Locala Magazine, May 2023, Ocala, FL

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Vol. 02, No. 12 • MAY 2023
TOMMY CUEVAS In the Mix: Street Photographer Captures Unfiltered Moments MATT WARDELL Belonging Somewhere: Symphony Conductor on Building Community Through Empathy
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EMMELINE BASULTO The Bridge: Hispanic Artist Caters Comfort Food





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Lisa Anderson Media, LLC and Locala™. All rights reserved. Online: ISSN 2771-1056, Print: ISSN 2771-1048, May 2023, Volume 02, Issue Number 12. Locala™ is a monthly publication, which is published by Lisa Anderson Media, LLC, 2320 NE 2nd Street, Unit 5, Ocala, FL 34470. Nothing may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. For reprint or reuse permission, email info@localamag.com. Cover price for sale distribution is $4.58. Proudly printed at First Impressions Printing, 1827 SW 27th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
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What anyone who has been in Ocala for the last decade can tell you is that this city has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the arts. Every month, we highlight an artist or two in our Artist Q&A (page 25). In this issue, Kyle Corley, one half of the band Glizzy Gillespie, talks painting and Zen. The Appleton Staff are back with their monthly interview, this time with Brenda Flynn, a contributor to the Horse Fever project.

We are celebrating the rich arts community with our features, as well. Maestro Matthew Wardell, (page 20) CEO and Artistic Director of the Reilly Arts Center and conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, discusses his struggles with mental health and the importance of empathy. Street photographer Tommy Cuevas (page 7) waxes poetic about his idols and what he loves about film photography. And painter Jessi Miller (page 10) talks about going the traditional route in graphic design, while creating engaging stories through art.

Make sure to check out the Chews Letter department (page 14), where we discuss food as art. Hispanic artist Emmaline Basulto explains how she builds bridges with her catered comfort food.

Finally, get more insight into our subjects with our podcast interviews. Only a fool would miss out!

Happy Spring!


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Photo by Joshua Jacobs
ON THE COVER 07 20 14 TABLE OF CONTENTS LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 03 Dear Ocala About This Month’s Issue CHEWS LETTER 14 The Bridge: Hispanic Artist Caters Comfort Food ARTIST CORNER 25 Journey: Newspaper Graphic Artist Creates Horse Fever Mosaic 27 Kyle Corley: Artist Q&A SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS 07 In the Mix: Street Photographer Captures Unfiltered Moments 10 Go for It: Painter & Entrepreneur Sells with Engaging Stories FEATURE 20 Belonging Somewhere: Symphony Conductor on Building Community Through Empathy localamag.com 4




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Monthly Theme THE ARTS

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Photos by Joshua Jacobs

In The Mix



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Self-described extrovert Tommy Cuevas admits that, after many years of doing street photography, he still gets nervous approaching people. “It’s a hard thing to get over.”

He cites two French street photographers as his idols: American-born William Klein (1926-2020) and Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). “[Bresson] is generally more distance, so he uses a telephoto lens to grab people. Then, Klein was right up in your face. He used very wide-angled lenses. And I found out that they used the same exact camera. They gave each other their cameras. But you can see the radical difference,” Tommy notes. “I’m trying to be more like Klein, now, where I’m getting more into it. And that is intimidating as anything! You wind up talking to people, so that’s good.”

Tommy, whose parents divorced when he was young, spent his formative years on Long Island, receiving his first camera at the age of 9. “It was a 35mm point-and-shoot, and I just loved taking photos. I just took photos all the time of just the most random things. I got nicer and nicer film cameras. Then, digital came around, and I got one of the very, very first digital cameras that ever came out. It was a Casio QV-11.”

Recently, I did a show at the Mutiny, where I took a couple of photos inside the crowd with a wide-angle lens, blackand-white photos. No one notices you when the band’s playing.”


When he was 15, Tommy and his mother, who had become a successful real estate agent, moved to a more affluent neighborhood in Tarpon Springs, Florida. For a kid who grew up poor and on the “wrong side of the tracks,” the move was a culture shock. “It was a good shock in a lot of ways. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways,” he says. “But I wound up finding my own niche of people. I’m just so fascinated by people. I want to know people’s stories. I just liked talking and meeting people.”

