We had the good fortune of connecting with Freedom Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Freedom, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born in NYC and grew up in the housing projects of Lower East Side Manhattan. For me, life was surrounded by drugs, alcohol, crime, violence, even in my apartment. I don’t want to exclude all the great times I had with friends and family, but this was my reality and what had impacted me most. My escape was art. I would recluse in my room for hours, sometimes days just drawing. But soon, the drawings would reflect the life-draining realities around me. So, I would take long walks to the West-side of the island to break from my neighborhood’s typical everyday drama. Besides, the West-side had more art and things to see. Over the years, reclusing and going on walks outside of my neighborhood developed, I suppose, the explorer in me. I knew well the world I lived in; there’s no question. But I knew there was a better one or at the very least desired a better one. Into adulthood, I discovered and continually discover my most authentic self by making art and help to make the world that ought to be.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m an artist in a constant search for truth, beauty, and goodness. It is for wonder and curiosity of life that I paint. I primarily paint portraits of people and things of nature because I love both. I paint people’s faces not just for their features but for the story behind the faces. It’s my way of making a human connection. I paint animals because I’m fascinated by their creative design and nature. You can expect to see (not always but more than often) a lot of people, ethnic culture, color, and exotic animals in my paintings. As an artist, I believe in human connection. I feel set apart in that my life and art cross various social, cultural, philosophical, and religious barriers that would otherwise hinder connection. I seek to understand before I am understood. I walk humbly while standing firm in my faith, even if my convictions are challenged and tested. If my art and life can cultivate the realities of truth, beauty, and goodness, I have done what I feel called to do as an artist and follower of Christ. I consider myself a professional artist, but I don’t place any credentials on display. I don’t put much effort or value in my name to being known. I’m simply on a mission to make human connections and make the best of opportunities to learn about others and share my life journey and faith with them. If I’m known for that, that would be enough. A collection of portrait art that best expresses my heart is titled Imago Dei (Image of God). I partnered with Atlanta-based, Care for AIDS, a non-profit that exists to empower people to live a life beyond AIDS. They serve communities in East Africa. I painted one hundred portraits of the people they serve. I aimed to portray the beauty and dignity of those living with AIDS or HIV and tell their story from their perspective in a creative way. During my meetings with people, I’m honored to be invited into their living space to hear their stories. And it is a great privilege I get to share a message of truth, beauty, and goodness with those I paint. Many artists are known for painting famous people. I may care slightly for being known, if known at all, for painting portraits of those unknown or unseen.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have now resided in Atlanta, Georgia for ten years. My favorite places are Cabbage Town, Krog Street Market, Your DeKalb Farmers Market, The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Clarkston, Kennesaw, and Stone Mountain.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people (too many to list here) that have inspired me (directly and indirectly) on my life journey. But if I just listed my mother it would be enough. She has inspired me by her genuine, creative, free-spirited personality. She is God’s gift of grace to me.