by Barry Dougherty

Painting is not just Cesar Rodrigues’ passion; it is also a testament to overcoming disabilities and showcasing artistic adaptability. Suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Rodrigues learned at an early stage in his career to continue his work, not with limitations but with artistic ingenuity. Spending much of his childhood in and out of hospitals dealing with pneumonia and surgeries, Rodrigues was inspired by the vibrant drawings framed on the hospital walls, attempting to recreate them to pass the time. Initially, he began his artistic journey painting and drawing with brushes and pencils, creating images of people, landscapes, and animals but in his early twenties, he lost most of the strength in his right hand. “That’s when the process of creating art changed,” says Rodriques. He started exploring abstract painting, “I would pour paint out of a cup onto the canvas and control the movement of the paint using gravity by tilting the canvas,” he recalls.

As his disability progressed, rather than abandon his profession the artist chose to face his challenges head-on by creating a system that allowed him to continue his zeal for art and foster his career. “I then lost a lot of strength in my left hand and wasn’t able to physically hold the cup of paint anymore, so I designed a blueprint of a painting box that allows me to continue painting abstract using technology,” explains Rodrigues. During this time he reached out to Easterseals for guidance and assistance. The non-profit organization provides services to people with disabilities, and inspired by Rodrigues’ commitment to his craft funded and built his very own painting system. As a result, Rodrigues is now able to pour the paint onto the canvas using Bluetooth through his phone, with the cup attached to a linear actuator. The device provides both push and pull movements, allowing him to create images without the use of his hands.

Untitled 26, 2014 Acrylic & Beads on Canvas 24″ x 36″

Rodrigues has fashioned his own unique signature through both imagery and technique. The textures and depth of his paintings have created an innovative styling, which he has developed and enhanced over the years. He acknowledges, “Every piece evokes different sights, sounds, emotions, and memories for each person.” It’s been said that Rodrigues’ paintings seem to take the point of view of a satellite, as if they were taking images from above the earth. At times his paintings seem mysterious as if they depicted undiscovered lands or planets. “I feel my artwork expresses freedom. It’s not a one-way street when it comes to these works. They take your mind in many directions, leaving the door open for many conversations,” he admits.

Cesar with family and friends during the opening reception at Agora Gallery

Using a technique inspired by adversity, Rodrigues’ works take the viewer on a journey within his or her own imagination. “I enjoy hearing the different things people see in each painting,” he says, noting, “Sometimes the things they see can have a deep meaning. Sometimes it can be simple like an animal or face, or it can be something funny, so it’s all different emotions depending on the person.” Deep purples, fiery crimsons, greens that glow, and bright yellows that fade to flaxen ripple across his canvases amid textured ravines. One might construe a rogue blue eye peering down into a torrent of chaotic amber lava, a pulsating red heart connected to deep green arteries or perhaps a hostile turquoise creek splashing through purple shores–many mysteries for one’s imagination to uncover at a glance.

Rodrigues became profoundly committed to his art after an episode in the hospital left him gasping for breath. “There was chaos all around me, people running in from all different directions. I remember while all of this was happening I was staring at the clock above the room door and I started praying, asking the most high if my time was up? With a guilty conscience, I started begging him to give me one more chance, and I would change my ways and live for his purpose. That I would take the gift of art that he gave me more seriously and use his gift to help others. Three days later I woke up from a coma and I thanked the most high. I’ve been living with a righteous purpose and mission ever since.” True to his word, Rodrigues has dedicated his career to creating riveting masterpieces that intrigue the eye and inspire imagination. Viewers of his work are captivated by these gifts that he has dedicated to them.

Today, Rodrigues is genuinely touched by the reactions of those who observe his work. “I believe it’s mostly because of my condition and the size of the paintings,” he claims. But his extraordinary talent is quite evident with every image he creates. With his work seen at Agora Gallery, in Manhattan, as well as Dzian Gallery and Arts Worcester Gallery, both in Massachusetts, he is getting high praise for doing what he loves. Through his resilience and tenacity, Rodrigues has not only been able to forge a successful career but also create thought-provoking and extraordinary pieces of art that please observers and kindle emotion.

More artworks by Cesar Rodrigues are available for sale on the artist’s ARTmine page.

Barry Dougherty is a New York writer whose articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Antiques and the Arts Weekly, and The News Times, among others. He is the author of several books including How To Do It Standing Up and The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes. He has been the head writer for the Friars Club Roasts and is a contributing writer on the Living Out Loud: Writers Riff on Love, Sweat & Fears essay tour. He is the principal of BMD Communications, a multi-faceted writing services company specializing in writing, editing and PR.

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