Tommy began his professional photography career in Ybor City, taking photos of events in different venues. “That’s a trial by fire, when it comes to photography. And I started doing bars and clubs and got paid to do that. It just became a passion of mine, especially capturing people.”

Eventually, Tommy—who describes himself as “super nerdy” and knowing more about Star Trek than is good for him—got into IT. That is how he met his now fiancée Shaun, an application developer. “I moved to IT business consulting, and she had to back up all the BS I told customers.”

When they got together, Shaun was newly divorced and living with her kids in a nice house in Ocala. Tommy had a dog and a “crappy apartment.” He decided to move. That was seven years ago. “When I first came here, I think Infinite [Ale Works] just opened up. We walked around town. It was at a time where everything was closed up, boarded up. And just to see how it grew in that time was absolutely jaw-dropping to me.”

Tommy admits that finding his place in the community was tough at first. “There wasn’t a large, young, liberal group down here. A lot of [people] were a lot older than me. And then I joined the YPO [Young Professionals of Ocala], and then I went to my first YPO [gathering] at The Keep.” He met the owners, who started introducing him to people. “I met pretty much all my friends through Mark and Megan and the YPO, so I’m extremely thankful to them.”


“I call my cameras security blankets a lot of times,” Tommy grins. “I always have a camera on me. I have three today. I have two film cameras and a digital. I started doing my [own] processing, and it’s a lot easier than it used to be. You don’t need a dark room anymore to do it.”

Tommy does most of his work in camera, rarely touching up photos later. “It’s interesting to see what people are like in unfiltered moments. I don’t do portraits. I like people in their serious moments. I like people in their non-serious moments. I like when people are just like real people.

“Going back to one of my favorite photographers, Klein,” Tommy continues. “His whole thing was that he got into the mix of it. I’m trying to do more of that.

Tommy uses photography to handle his depression and anxiety. “To me, photography is a lot of therapy. I went to therapy my entire life. I found that photography is a good outlet, if I need time to myself or if I need a reason to be somewhere or I just need to get out. It’s really been a lifesaver for me.”

This photographer can be glimpsed wandering the streets of Ocala. Tommy loves when people come up to him to ask about his camera or request a photo, so make sure to say “Hi!” the next time you see him.


Follow on Instagram @theamazingtomm y


Watch the full interview on YouTube. It airs May 12, 2023.

I’m just so fascinated by people.
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— Tommy Cuevas

Go For It



THE ARTS localamag.com 10

“Iconsider myself a child of the world,” says Jessi Miller, graphic design artist and owner of Little Black Mask Media. “My parents were kind of hippies. We did a lot of traveling around.”

Jessi has lived all over the North American continent, including some parts of Hawaii, and the Caribbean. The constant travel made for a very exciting childhood, but it was one without connection. “I didn’t have a community throughout my life. It was just the whole world.”

In search of that community, Jessi and her family moved to Ocala some 20 years ago. “I enjoy growing roots and giving that to my kids. My children weren’t born here, but they were raised here.”

Despite her cultured upbringing, Jessi hasn’t found Ocala to be lacking in any way. “You could say it’s limited in size, but it’s so beautiful. I used to say, ‘There is a symphony, a museum, two Indian restaurants, a Thai restaurant, and it’s two hours from anything you might want to do that isn’t here. Anything else I can cope with.’”

Jessi lives a more stationary lifestyle now, but she still values her unconventional upbringing. “I love traveling. I think it’s the best education. It’s more valuable than school in many ways.”

Part of that education included fostering an environment that encouraged artistic talent. “Everyone is born an artist,” Jessi insists. “That doesn’t mean you’re good at it, but anyone can do it, even the people who say they only draw stick figures.”

