“Everyone wants to be a creative,” laughed Carlos Machado, a University of Miami senior and artist who’s embraced the métier of storytelling. “But unless you strive to drown in a sea of Gen Z creatives, a flourishing Instagram simply won’t cut it.” A late bloomer, he was born to be a creative, but didn’t reach for a paintbrush until the instrument seized hold of him as a teen. Machado detailed to Distraction his life’s unexpected trek toward painting and ambitious dreams to evoke change in art culture.
GM: What’s your background?
CM: I’m a Miami native of Cuban descent. My youth revolved around skateboarding and playing sports, but I was never really a jock. It wasn’t until junior year of high school, in studio art, where I made a portfolio of canvas pieces that changed my way of thinking. At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I fought a lot with my teacher. But then I crafted a piece that struck close to home.
GM: Tell us about your first piece.
CM: My first-ever creation was a 48-by-60-inch painting, reflecting my grandma’s first visit back to Cuba in decades. I printed photos of her hometown in ruins, stuck them onto a giant canvas and stenciled a portrait of José Martí over a Cuban flag. I plastered the white star with real flowers to illustrate Martí’s poem ‘Cultivo una Rosa Blanca.’
GM: How has your style evolved and developed since then?
CM: I started with graffiti, then branched into minimalism. I had a phase where I painted shoes, but then I became the ‘shoe guy’ and hated it. I’m not a custom designer. I’d say I’m abstract now. I used to feel anxious looking at a blank canvas—I’d overthink. But now, I express freely.
GM: What inspires you to create art?
CM: My high school teacher is such an influential being in my life. He showed me the light—that art is worth something. My girlfriend is supportive beyond a degree I can explain. She sits in the studio—my garage—for 14 hours while I paint. Without them, nothing is possible. Music also motivates me. I can sometimes see colors and schemes when I listen to songs. I love Mac Miller and rap and classical.
GM: How did you put yourself out there?
CM: Staying in Miami for school was essential to my artistry, connections and career growth. But, if I wasn’t on Instagram, I don’t know where I’d be. It threw me into the art scene and some shows which were a disaster.
GM: Can you elaborate on this “disaster”?
CM: I’ve made mistakes as an artist. I paid my way into galleries and got robbed. Art Basel was my first show. It never treated me well. I’ve since learned never to pay for a spot, because I can make money selling myself. A lot of these galleries are blown up. It’s more about the publicity and the celebrities who go, rather than the display. You can harp on having 10,000 followers, but if nobody cares to buy your stuff, then you don’t matter. The art world can be stuck-up.
GM: What will you do to change that in the future?
CM: I want to create better opportunities for people to showcase work. Tons of talent goes unnoticed because the culture is oversaturated with Instagram creatives. I also want to go back to my high school, revamp the art program and prove that art is worth it.
GM: Is it worth it?
CM: You live and you learn. There’s this misconception of overnight success, but it’s not like that. Being a creative is a slow progression. You can’t just quit after a month because you didn’t blow up at the drop of a dime. Keep making authentic work.
words_gianna milan. photo_teagan polizzi. design_avani choudhary.
This article was published in Distraction’s fall 2020 print issue.