Esaí Alfredo Figueroa Ruiz (b. 1997) is a painter and printmaker from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. He began making art at an early age by copying scenes from movies to paper, which would significantly influence his current work. From 2010 to 2015, Esaí attended Escuela Especializada En Bellas Artes Anita Otero, in Humacao, Puerto Rico. While there, he learned the basics of painting, drawing, and printmaking. During those years, he started using art as a medium of expression and communication, focusing primarily on his experience as a queer kid. After finishing high school, he decided to take a sabbatical year and take advanced drawing courses at Atelier San Juan, under the guidance of Luis Borrero and Amber Lea Kloppel. The following year he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he graduated with a BFA in illustration and painting (2020). His final presentation, Nocturnal World, was a series of oil paintings on the theme of light pollution and how it has erased the stars from the sky, something so crucial to the history of humankind.
During his post-graduation stay in Philadelphia, Esaí was part of several group exhibitions, such as Tenses: Queer Bodies Through Time, at the William Way LGBT Community Center. In 2021, he returned to his hometown Yabucoa, where he works as a full-time artist. That same year, Esaí presented his first solo show entitled Lo Que Paso en Yabucoa, at Embajada Gallery in San Juan, PR. The show is about a fictional story in which his hometown (Yabucoa) witnesses mysterious extra-terrestrial events, eventually becoming an unpredictable nocturnal invasion.
To this day, I vividly remember the glow I noticed on the horizon through an airplane window. The lights of a distant city illuminated the sky as if the morning had approached. That night, I became aware of one of our impacts on nature. In this case, how light pollution has erased the starry skies from our minds.
This has been the subject matter of my work for the past three years. While each series of images I have created tells a unique story, light pollution and the detachment of humankind from the cosmos is always a vital element in my stories. My thesis presentation, Mundo Nocturno, is a short visual story based on my transition from a rural town with starry nights into a city. A city where the lights of skyscrapers are the only thing resembling the stars. My next series of paintings, Lo Que Paso En Yabucoa, is about a sudden nocturnal invasion, which begins with mysterious events and signs occurring in the night sky. But, in a world where the sky is full of artificial artifacts, how can we distinguish between objects made by humans and those made by outside intelligence?
My current project in development is inspired by the short story Nightfall (1941), written by Isaac Asimov. In this, a civilization living in eternal daytime suddenly witnesses an eclipse that reveals the stars for the first time.
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