However, adolescent Jessi was pretty sure she wasn’t just anyone. “We all have to take a humble pill at some point,” she says sheepishly. “In high school, I was a good art student, and I had some talent. I thought I was just going to go right to work and get a job in an ad agency. “

Jessi informed her art teacher, Ms. Dixon of Fort Lauderdale High School, about her grand plans to become a working artist once she graduated. “She said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about; you need to go to college.’ I’m so happy I took her advice.” “I went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for advertising and design,” Jessi explains. “I learned how much I didn’t know.”


Initially, Jessi found the graphic design world bleak. “I was in ad agencies for about seven years out of college,” she recalls. “One day, I realized, ‘I’m just making things people throw away.’ I kind of felt like I had lost my soul.”

Magazine publishing helped Jessi develop a more positive outlook. “I felt more like I was telling stories again. There are still ads to make inside of a magazine and you’re still selling something, but you can do it with a story. It’s also a product people usually hold on to and engage with.”

The dissatisfaction Jessi felt working for ad agencies is tied to her personal philosophy regarding art and its purpose. “Art is the greatest catalyst for change in the world,” she claims. “Art helps us imbue concepts into our culture that we might be resistant to, but once we accept them, then they can become reality.”

Jessi points to the television show Will and Grace and its impact on the broader cultural acceptance of gay marriage. “There’s something to being entertained and being able to accept a concept passively. You get used to it and see it’s fine.”


Though art has remained a constant in Jessi’s life, she wasn’t always certain about a career in graphic design. “For a time, I thought I was going to be a traditional artist, but they starve before they’re successful. I went with the more practical choice.”

It was a choice made with some measure of regret. “I really love what I do, but I always tell young people that the biggest mistake I made was not having the confidence to really go for it,” Jessi laments. “When you’re young, you don’t really have responsibility, so you can make those sacrifices. If you think you will just do it on the side or later in life, it’s really hard, because it does take a lot of time. It’s not just creating the art but marketing it and marketing yourself.

“I love painting, and if that’s all I did, it would be awesome,” Jessi shares. “I paint bright, colorful paintings. When I paint people, I don’t like to do natural skin colors. Not that you won’t recognize who that person is, but I want people to relate to the human and what they’re doing in that painting versus their race or where they came from.”

Jessi wishes she could dedicate more time to her personal art, but with the demand for visual communication growing and the recent launch of Go52 Events–a charitable events website dedicated to hosting all the events Ocala has to offer–it seems like she is going to be busier than ever. “I guess it’s something I’ll be able to work on after I retire,” she laughs.

LEARN MORE littleblackmask.com go52.com


Watch the full interview on YouTube. It airs May 19, 2023.

THE ARTS localamag.com 11
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Chews Letter

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Photo by Joshua Jacobs
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The Bridge



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“Growing up, I was the little girl in the kitchen watching my mom cook and waiting for a spoonful of something,” remembers Emmeline Basulto.

Today, she’s turned that “spoonful of something” into so much more. The youngest of three children, Emmeline was born in West Palm Beach. She was still a toddler when her mother moved their family to New York City.

“My mother is from the Dominican Republic. I grew up knowing food can tell a story, share cultures, and bring people together,” says Emmeline, who wanted to be a veterinarian, not a chef, when she was young.


When Emmeline was a teenager, her mother decided to move back to Florida. “I had all my friends and school and didn’t want to leave the city, so I stayed,” says Emmeline, who was 16 when she began living with her grandmother and occasionally crashing at friends’ places.

“I had no choice but to grow up. It was tough, but I did what I had to do,” says Emmeline, who has always worked in the food and beverage industry—from Indian, Italian, and Mexican restaurants to blues clubs, bartending, mixology, and catering.

In addition to working in restaurants, Emmeline sold her abstract acrylic paintings on the street. “My last job in New York City was inside sales, working at a food distributing company. I’m a good negotiator and loved that job. I was talking to chefs all day about food and sourcing items, which helped me tremendously in my own business,” she says. “Being a great chef goes beyond good presentation: It takes managing your staff, your kitchen, and your food costs.”

El Puente means ‘the bridge.’


Then, the pandemic changed everything.

