Ibeliz Guadalupe brings her ‘Universe’ to Alley Islands

The Columbus artist is one of 35 muralists featured in the daylong celebration of art and music, which takes place in the area around downtown gallery Blockfort on Saturday, May 4.
"You Are the Universe," in progress by Ibeliz Guadalupe
"You Are the Universe," in progress by Ibeliz GuadalupeAndy Downing

Painting a large-scale, outdoor mural comes with challenges. 

For artist Ibeliz Guadalupe, these included everything from sporadically chilly late April temperatures to the multifaceted texture of the wall on which she completed her painting, its surface including both traditional bricks and larger cement blocks – the latter of which absorbed far more paint in comparison, necessitating additional coats. 

“There’s also more variation in the brick with the cement blocks, where there are all of these little, tiny holes in there,” Guadalupe said in early May, where she was in the final stretch of completing her mural, dubbed “You Are the Universe” and located on East Lafayette Street across the road from Blockfort. The downtown gallery will serve as ground zero for Alley Islands, a daylong celebration of art and music set to take place from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 4

Guadalupe is one of 35 artists who in recent weeks have transformed the buildings around Blockfort into an outsized outdoor gallery, painting alongside the likes of Luka Weinberger, Raeghan Buchanan and Daniel Rona. It’s a colorful scene that will be given auditory life by the day’s musical performers, including Ebri Yahloe, Tha Audio Unit (featuring special guests) and the rapper Illogic, among others.

In conceiving her mural for Alley Islands, Guadalupe first knew she wanted it to be inspirational, and then the image progressed naturally from there, drawing on various aspects of her personality and her wide-ranging artistic styles. Constructed almost as a yin and yang, half of the mural feels organic, dominated by a series of wavy rays built from the central figure’s flowing black hair. The other half is more structured, leaning into Guadalupe’s design background and featuring a blocky sun built of geometric shapes. The painting is also dotted with wild pink hibiscus flowers, which appear regularly in the artist’s work and serve as her homage to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where she was born and raised.

Growing up in St. Croix, Guadalupe developed a deep connection with nature that has remained a constant in her work. When she was contracted to design a T-shirt for the Columbus Crew, for instance, she created an image that featured the Ginger Thomas – the official flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands. “It’s not always flowers,” she said, “but I do always include things that represent my island.”

Guadalupe said she has been an artist virtually from birth, and she can barely recall a time when she wasn’t creating something with her hands, whether she was drawing in her sketchbook or collecting seeds, wildflowers and woodchips and fashioning them into wild, freeform sculptures.

These more artistic leanings were shared by other members of her family, though Guadalupe said her siblings created strictly for themselves where she took steps to pursue a career in the arts. She first moved to Columbus to attend CCAD, where she earned a major in fashion and minor in art therapy. Following graduation, she spent seven years in New York working in fashion design before returning to Columbus – a place she has grown to accept as home alongside her island birthplace.

In spite of these travels, little has changed in terms of how Guadalupe approaches her creativity, which can take the form of beaded jewelry, small-scale paintings or giant, building-consuming murals, depending on her mood. She’s also yet to shed that artistic scavenger side she had as a child, collecting seeds and sticks from the grounds around the family’s home. Days after Guadalupe started painting on Lafayette, she said, workers swooped through to make repairs to a small strip of brick, which required chipping away a portion of the mortar she had already painted.

“It was a quick fix, thankfully,” she said, directing me toward the painted pieces of chipped mortar scattered at the foot of her mural. “And it already has me thinking, hmm, I could grab some of those and put them into something else I’m making. So, I think I’ll be grabbing some of those before I finish here completely.”

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