Daniel Velazquez: an artist with a mission

My friend, Daniel Velazquez is an artist, photographer, and filmmaker residing in Belize. I met Daniel on my 2004 summer volunteer trip to Belize to study ocelots in the jungle. I came through town (San Ignacio) on my way to the forest and met him hanging around a favorite volunteer joint, Eva's kitchen and bar. He is a friend of the project I was volunteering for, and had done a fair amount of filming and photographing at the site (which was 2 hours into the jungle at the Las Cuevas Research Station).

At the time, Daniel was working on a series of paintings which featured red-eyed tree frogs in his artistic interpretation of the forest. His residence hosted a number of these paintings, and felt like a forest itself with all the green paint and frogs. Daniel has since moved on to a number of other projects, and is now working on creating his own studio and space for artists. He is also in the midst of editing one of his many documentaries.

Daniel's up and coming artist space

Like many people in his country, Daniel believes in living life simply and sustainably. The majority of his pieces and his films demonstrate this lifestyle. His message is one of conservation and a love for the world and wildlife that surround him. Many of his pieces demonstrate a level of social commentary, and often comments on how materialism and consumerism has "consumed" our society. His gas mask series is made up of mixed-media, paintings, prints, and photographs, and have obvious messages that we could all afford to heed.



All photos copyright Daniel Velazquez

Daniel first started working in film as a subject and production coordinator for a National Geographic series, Tales of Belize, working with natural history filmmakers Richard And Carol Foster (whom I also met at the research station in 2004). Daniel owns two production companies which create multiple documentaries. He has done film work for many conservation organizations in Belize. An example of his work is Izzie's story, the heartwarming story of a rescued monkey brought to the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic (BWRC). If you want to see a tiny monkey in a leopard-printed cast, you're gonna want to check it out...



I wanted to know more about Daniel, and his roots in conservation. So he agreed to an online interview with me. Here it is...

Q: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

A: I grew up in South Gate, California, in LA county. It was a very industrialized city, with many polluting factories along the LA river. It was a crazy time my childhood, and as a child I loved hopping the train, exploring old factories, climbing trees. As a teenager we were all into hip hop and metal, at my time in the 80s we were into our music and partying. South Gate produced bands like Slayer and Cypress Hill, and Slayer used to play our back yard parties. I actually used to drink 40s with the Cypress Hill tribe. There were a lot of garage bands around at the time.

Q: How did you become interested in art?

A: As a child in school, I was a victim of the newly implemented ESD (English as a Second Dialect) system. My parents are from Mexico, so I learned English in school in order to fit in with the other kids. While learning, I drew pictures. I was good at art, and other students used to ask me to draw on their folders. The teacher would also ask me to draw something for the art contests, which I always won.

Q: How did you become interested in wildlife, conservation and rescue?

A: In 1994 I joined the US peace corps, and got invited to serve in Belize. I started working with the Belize Zoo in the implementation of a Green Iguana conservation project, and there I got the opportunity to work in all types of wildlife conservation. Today I document wildlife rescue, for public awareness and education. Most of the time I do it as an art project. I find that art is the best communicator, the language we all speak for the rich and the poor - and it's free.

Q: What are the major messages you display with your art?

A: My message is always environmental. A healthy environment will produce a healthy life for everyone and everything. It's personal for me as well. I love my job, it's never the same, I never know what's next. I love how I can learn so much by making a documentary about something positive, in a beautiful environment, to help people understand the reasons behind my subject matter and why it is important.

Q: What kind of organizations have you worked with?

A: I work in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations. Recently I have been helping Belize Wildlife Referral and Clinic with a campaign to raise votes for a contest, through social media and documentation. I'm also working with someone on opening an artist space gallery in San Ignacio town.

Self-portrait of Daniel

You can check out more of Daniel's video work at http://www.youtube.com/user/BelizeArts?feature=mhee, and more of his art at http://guanamon.deviantart.com/.

Comments

  1. WOW! These are awesome! Great job and well deserved having them published.

    http://www.wildliferescuemagazine.com/worming-of-flying-fox-pups.html

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