“My job furloughed all their employees and told me to collect unemployment,” recalls Emmeline, who soon saw that extra money as an opportunity to leave New York. “I was getting tired of the fast pace and wanted a different environment. I always felt I was going to end up in Florida, because my family was here. It was just a matter of getting tired of the city.”

Her mother and sister encouraged her to move to Ocala where they were living, which is how Emmeline arrived here in the summer of 2020.

Not knowing exactly what she would do for work, she began exploring art opportunities. “For a small town, there was a huge art community,” says Emmeline, who was painting regularly through the lockdown.


A big fan of the Food Network show Top Chef, Emmeline began toying with the idea of opening a sandwich shop. She realized that while there were plenty of sandwich places, there weren’t as many Hispanic food options. “A main reason I wanted to do a shop was because I know how much waste there is in the restaurant industry,” she says.

Her next step was nothing short of divinely inspired. “I had given my life to Christ and completely surrendered to Him. It was the best decision ever,” says Emmeline. “Little by little, He exposed parts of me and gave me a platform to serve others, because He knows I love to do that.”

At the time, she was preparing for an art show on December 5, 2021, at Workspace Collective in downtown Ocala. She’d decided to cater the show herself. As she was praying about it, she clearly felt God telling her, “Feed the homeless.” Emmeline took that seriously.

On Christmas Day 2021, she prepared 30 plates of food and handed them out to people on the streets. She has continued doing this on a weekly basis ever since.

At the start of 2022, Emmeline officially launched El Puente Catering. “El Puente means ‘the bridge.’ It represents New York City and all its bridges. It’s also my way of bridging my family to yours through food,” she explains.

Although she started the business from her own kitchen, today, Emmeline is cooking out of a commercial kitchen facility in Ocala. Customers book her services online or through social media.

Among her favorite dishes to make is Pollo Guisado, a hearty chicken stew of comfort food that reminds her of childhood.

“When I was on my own in New York City, I’d call my mom and ask how she made certain things,” says Emmeline, who routinely tweaked her mother’s recipes to add her own unique flair to a dish. She’s had no professional culinary or artistic training and is completely self-taught.

Emmeline, who is single, laughs that her Dalmatian, Zoomie, is a lot like having a kid. She radiates happiness as she shares her food and art. As the catering business expands, food is taking up more of her time—which is just fine by Emmeline.

“There’s so much to come, but for now I’m just keeping it simple with food and art,” she smiles. “It’s all God. My business belongs to Him; I just manage it. He gives me the ideas, and I trust my instincts.” LEARN MORE

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— Emmeline Basulto

August 10th • 7:00PM

An Evening of Stories and Inspiration

Benefiting Marion County Literacy Council

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Belonging Somewhere


Even though Matt Wardell, CEO and Artistic Director of the Reilly Arts Center and beloved conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, had been a percussionist since middle school, he never played in a symphony during his school career. “I banged on things. I loved it. I thought I wanted to be a middle school band director for a long time, mainly because I had such an affinity for my band director.”

Matt was intrigued.

“It’s crazy. I remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s a little different than what I thought about Beethoven or Mozart. That dude seems like a real dude.’”

Although Matt played only a chime for that piece, it was the first time that he felt he was a part of something bigger.

“That experience, I felt like I belonged somewhere. That sort of started the orchestra [thing].”

He went to a music festival, right after high school, where he played in his first orchestra. Performing Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” changed his life. The piece tells the story of a man who is suffering from unrequited love and takes opium to end his life. Instead, he hallucinates that he has killed his love and ended up in hell.


Because of his profile in the community, Matt’s

I deal with depression and anxiety and things, and my favorite thing to do when I feel like that is to just sit down at the piano and play.
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story is familiar. He passed up a scholarship to the University of Memphis and started touring around Florida with a band. Tired of the night life, Matt emailed the University of Florida (UF) and entered their music program. He eventually completed a masters and pursued a doctorate.

“When I first went to UF, I really thought I wanted to be a composer,” Matt says. “because I had dabbled in that for a while. And the problem for me was that I heard so much great music from other people, I was like, ‘Well, I can’t do that.’ Now that I feel a little more stable for a second, I’ve been thinking about composing more.”

