “From that point on, I never looked back.
At the top of his class, Luis E. Toledo del Rio ended up obtaining formal training as an art instructor. That partially explains why his work is so technically elaborate. His painting skills were unquestionably augmented, however, by his father, who gamely showed his son all of the tricks of the trade.
Even with Enrique’s expert guidance, Luis stresses that it was absolutely necessary for him to find his own unique artistic flair through “years of trial, error, and absolutely demolishing canvases, coupled with innumerable failed attempts”.
There is no easy way of finding your signature aesthetic. Sustained effort and hard work are necessary.
When Luis considers what it was like to sell his first painting at the age of 19, he quickly recounts the “chills and the adrenaline rush” of that experience. It was easily a revelatory moment for him. For the first time, he recognized that he “was creating something not only with sentimental value but monetary value, as well.” All these years later, he is fortunate enough to accept commissions on a regular basis. “There were really low points in my life,” Luis reflects, “when months would pass before I would sell a painting.” In spite of that, he asserts that “continuing to produce art was still more important to me than even eating.”
We all know people who – one day out of the blue – announce that they are an artiste!, extra emphasis on the fanciful “e”. Of course, living an artiste’s life sounds deliciously novel, if only to justify the jaunty angle of one’s newly donned signature beret. Sure sure…silly visual stereotype, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here. Nor is Luis E. Toledo del Rio currently wielding a paintbrush in order to fulfill the expectations of his colossally creative family. His chosen profession might as well be emblematic of the heartbeat that resonates from within.
Luis is a dream weaver. A painter of lush extremes. The exquisite escapism spilling forth from his canvases isn’t necessarily tempered with real human emotions. Instead, the inner and exterior worlds of his muses exist symbiotically. We can gaze at any number of Luis’ paintings and recognize that there is no light without dark, no joy without sorrow, no triumph without challenge.
Do Luis’ paintings make us feel as though we’re dissolving into a safe haven of utterly impossible possibilities? Yes, yes, one thousand times YES! He hopes that those who take the time to examine his sprawling portfolio will recognize that the esoteric nature of his painterly realm is, indeed, his inner truth. Each completed work that he sends out into the world is a gift of his essence.
He transforms his blank slate canvases into dizzyingly detailed, utterly decadent worlds that reveal “how I look at life and how my mindscapes work.” We stare, slack-jawed and utterly besotted with his illusory realm, hoping that somehow, the figure staring back at us will extend a dainty hand and pull us through to the other side.
While his muses may appear to be living in the lap of luxury, their forlorn soul windows suggest that there is always far more than meets the eye. Living a gilded existence doesn’t spare one from tumultuous seasons. Such is life, even in the extraordinary world that Luis E. Toledo del Rio has dreamed up. Admittedly, we’re all gathered here today for the express purpose of escaping reality. Luis’ canvas imaginings – laced with telling insight into the complexity of the human soul – still manage to draw us in hook, line, and sinker.
Luis’ supremely blinged-out, Early Renaissance-meets-surrealist canvas underpinnings are just as pleasing to the eye. His elaborately conceptualized scenes – featuring regal yet still approachable looking ladies – almost always dazzle with a peek of lace, clusters of precious gemstone-studded medallions, embroidered silken ribbons, and all of the alluring frippery that we typically associate with a good life. Better yet, a glorious life! During his pre-sketching process, Luis does use historical garment references. The costuming worn by his muses, however, is the result of a radical Toledo del Rio overhaul.
Why is Luis so enamored with lavishly formal representations of femininity, though? Equally as perplexing – why is there nary an exposed bosom or other private lady bit to be found throughout his portfolio? He has a comprehensive background in art history. Surely he is aware of his predecessors’ penchant for depicting the fairer sex as a physically desirable object to ogle. If our global culture has taught us anything, it’s that the female form is supposed to be gazed upon in its natural state, without a stitch of clothing, right? So…geeze…how did Luis get this part of his painterly craft so upside down?
The answer to that is quite simple. “I respect women tenfold more than I respect men.” Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s matriarchal upbringing imbued him with great admiration for the female spirit. He unabashedly regards the word of the women in his life “as gospel”, admitting that despite the ongoing mystery of their psyches, he “will ever stop trying to decipher and translate onto a canvas what they have to say”. Wait a minute…what??
