No Small Statement

No Small Statement

Octavio Logo uses art to look inside issues


There’s no way to miss artist Octavio Logo’s new mural, located on the south side of Fayetteville at 704 S. Washington Ave. At the behest of building owner Zara Niederman, Logo has painted — in brilliant technicolor — portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Maya Angelou and two Native Americans, representing the Navajo and the Sioux tribes. The faces span the entire height of the old building, which housed a spring shop for years, and can be seen from blocks away.

“We had recently bought the building and saw its walls as a big, blank canvas, and it was an opportunity to liven up the neighborhood as well,” says Niederman. “This is a central location in the Walker Park neighborhood, and we wanted to create the space to be a community gathering place.”

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Octavio Logo of Fayetteville paints a mural on the south side of 1 Seventeen Create in downtown Springdale Tuesday August 21, 2018. Logo plans on finishing this mural by the end of the week and starting another mural project in south Fayetteville next week.

Logo worked on the project for nearly two months, in full view of the neighborhood. That’s the thing about public art: The artist can’t hide away in a studio to work on it. Despite Logo’s initial trepidation about how the work would be received, the reaction from the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Literally, every day, there are people walking by,” says Asha Mevlana, a neighbor who lives about a block away. “It really brings people together — people of all races are stopping and saying, ‘What’s happening?’ It’s this whole conversation going on, and they’re watching the progress.”

Logo says that rarely would a workday go by without someone stopping to chat with him about the mural.

“South Fayetteville is really different from the rest of Fayetteville,” says Logo. “It’s a little more marginalized than the rest of Fayetteville.

“What I’m telling you now is something that I’m learning from doing this mural. People come here, and they are saying things that amaze me so much. I had this young woman who came here two days ago. She is in rehab for methamphetamine and crack, and she just immediately stopped and started talking, this kind of talking that was completely moving to me, about this neighborhood. She was just amazed to see something like this. She said, ‘African-Americans and Native Americans are something that no one is representing. It’s good to see colors, because this place was so gray and so sad. You used to see people here, even children, using drugs.’

“She said that this place, to her, was like a shameful place, so having this mural in such a public place … she was really emotional, saying, ‘Thank you, thank you.’ I said, ‘This is important, thank you for sharing your story.’ To me, that is exactly what I wanted to do. People feel like no one has ever done something to make this place pretty, to do something that people can enjoy and, at the same time, seeing faces that represent them or their needs or their struggles.”

For Niederman, Logo’s finished product was provoking the reaction for which he had hoped.

“With the current political climate, I was looking for an opportunity to show that we should respect diversity and welcome people of all different races, nationalities and backgrounds,” he says. “[Logo’s mural] means different things to different people. I was truly amazed at the reception it has gotten from people in South Fayetteville, but also people from all over Northwest Arkansas and out of town guests as well. It was an amazing gift to be at the building while Octavio was painting and to hear people drive by and honk or wave, or say wonderful things about Octavio’s work — it’s amazing he was able to get any painting done at all.”

Public art is not new to Logo — his varied art career has included a multitude of mediums — but public art has always held a special place in his heart.

“With murals, you offer people who don’t have access to galleries or a traditional arts education to see things and experience things and learn things,” he says.

Finding his niche

Logo’s artistic talents revealed themselves early. Art was not a part of the traditional educational system in his native country of Mexico but, by the time he was 11, he was taking drawing classes outside of school. He suspects that his talent in art was passed down to him from his mother.

“She was actually about to become a painter and got married very young and abandoned it, but she was really talented,” he says. “So I had this relationship with my mom where she was like, ‘Go for it,’ but my dad, he never wanted me to do that. But I wanted to be like Michelangelo. I wanted to have clay and little bricks, and I was building castles with cardboard. … I had a chance to do a lot of different things. I was not just drawing.”

Once he reached high school, he had the opportunity to attend a school that concentrated on the fine arts.

“In Mexico, we have institutes for high school created by Diego Rivera and the muralists,” he says. “They created fine art institutions in Mexico, which is huge and really powerful and beautiful. I abandoned high school. I told my mom, and she said, ‘Don’t tell your dad. Do the [fine arts school] test.’ It was five days of doing tests: drawing, dancing, whatever. And I passed. Together, we went to my dad. We had music, ballet, visual arts the first year, and the next year, we would choose ourselves. I chose visual arts.”

This training would give Logo a strong background in a variety of artistic arenas. But when he started college, he hit a wall: The training there was much too commercial for his tastes. When the philosophical differences became too much, he quit college and tried to leave art behind him.

“I was 20 years old when that happened, so that was really hard for me,” he remembers. “I changed colleges, and I started classical studies. For five years, I studied Greek and Latin so that I could do translations. The classes were in the philosophy department, so I went to philosophy classes, history classes, and that opened my mind to a lot of issues and different things about social studies, anthropology and sociology.”

The National Autonomous University of Mexico, Logo’s second college, is the largest university in the country. His previous studies had him focusing on visual arts. Now, he found himself learning so much more about the world around him.

