In the Loop
Alumni News : Oct 10, 2018

Art making: a basic need

As life changes and evolves, so does the work of MFA painting alumnus Jefreid Lotti.

Cuban-born visual artist Jefreid Lotti (MFA Painting '16) lives and works in Miami, Florida, creating paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints.

What do you make? What is your art about?

I make objects, mostly oil paintings. My current work is populated with images of colorful fragments of Miami and the “efichensi” I grew up in. “Efichensis” are affordable living spaces that have become the door to the American dream for many immigrant families. I use thick laborious brushwork and saturated hues to interpret my Miami. From the profile of palm trees to the still life of typical Cuban dishes, I intend to create a vocabulary of motives that is unique to the condition of being a "Miamian".

What have you been doing since grad school? 

After graduating, I moved back to my hometown Miami. During this time, I’ve participated in several important exhibitions independently and with the artist group “Serverus”. The most notable of my recent shows was the 8th All Media Juried Biennale (2017) at the Hollywood Arts and Culture Center, where I was awarded third place prize out of almost 1,000 works. I also showed in Cuatro Caminos, an exhibition with renowned Cuban artist Carlos Luna and the members of Serverus at Miami Dade College North Gallery. Currently, I have a solo show called “Non Native” mounted at Hibiscus Gallery in Pinecrest Gardens, Florida (through November 6). Drawn from my personal experience of living in an “Efichensi” in my teenage years and of losing property and artwork during hurricane Irma, this exhibit tracks an immigrant’s journey in search for the American dream and the intersection of the rising seas.

How do you maintain a vibrant studio practice?

For me, making art is a basic need. When I don’t do it, I feel I’m lacking something, physically and emotionally. Then I remember “oh, yeah, I need to be in the studio again.” So I find the time to squeeze in some painting. Luckily since I make work based on direct experience, I never run out of subject matter. As life changes and evolves, so does my work. I am also fortunate that my partner, Krystal Rodriguez is a very creative artist with an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s always taking on new challenges and pushing me to enjoy the little accomplishments I would otherwise overlook. Her love and support enable me to create with a lot more ease. Furthermore, I’m also part of a group of Cuban American painters called “Serverus”. The three of us, Alavaro Labanino, Miguel Saludes (MFA ’16) and myself have been exhibiting together since 2012. We are always exploring new venues for our work. I think finding your community is an integral part of staying motivated.

How did your MFA prepare you for your career?

The MFA program gave me the opportunity to take classes, work/teach and maintain a studio practice. This healthy balance was a taste of what it takes to make it in the real world. Particularly helpful was Lisa Iglesias' Professional Practices class, which covered the basics of making it as a working artist. Teaching at the college level was an opportunity that gave me the confidence and professional experience I would have missed out on my own. Being an instructor at UF and teaching students the foundations of drawing/painting made me fall in love with the basics of art all over again.

What do you miss about your time at UF?

I miss my studio space at Gradhaus, which was where I spent most of my three years at UF. Sharing a studio space that was both private and communal with other artists was truly priceless. Secondly, I miss the critiques with my peers. I find this especially important in our current environment, where maintaining a viewer’s attention is becoming increasingly difficult. Thirdly, I miss the mentorship of our diverse instructors. From Julia Morrisroe’s Painting Theory class, to Celeste Roberge’s hands-on Bronze Casting class, the beauty of a diversified curriculum was one of the most valued and unique assets of the MFA program. Lastly, I miss Gainesville, a quirky and charming small town surrounded by beautiful nature and charming family-owned businesses. There’s no other place like it, and I’m thankful to have been a local for the duration of my time at UF.

What advice would you give to a young artist today?

I would say that no matter where you are at this moment, you’re on the correct path. I’ve met many successful artists, who in spite of coming from similar backgrounds, have had completely different life journeys to reach their idea of success. No matter what you’re doing, trust that you’re on the right path and make the time to visit your studio at least once a day. Make a mark, cut a paper, just do anything in there and you’ll be an inch closer to your goal than you were before you walked in.