Matt has composed pieces for Ocala Symphony Orchestra to perform, including a soundtrack to the silent film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. “When I’m writing for a performance, there’s usually a story I want

to tell, a feeling or a place that can inspire.”


Matt admits that, sometimes, he has a hard time connecting with music, especially when he is struggling with his mental health. “I feel like I’m not participating with it in a way that I should be. I’m not doing enough or I’m not good enough. Just that whole depressive cloud

messes up that music for me. That’s why I just like going to the piano, because that’s not that.

“I deal with depression and anxiety and things, and my favorite thing to do when I feel like that is to just sit down at the piano and play,“ he explains. “That’s sort of pure emotion, trying to speak through whatever you’re doing.”

Matt also deals with the other side of depression: mania. “When

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I’m the opposite, when I’m on the upswing of really feeling good, I get a lot of work done. I get so much work done. I work in spurts. That’s when I tend to engage the most.”

Matt recognizes that, regardless of how he feels, he still has a job to do, but his experiences have made him a better conductor. “Me dealing with my own stuff helped me be way more empathetic with the musicians I work with, because I know a lot of conductors who are not empathetic, which is crazy because all we do is empathy. All we’re doing is taking someone else’s feelings from 200 or 300 years ago or yesterday and then we’re trying to read that and show it to other people, so if you can’t find empathy—or at least sympathy—something’s wrong. I feel like you’re not effective.”

That empathy has also made him a favorite with audiences. “What I really love, especially about the audience that we’ve built in Ocala, is they know us really well. They know I’m not a monocle and top hat type.

“That divide that you feel with some orchestras,” Matt continues, “where there’s the musicians and the conductor, who doesn’t even talk. He just comes out and looks at you and turns around and kind of just goes away when that’s over. We’re not quite like that.”


Matt has had the opportunity to teach all kinds of students, most recently at Georgia Tech over the summer of 2022. “Students who are in school to be music teachers or musicians, my goal is to help them be better musicians and better teachers. When it was students that were there for another reason, I still want to teach them to be better musicians, but I just kind of realized I want to support them for what they’re doing.”

Georgia Tech offers music classes but no degree programs. “It’s got all engineers and other [people who] want to keep music in their lives,” Matt describes. “So, it was a totally different vibe from my perspective. It was really cool.”

Matt did have to rethink his role as a conductor and his purpose for being there. But he kept the three

questions he always asks his students as his guideposts: 1) What are you passionate about? 2) What can I do to make you better and reach those goals? 3) What can you do to impact the world around you?

If music was helping engineering students “do their thing” better, then Matt wanted to help them. “That’s why I love teaching.”


The first time Matt conducted with the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, they performed “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor.” “Basically, ‘9’ is one of those pieces that’s kind of up on a pedestal a little bit, and I remember—we were at the Queen of Peace at the time—I remember leaving the… altar area and going to the back and just being like ‘man…’ It was an emotional moment. It was finished, and it felt really good and fun.”

Matt has also partnered with Chad Taylor and Insomniac Theatre to stage Broadway musicals. “I love working on the


stage. It’s more of that connection between people, especially when there’s words involved.

I think of Sweeny Todd a lot. Even Avenue Q, where I wasn’t necessarily a conductor conductor…” For that show, he worked the sound booth.

His approach to directing voices is a little different than his approach with players of musical instruments. Here, he intentionally employs empathy, because the type of day a singer has had can greatly impact their performance. “It doesn’t mean we don’t get frustrated, but you always leave room for that.”

He loves hearing the audience’s reaction to the performance and will often stand in the background afterwards to listen to commentary. “I just love them going, ‘Oh, did you hear that one piece? Oh my gosh! I thought that flute was going to catch on fire!’ They say wild things. And I just love the chatter, because you know you’ve given something away.”

See the full interview on YouTube @localapodcast or listen on your favorite podcast app.

