Have you ever casually created a work of art, and ended up with a stunning result that elevates you to the status of most coveted artisan in the city in less than a couple of years? That’s Patricio Correa‘s brilliant, inspiring story. The one we all wish we had. Perhaps even one that lives within each of us, waiting to be teased out.

After meeting Correa at the opening for his current exhibit at Galeria Toledo, in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, I left completely inspired. To keep creating, inventing, believing in my vision, and to keep on trying something new.

One of Correa’s most coveted new pieces above, center.

The Dominican-born artist, with Cuban and Spanish ancestry, started his professional life with a career in fashion design. Market shifts tanked the fashion industry in Santo Domingo, and led him to transition to public relations. His interest in PR combined with a booming tourism sector, and Correa turned his attention towards the world of arts and crafts.

While focused on helping Dominican artisans market their goods, he realized that the DR was lacking in items made locally, and items that reflected its diverse heritage. Many items sold were made in China, and Bali, rather than materials found right here in the DR. Correa started designing his own pieces, made of local materials, including paintings and themes that reflected Dominican culture and landscape–the Taino, the faceless figurines, and… tropical fish.

“Look at Haiti for example. Haitians are wonderful people, super talented in art. Once you cross their borders, what they sell in their art is the culture of Haiti, in those paintings. So I started working with what is ‘ours.'”

Having been to Haiti a couple of years ago and seen the talent first hand, I didn’t disagree.

In his experiment to bring back the Dominican in art, Correa started a line of fish after realizing that fish-designs were popular. At a fair, he had sold out of plates with fish painted on them. Then one day, he saw a large piece of wood in his backyard, grabbed it, and started carving the ends into fish features. He later painted it, added recycled items found in his area, and resin for a fine finish. He took that piece to an arts and crafts seller, who was amazed and bought it wholesale without hesitation. By the following week, the piece had sold.

“I thought, wow, how about that?” Correa tells me.

It has now been just a year and a half since the “fish guy” has been at it, and each time the pieces–made with recycled items, including door handles, ends of shovels, or palm leaves–get more unique and spectacular. Correa’s vibrant fish are now a coveted home collector’s item. 

“No two pieces are identical – and that’s on purpose. No one will be able to duplicate the originality in my work. So I keep creating and I never get bored working. In fact, I never know how a fish will end up looking until I’m done.”

Correa has a workshop in Santo Domingo, where his wife and family also pitch in and help create these magnificent fish pieces. They make up to seven fish pieces per day.

My favorite piece. Look at those lips!
Posing with Patricio Correa at Galeria Toledo, currently exhibiting his pieces.

Ever since I started following his Instagram feed, I’ve been hooked on seeing what the next fish will look like. And just like the Dominican Republic, his work is full of surprises.

“You never know,” he agrees, when I mention that you have to keep trying your hand at different things to hit success in life.

In hindsight, one could say that life simply brought Correa back full circle–to the artesanía he learned and practiced when he was 12.

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A special line of Patricio Correa’s fish pieces are currently on display and sale (and selling fast) at the lovely Galeria Toledo, in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. Prices range from $US80-$800.

Lebawit Lily Girma

A former corporate attorney, Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for US-publisher Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic. Originally from Ethiopia, Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–fluent in four languages, she has lived in eight countries besides the U.S., including Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Her articles and photography focusing on the Caribbean region have been published in AFAR Magazine, CNN, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

2 Comments

  1. Beautiful art! A lot of creativity. I have been following his work and I am definetly a fan.

    • Lebawit Lily Girma

      I agree Evelyn, so beautiful! I loved the pieces you have; you definitely have a nose for the next big thing. 🙂 Thanks for the invite to the opening!

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