“The students there are really political, and they are like social fighters and are so active,” he says. “It’s amazing. I started working with people with many different themes — workers of different unions, students from different regions and working with the indigenous people. At that moment, the movement of the Zapatistas with the Mayan indigenous peoples was really powerful, so I had a chance to go there and learn from them. I was doing murals in the middle of the jungle in the communities. I went to places in Oaxaca to do murals at elementary schools in rural communities. I wasn’t thinking about art, as in ‘Big Art’. I was trying to do more political art. Art, to me, was fake. It wasn’t really a serious movement. Every time I went to a gallery, it was just like abstract work and kind of like fancy objects not related to the things I was doing. It was outside the struggle of the people.”

So, he says, for a period of about 10 years, he refused to take on the title of “artist.” But he never fully left his art behind. There were the public murals, the political banners and the cartoons. Even his day job after college — he restored antique books, as his father and his father’s family had done for years — required artistry.

“I was just crazy about it,” he says of that career. “I was doing artists’ sketchbooks, super beautiful things. I had quit doing classical studies completely. I realized, ‘I don’t want to be a library person at all. This is not what I want to do.’ And so when I realized that I wasn’t an artist and I wasn’t an academic, I was really in trouble.”

Logo scraped together a living by painting murals for various businesses, but it was difficult. Artists, he says, are plentiful in Mexico, and many were willing to create their art for low wages. He traveled throughout Europe and was considering moving to another country when he got the rare chance to work with the costuming department on a Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast in Mexico.

“They hired me to paint the clothing,” he says. “That was a world that I didn’t know existed. They would have the costume already, super gorgeous, high production [value], and I had a grid of colors made specifically to paint on the clothes — like the dresses were canvasses. They paid me like no one had paid me before.” He next worked on a production of The Lion King, helping to create and manipulate the puppets. He was back in the art world, and he started assisting other artists with their work.

“That was great training,” he says. “I was really being productive. So, at some point, I said — after so many years saying, ‘Never again’ — I said, ‘OK, this is what I’m doing.’” When he met his future wife in New York, “I said, ‘Hi. I’m an artist,’ and I had never said that before.”

Art and activism

Once Logo accepted that part of his identity, his professional life started picking up steam, as though the universe was sending him signs that he was doing what he was meant to do. When he moved with his wife to Northwest Arkansas, he was offered a public art exhibition within the first year.

“They gave me $1,200,” he says with wonder. “I got a check. They said, ‘You do whatever you need to do,’ and, for me, that was the first time in my career that someone offered money to do an exhibition.”

Since then, Logo has worked with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on several occasions and has completed a variety of public art in and around Northwest Arkansas. Last month, he received one of the competitive Artists 360 grants from the Mid America Arts Alliance. These grants “give artists from the greater Northwest Arkansas area a platform to succeed and grow,” according to the organization’s website, and are made possible through the support of the Walton Family Foundation. Logo plans to use the funds to take his most recent exhibit, “Immigration and Identity,” on the road and film a documentary about immigration at the same time. The subject is personal to Logo: He’s seen, first hand, what it means to be an immigrant in today’s political climate.

“‘Exodus’ is the name of the documentary,’” says Logo. “It’s to start a conversation, in a mainly Christian community, about the values of humanitarianism and immigration.”

The film, he says, will “follow the Biblical element” of the issue.

“Knowing that Mary and Jesus were poor and were persecuted out of their country by Herod … in Matthew, there is a part where Joseph received the gift of an angel in a dream, saying, ‘You need to run away from here, because your baby is going to be killed and his mother, too.’ To me, that is the representation of a refugee’s need to run, to survive. If you cannot see that even the son of God needed to immigrate, to become a refugee — I want to apply that conversation to what’s happening in Texas, where children are being taken away from their mothers.”

Logo says that his intention is to personalize the issues of immigration.

“I want to approach it emotionally, to say, ‘Just think about it,’” he says. ‘Just imagine the suffering of the travel and the huge odyssey that someone needs to face when someone needs to leave a country. This could happen to anyone. The conversation should be, ‘Stability in life is not permanent. Anyone can face instability through global warming, through war, through natural disasters.’

“I want to tell the stories and use the art to make people more sensitive and think twice before they judge or be aggressive or justify irrational behavior.”

It’s clear that, while Logo might have picked back up the mantle of artist, he did not drop the role of social activist that he had taken on so fervently in his 20s and 30s. His work is not just aesthetically pleasing; it carries a message for those viewing it.

“This is what I want to do,” he says. “This is who I am. It’s not just a gig. I don’t want to just do it for the money. I don’t believe in that. This is my opportunity, and I want to do it as meaningfully as possible.”



Octavio Logo

The artist I admire most is Hieronymus Bosch.

The artistic medium I find the most relaxing is oils.

The last good book I read was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

If I’ve learned one thing about life, it is to never stop doing — do not stop.

If I had the power to change one thing in life would be the future.

The best advice I ever received is that talent is overrated.

What gets me energized is to have challenges.

One thing about me that would surprise other people is that I’m an introvert.

What I love most about Northwest Arkansas is my wonderful and diverse community.

What I miss most about where I’m from is the magic, that perfume in the air, where the ancient touches the present and everything is past, present and future all together, and you are part of it.

Categories: Cover Story