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Artist Corner

Photo submitted by Appleton Museum of Art, Brenda Flynn in her van, LuLuBelle, which she covered in mosaic.
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Photo by Rosa Campbell, courtesy of artist.



When asked how she feels about the decorated horses’ iconic status, Brenda declares, “I was so honored to have been amongst all of the artists participating in the first Horse Fever art project and still am. It makes me extremely proud that 'Journey' is a particular favorite of so many people. I always love to hear people as they remark on her, as I stand back and observe their reactions.”

For those new to the area or not in the know, it’s easy to assume Ocala has artsy horses simply because it is the Horse Capital of the World. It began in 2001, when the Marion Cultural Alliance, with assistance from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, sent a call out to local artists to create the “first herd” of over 50 decorated horses for the public art project Horse Fever. The now iconic horses were put up for auction, and proceeds supported local arts and charities, with four “herds” introduced.

One such piece is stabled in the lobby of the Appleton Museum of Art: “Journey” by Brenda Flynn, decorated with mosaic tiles.

“When I was approached by Stan Davis, the former advertising manager at the [Ocala] StarBanner, to create art for one of the first horses to be displayed in public places, I immediately agreed to the task,” Brenda says. “I chose to create the art for the horse using mosaic objects gathered from anyone who worked at the StarBanner. I received costume jewelry, computer

keyboard keys, broken plates, and random plastic toy parts. Originally, it was to be a team project, a collaboration of staff artists, but it was hard to come down to the paper storage room to work after putting in long hours in the newsroom. So, I chose the name “Journey,” because she was just that, a creation of work that took me from creation to completion, trial and error, and many long hours of placing tiles, creating patterns and swirls in Gaudí-like fashion,” explains Brenda.

An Ocala native, Brenda worked at the Ocala StarBanner newspaper for 27 years as a graphic artist, illustrator, and writer. She has also participated in a few other public art projects, saying, “I have always believed that art in any form can enhance public areas in a positive manner. The good thing about public art in the form of mosaics is that it endures the outside elements, and people can be interactive with it physically.”

Brenda now lives in Ormond-by-theSea in Volusia County and continues to create mosaic works from paper and other upcycled materials.

LEARN MORE appletonmuseum.org

Photo submitted by Appleton Museum of Art, “Journey” by Brenda Flynn. by KERRY ELKINS, Museum Specialist at Appleton Museum of Art
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Kyle Corley ARTIST Q&A

My favorite fine arts are either impressionistic or abstract in nature. Kandinsky is my dude.

for love and creativity. I do my best to let life flow through me, rather than myself through life.

What type of an artist are you?

I'm a musician and a painter, who focuses mostly on acrylics. My art can be either figurative or abstract. Honestly, I don't know what "style" it is.

What types of art and culture do you like to consume?

I like to explore the arts to see what's beyond an easy reach. With music, I love Turkish psychedelia, Ethiopian jazz, and anything funky from anywhere.

Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art?

Oh yeah, of course. As a Zen practitioner, a major focus in my life is to nurture a beginner's mind: the "don't know" mind. To "know" of a painting while I'm working on it has already created distance from what is, what is actually happening. I let the art take care of itself while I witness the unfolding, the same way I tend to the garden of life. What is this painting going to be? Don't know. Who is the one painting it? Don't know.

What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I've found my role in life is to simply be a conduit

How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? Authenticity. When a person deliberately lives as a phony persona, that is a wasted life to me. I don't necessarily have anything I hope to accomplish; hope can be a deceptive notion. I'd rather rely on immediate action, constant improvement.

How can we support you? My art Instagram is @professordumbledoobie , which functions primarily as a portfolio. My band is Glizzy Gillespie. We have music out on Spotify, Apple Music, all that good stuff.

Kyle Corley is a versatile artist, who skillfully blends music, painting, and Zen philosophy in his work. He has an eclectic taste in music and artistic influences and a unique approach to creativity and life. Photo submitted by KYLE CORLEY
As a Zen practitioner, a major focus in my life is to nurture a beginner's mind: the "don't know" mind.
localamag.com 27
— Kyle Corley
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