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                                                 ABOUT THE MAESTRO FERJO

Where Dream Meets Reality Surrealist artist Ferjo creates a whimsical world of contradictions. By Holly Jackson ABN Editorial Assistant  A fish and strawberry adorn the canvas to represent life; a butterfly is suspended in the air to represent freedom. And such is the multifaceted work of Brazilian-born artist Ferjo, whose art—created in his signature Surrealist style—make up a body of work as diverse as the items floating in his artwork. “A teacher at my school told me I had something that nobody had—this ability to paint portraits and landscapes,” the artist says. “It’s more difficult because there are millions of artists who paint classically. That’s why I paint ‘dream and reality.’ There’s almost a classical theme, and at the same time, it’s a dream when you look at it.”  Born Fernando de Jesus Oliveira, Ferjo was raised in São Paulo, Brazil, where his artistic skills were recognized early on. In 1974, the young artist was invited to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on an exchange program after being commissioned to produce a portrait of an American family. The artist considers his time in school beneficial but believes true artistic talent comes from within. “No school can make a musician or an artist,” he says. “… I have is a gift given by God. But the school gave me a lot of experience and skill to face the world today.” After graduation, Ferjo toured Europe, and by the 1980s, he had established a distinct style—and fallen in love with a woman Leonardo Da Vinci may have loved as well. “I have a fascination for Mona Lisa, and I’ve been painting here since the 1980s,” he explains. “I have 136 Mona Lisas, some of them in museums in Germany, Brazil, and the United States.” Throughout this ongoing series, Ferjo has painted Mona Lisa in many styles and situations, ranging from depictions of her as a young, Italian beauty modeling a swimsuit to the famed lady wearing traditional Brazilian garb. But each portrait is, without question, the distinct and vibrant result of Ferjo’s vivid Surrealist-Realistic style heightened by pure emotion. “Every painting I do with love,” he says. After a stint producing portraits for the Brazilian Board of Tourism, he left his country to take up permanent residence in the United States, where he joined forces with publisher Katherina Perry in 1994. Despite his undeniable talent in portraiture, Ferjo did not wish to pigeon-hole himself as an artist. His now comprehensive body of work is diverse in both subject matter and the type of media employed. “I always love to paint everything; I think artists should have an open mind, so everything I see in front of me, I paint,” says Ferjo, who has now depicted subject matters ranging from cars, animals and other wildlife to turn-of-the-century settings and vintage items.” Like many great contemporary painters, influences from Dali and Picasso, among other Masters, are evident in his art, but Ferjo takes it a step further in a series dedicated to the artists in which their famous works appear as paintings on the walls of his Surreal worlds. “Those are the artists that inspire me, and I pay tribute to them,” he says. “I put their paint in my paint.” When the artist approaches a piece, whether it is of a car or an intricate room with a Chagall hanging on the wall, he starts with a pencil sketch. Acrylic paint follows, and he then uses oil to finish the piece. “The acrylics are more important to me because I can feel the paint,” Ferjo explains. “Acrylic is easy for you to paint and change the color if you want, but oil doesn’t help you that way, and you have to wait a couple of days for it to dry and come back.” Ferjo boasts experience in texture and mixed media, starting with his experimentation as a young artist in Brazil. Most recently, Ferjo has painted on wine bottles and mannequins, turning things that would be considered “castoffs” into artwork. After 15 years of working with him, Perry has nothing but praise for Ferjo. “There is something about the maestro that no one else really has,” she says. “It’s a touch of magic. The colors, the way he puts them together, it gives the painting life, and it’s almost like they bring it to life. It brings comfort and joy, and it gives people a smile.” But for Ferjo, the positive reaction from others is the result of his constant need to complete a piece that warms his own heart. “First of all, when I do the painting, I don’t think about anybody else; I think about myself and give it the best I can for me to feel happy about that piece,” he says. “The turnout is positive when people look at it and say, 'I love it.'” Even in an economic crunch on art sales, Ferjo has no time to halt the production of his dreamlike artwork. The artist recently had three shows in one month, after which his schedule continued with openings from coast to coast and plans for a debut in Shanghai soon. The married father of three was also honored this year when he was published in a book featuring the most influential Brazilians. The artist is pleased to have steady work in a field he loves. “I am very delighted,” he says. “I see how things are going, but I never stopped painting. I have a gallery that is waiting for more pieces. Is there a time for me to finish the painting? There is no such thing.” Ferjo’s dedication to his art is what keeps him afloat, and he’s proud to say that many of his collectors have decided his art is a “necessity.” “I succeed not because of the price I want in Brazil or here; I succeed because of my determination to succeed,” he says. “I love to paint, and I suspect the door will be open for me.” At age 53, Ferjo shows no signs of quitting the work he loves. “My paint is as unique as falling footsteps,” he says. “People tell me; I have a magic touch.” ABN

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