Stella Gallerie is very proud to present ‘Anxiety Est. 03,’ a collection of new paintings by Chicago-based multimedia artist Sergio Farfán.
‘Anxiety Est. 03’ (which occupies both Stella Gallerie in Miami and Public Studio in Tampa, and is presented in partnership with Chicago’s Vertical Gallery) features close to three dozen new canvases grappling with the seminal moment in Farfán’s life to date: his family’s abrupt relocation from their native Peru to the United States — a tectonic shift that set in motion his childhood anxiety, but also directly inspired his career as an artist. Farfán will be in attendance when ‘Anxiety Est. 03’ opens at Stella Gallerie on Thursday, Sept. 22, and will travel to Tampa for the Public Studio opening on Saturday, Sept. 24.
‘Anxiety Est. 03’ explores childhood trauma through the lens of Farfán’s signature cartoon-cubism approach, poignantly yet playfully bringing to life the emotions and experiences that reshaped his adolescence upon arriving in America in 2003. Farfán’s parents did not inform him about the family’s relocation plans: in fact, the animation-obsessed seven-year-old boarded their plane believing he was en route to a Disney World vacation. While the aircraft briefly touched down in Miami, the Farfáns continued on to Chicago, where Sergio struggled to adjust both to his new surroundings and to the absence of his extended Peruvian family — a struggle that manifested as crippling anxiety.
“I remember being in Peru and not having any anxiety. I was a normal, happy kid,” Farfán says. “But flying from Peru to Florida and then from Florida to Chicago, my heart started racing and I was nauseous. I was shaking and sweating. It was not until my freshman year in high school that I was diagnosed with anxiety, and that led me to art therapy. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to deal with my anxiety and using art as a form of meditation.”
Farfán credits art therapy — a technique that utilizes creative expression as a means to address a patient’s negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors — for giving him the tools necessary to bring a project like ‘Anxiety Est. 03’ to fruition.
“Art therapy didn’t just teach me how to draw, but also to draw whatever I felt, and to put meaning into it,” he explains. “‘Anxiety Est. 03’ processes what I felt coming from Peru to the U.S. — what anxiety did to me, and how I dealt with it. Each painting tells stories about coming to America: what immigrants experience to come here, and what life is like when we get here.”
‘Anxiety Est. 03’ represents the culmination of a long and winding creative process. Farfán originally conceived the series in 2017, one of four ongoing collections of paintings he launched that year; in preparation for this exhibit, he completed and reimagined works in progress since five years earlier, concurrently continuing the ‘Anxiety Est. 03’ series with brand-new pieces that delve deeper into his core thematic concerns and demonstrate his evolving mastery of color. For example, both “Color Esperanza” (on display in Tampa) and the ‘Anxiety Est. 03’ title painting (exhibiting in Miami) confront anxiety’s chokehold on Farfán’s psyche, but while the former is serene and contemplative, the latter delivers Picasso-inspired anarchy, complete with appearances by animation icons Tom and Jerry.
“Back in 2017, I was in a very bad mindset. I was sharing very personal stuff in my paintings, and It now feels very immature. So I went back and painted over everything I don’t want people to know, because it’s all behind me now,” Farfán says. “It felt like I was collaborating with my younger self. In fact, it almost feels like we’re two different people, because we all change every day. But I still really like the paintings from back then, because they show a lot of character.”
Vertical Gallery first displayed Farfán’s work in a 2016 holiday-themed pop-up exhibit, and included several of his canvases in its 2019 and 2020 anniversary shows. In late 2020, Vertical presented ‘Looking for Dreams in a Kan of Soup,’ a solo pop-up that explored the artist’s debt to his boyhood hero Andy Warhol while simultaneously embracing a more abstract approach that escaped Warhol’s shadow altogether — an approach that informed the dazzlingly colorful, mind-bending work presented in Farfán’s first full-fledged solo exhibit, 2021’s ‘Five Years.’
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