Yep. Luis intentionally gives a voice to the ladies in his surrealistic reveries. His queens are the main attraction, but not because they are physically stripped bare. We are not privy to their family jewels because, quite frankly, they are none of our business, are they? He instead respectfully ensconces the potential bodaciousness of his many muses within pleated bodices, diaphanous chiffon, and fully buttoned-up silks. Their garb is still just as fetching…but it forces us to fix our gaze at what’s happening from the neck UP!
Well that makes no sense. He shrouds them in clothes. They aren’t the sidekick to their far more interesting male canvas counterparts. So…um…does this Luis E. Toledo del Rio guy actually want to achieve success in the art world? Marching to the beat of a pro-feminist drum – as a male artist – seems like a recipe for painterly poverty, doesn’t it? In truth, this is precisely the right point in history for Luis to feel comfortable enough in his own skin to proudly pay tribute to the substantive inner world of women. You’ve got to admit…it’s kind of refreshing, isn’t it?
The way Luis sees it, “my work wouldn’t have the same impact if I were to replace the feminine aspect with a masculine aspect.” His female muses are representative of his mother and grandmother. In fact, they are “every mom and every grandma.” The beholder will further note that Luis E. Toledo del Rio captures the enchanting visages of a wide array of natural beauties from his mind’s eye. Age matters not. He explains his reasoning. “To me, gray hairs and wrinkles are just as beautiful as pigmented hair and a smooth complexion.” Somebody call in the cloning doctor – his DNA absolutely needs to be replicated.
Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s paintings are quite literally a force of nature, not just in the most overt sense. Several environmental elements are quite obviously at play. His quadruple ‘b” motif – consisting of birds, bees, blossoms, and butterflies – lays the groundwork for a dash of enchanting whimsy. But just as in ‘real life’, Luis’ plane of gilded existence is not without its fair share of stormy backdrops churning with foreboding storm clouds and staccato precipitation.
Luis embraces one golden rule that seems to emulate a filmmaker’s approach to storytelling. He recognizes that the beholder’s emotional investment in his canvas characters hinges upon the presence of a looming or otherwise problematic force. The palpable sense that all is not quite right – even within a visually enchanting world – wells up within the eyes of his many muses.
Whether ultramarine, hazel, amber-flecked, or sapphire, we are drawn to the pain that seemingly rises to the surface. It’s all too familiar. We’ve been there countless times before. Amid bloodshot pools of truth, his stoic ladies with chinks in their illustrious armor still stand resolute. It becomes abundantly clear to the beholder that even a life gussied up with candied cherries on top can – at times – still test us in ways that catch us off guard.
Luis E. Toledo del Rio’s paintings truly sing when admired on a large screen. That enables the beholder to detect the fleeting presence of time, whether in stopwatch or clock form. When contemplating the years flying by, what immediately comes to mind? The impermanence of physical beauty. We’ve already established that Luis venerates women, regardless of their age. Fittingly, Luis’ muses – whether still in the blush of their youth or a bit more advanced in their journey – are bestowed with enviably incandescent complexions.
There is no better way to marvel at the brushstroke tapestry of their facial structure or the prismatic luminosity of their cheekbones than to click on the magnifying glass in your preferred electronic device. Then, repeat after me, “Ohwow. Ohwowwww. Ohwowohwowww.” Through Luis’ rose-colored lenses, the viewer is treated to a rare and precious vision of feminine adoration that is as superficially stunning as it is skin deep. His formidable females are inarguably beguiling, but their inner strength practically steals the show.
Artists tend to be a little bit more empathetic toward cultural and gender inequities. They often even rise up to temper some pervasive injustice themselves. The days of being forced to shut up and wear beige still exist for some individuals. Whether Luis E. Toledo del Rio realizes it or not, his dizzyingly divine canvases – so utterly electrified with light and love toward the fairer sex – extend a lifeline of hope. They invite us to dream a little dream. All good things begin with a spark of inspiration… or in this case, the scintillating strokes of Luis’ paintbrush.