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Magnetism of a Muse

[Published on August 24, 2014]

In a portrait of Detroit muse Andrea Perez, Robert Sestok highlights a stoic poise with a method contrasting bold colors and textures across many submissions for the Big Paintings exhibit at The Factory of 333 Midland. Black lines amplify shadows, clothing, demeanor and tattoos but force speculation as to what inspired Sestok to create this enormous piece. The answer: body art.

When Andrea first decided to mark a revolution of body and mind, it was on a walk-in basis and she left after forty minutes with fresh ink and in a tizzy of her next tattoo. The process of conceptualizing and acquiring tattoos to cope with life’s chaos became an insatiable craving, which Andrea took great care to satisfy. Although the urge did not subside, she was keen on selecting creators based on merit, which guided her to a variety of talented individuals who have left their mark on the canvas of Andrea’s body.

Artist Alana Robbie—who relocated to Portland, Oregon—fashioned El Corazón in Chicago in honor of Andrea’s father and her Mexican heritage as the image mimicked a playing card of lotería, which is a popular game resembling bingo. Matt Lambdin was another image-maker who was fortunate to experience Andrea’s influence after studying art at College for Creative Studies. Creating a likeness of the Mexican painter was outside Lambdin’s comfort zone but after gaining Andrea’s trust with the direction of his three other tattoos, something about her tactics of eliciting exceptional work influenced an accurate yet distinct representation of Kahlo. In addition to the portrait of Kahlo, he also fashioned depictions of a pigeon, bee, and a rose compass.

Enchanting the minds of people who sharpen their inventive blades happens very naturally but the Ferndale resident's professional life entails delving into her love of books—also illustrated on her body through effervescence of hardcovers—as a facilitator of library sciences in Westland. Although she was uncertain about posing as the subject of a grand painting, it wasn’t until after she accepted Sestok’s invitation when Andrea realized the significance of participating in Detroit’s art community—the same community in which Sestok has remained an admirable proponent.

As his time is not exhausted on working with his fascinating muse, Sestok has been developing City Sculpture, which will comprise a retrospective of his work on Alexandrine near the Lodge Freeway. When he spoke of his plans for the sculpture park, permanency resonated brilliantly and justifiably for an artist who has witnessed and participated in a broad scope of transitions in Detroit. During our conversation, the idea of a larger than life sculpture of Andrea arose, to which Sestok’s energy shifted with excitement beneath his opaque lenses. It completely verified Andrea’s power as a creative provocateur.

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