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The Artist as Culture Producer

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life

An Image of my work with Tim Doud, titled Buffalo Check, has been included in this new book of essays by Sharon Louden. Tim Doud and Zoë Charlton, colleagues and collaborators, are featured. They are the creators of | 'sindikit | in Baltimore, MD. 

| 'sindikit | is a project space created to support experimental work, to promote practice-based research, and to foster art-centered conversations.


Centerfold Artist Studio Washington, D.C. November 2016 - January 2017 ​

When I started the Underworld Series, The ubiquitous and utilitarian ballpoint pen matched where I was in life. The ballpoint pen is hardy and the ink is unforgiving. There’s no erasing and starting over, you have to accept the evidence of your mistakes, make it work somehow, and keep moving forward.

I use my daily commuting time, on the New York City subway system, as studio time. I thought it ironic that I struggled to create anything in the privacy of my own room, but once on the subway would draw non-stop from the moment I arrived on the platform. Having people around while creating gives me a sense of momentum and purpose.

The Subway Series is created underground. It began in 2008 and continues to the present. I consider this ongoing series a single work that currently numbers over 600 drawings. This series can also be viewed on my Instagram account, @rodneycuellar. The unique challenges of drawing on the subway required my drawing style to change. The marks that I make match the erratic rhythms and speed of the train and yet yield satisfying results. This series generates its own visual language. I then use this language to produce the drawings in the Underworld Series. Underworld references the symbiotic relationship from which these drawings materialized.

The initial source that inspired all this work was a single skeleton left over from a decomposed poppyseed pod. The remaining structure resembles a miniature organic Gothic cathedral. The circular ring that creates the opening for the seeds to escape is reminiscent of a sphincter.

That led me to research other organic phenomenon in the form of actual natural objects and images culled from magazines and the web. I'm particularly interested in textural and architectural patterns in nature. Some are visible to the naked eye and others are only visible through powerful microscopes, such as diatoms.
Collectively, these images remain in my periphery as generative informers.



Rice Gallery McDaniel College  Westminster, MD September 2-23, 2016 ​

#straightacting is a collaborative piece with Tim Doud and Amy Gaipa. It is part of a show titled: Unincorporated , An Experimental Collaborative Video Presentation by Tim Doud and Zoë Charlton. 

#straightacting is a series of seven ten-minute video portraits.  The portraits are made from sourced photographic images and in real time. 


The work emerged from previous collaborations with Tim.  Amy and I have participated in his painted portraits as collaborators/models using series built around us individually to project our desires, politic, and fantasies about performing gender.  In the case of these video portraits, we drew from ideas concerning compulsory heterosexuality as inspiration for Doud's portrayals.


Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery  Washington, D.C. March 12, 2016 - January 8, 2017 ​

Tacoma Art Museum

Tacoma, Washington

February 4 - May 14, 2017

The Art Museum of South Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

June 8 - September 10, 2017

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Kansas City, Missouri 

October 6, 2017 - January 7, 2018

American Prize was selected as an Outwin Boochever Comeptition Finalist. This competition occurs at the National Portrait Gallery every three years with a focus on where contemporary portraiture is today in a variety of mediums. American Prize is the second painting of me, by Doud, chosen as a finalist. The first was in 2013.


Unlike traditional portraiture, Tim’s not concerned with revealing the subject, much less, the soul of the artist.

In this collaboration, I’m inserting myself into Tim’s critical work. I’m the model and content creator while Tim focuses on composition and emphasis. I decide what I wear, the pose, lighting and the title.


I’m also a performer in this work. I perform identities. I get to construct selves and exercise a freedom I’m not comfortable performing in daily life due to societal rules restricting how men are permitted to perform their gender and masculinity.

This process started as being a way to project my interests in a particular kind of identity based on what I’m wearing. Now it’s become a way to project a politic.


Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, Salt Lake Acting Company & Red Fred Project Salt Lake Acting Company Theatre Salt Lake City, Utah March 4 -27, 2016 

Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, Salt Lake Acting Company & Red Fred Project

Salt Lake Acting Company Theatre

Salt Lake City, Utah

March 4 -27, 2016 

I have a lot of collaborative history in the world of theatre and it was a great pleasure to participate in this rewarding project as costume designer for Climbing With Tigers. The story of this play originated from a book written by a child with brittle bones disease. This book was made possible by my friend Dallas Graham's, Red Fred Project. This project allows children, facing critical illnesses and diseases, to write a story to the world based on their point of view. Check out the links for more details about this inspiring play and project mission. 


Designing for theatre is always an exciting challenge. It requires telling a visual story. The central character of Climbing With Tigers is a young bird with brittle bones. I had to figure out a way to express this in a costume and came up with a black patent leather boned corset. The overall palette I created was black and white. I didn't want to gloss over the presence of the disease, it had to be apparent. It's unavoidable in life and should be part of the visual vocabulary. I also wanted it to be beautiful and reflect the spirit of the author.

The identities I perform in my collaboration with Tim Doud are born out of my work in the theatre. It's here that I've honed my skills at understanding how each choice we make each day about what we put on our bodies tells a different story. 


NOW-ID x Pecha Kucha SLC #14 Salt Lake City, Utah February 13, 2015 ​

NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary dance and design company, invited me to participate in a Pecha Kucha. This is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically.

I chose to speak about how I collaborate. I begin talking about my role as a passive collaborator in the theatre I've designed, then how I use the subway and the passengers as imposed collaborators for the Subway Drawing Series and finally about my collaborative role as model and content creator in Tim Doud's work as a painter. 

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