This story originally appeared on LX.com
Gustavo Oviedo is an artist from Miami and a recently naturalized citizen. He shares his perspective on the importance of the U.S. as a “shining light” for the rest of the world and why he thinks voting is so important.
This year, NBCLX has asked artists from across the U.S. to reimagine the “I Voted” sticker for 2020. The latest artist to take us up on our challenge is Gustavo Oviedo from Miami.
Oviedo created a collage on canvas using custom stencils and spraypaint. In a conversation with NBCLX storyteller Eric Rodriguez, Oviedo, who is a recently naturalized citizen, explained why he calls the U.S. “the bubble”: “When you're born in the bubble and you never get out of the bubble, you don't realize how beautiful the bubble is and how people outside the bubble look at it.”
You can find more of Oviedo’s artwork on his website and on Instagram at @1_3_1. And to find a digital version of his sticker – and our entire collection of artist-created "I Voted" stickers – search “LXtion2020” on Giphy.
Oviedo shared more of his thoughts about Miami, his own art, and why the right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted. This is what he told us in his own words. This transcript has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
My name is Gustavo Oviedo. I’m an artist over here in Miami, Florida.
I came to United States when I was 15 years old. My mother was American. She lived over here before me. I moved from France and basically I always visited her. I always visited for the summer. So I was pretty familiar with the United States in Miami. I always loved it. And at one point, my father had to move to China. So I decided to move over here to United States with her.
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I don't think there's any other city I would rather live in. I lived in California for a while, visited New York. But Miami is a very special place that I could relate and that I love.
I think I think Miami has a lot of layers of history… There's always been cultures that had to coexist over here, whether it was the Natives or the Spaniards or then the Seminoles or the Caribbeans or the Bahamians – everybody had to always cohabitate with each other. And it just became this melting pot of rich culture. And I think that that's why it's so vibrant. I think that that's where the strength of the city comes from, from the unity and the diversity that this city represents.
My mother was an artist. As I moved around different countries with her, she always had an art studio. So at one point I decided I wanted to be an artist except, you know, I didn't have her skills. She's a very talented artist. She knows how to draw figuratively. Like, she could draw you in a second. But for me, that doesn't come as natural. My talent is creativity. So I just started doing art in the streets… Hanging out with kids when I was really young in France, I would, paint on walls and with spray cans, I would write my name and… It gave me a creative outlet. You know, picking the colors of the letters, learning about style, learning about composition, learning about space.
For me, voting is a very new thing… The first time I voted, I was able to vote, was in 2018, and it was part of a long road of me becoming American by paper. You know, I've always felt American for a long time, but officially I didn't become American until I got naturalized. And part of the privilege that you have as a citizen is to vote. Voting is your voice, however small it might be, or it might feel that it is, within the big picture. It is important to exercise it because if we don't exercise it, we don't have a voice. Being able to say who you want to be [making] decisions that would affect you is the most important part about living in a democracy. And to me, democracy is the only way that I would want to live. So that is why voting is so important, because voting guarantees that we have a democracy.
Voting guarantees that people are held accountable – the officials, the politicians that run the city, that run the state, that run the country – these politicians have influence in the way you live your life. If you don't hold them accountable by voting, it's like there's no consequences for them. And if there's no consequences, they will do things that they're not supposed to, because that's human nature. Voting systems are put in place to hold politicians accountable. And that's what you're doing when you vote. And it's a privilege to be able to vote… Not every country in this world has that privilege. So it's like anything – you take things for granted because they're there. But the second that they're not there, you realize how important they are. But we don't want them taken away from us for people to realize that. So we've got to remind everybody they got to vote.
I sometimes I call United States the bubble. When you're born in the bubble and you never get out of the bubble, you don't realize how beautiful the bubble is and how people outside the bubble look at it. There's some people that look at it negatively, but most of the world looks at the United States as the shining example of what a country should be. And to me, in my experience, it is that. It is the shining example where if you work hard and you're honest, you could achieve whatever you want. And that's what's beautiful about this place. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from or what you look like, you can make it here and anybody can make it here if you work hard enough for it. And I think that maybe not everything about that is being [put] in jeopardy in this voting season. But a lot of it is – a lot of things about United States that we take for granted are in the voting ballots or are [on] the line in this voting season. So that's why I think it's important to vote to keep United States being the shining light that it's always been and it should always be. But that doesn't stay like that automatically. You've got to vote for that to happen.
Social justice is very important. I think that that's been in the foreground in my mind. I think that the environment and what we're doing to this planet is one of the most important things for me personally, because I'm in the water all the time. So for me, I see what's happening in the water, how dystopian the corals are, how little fish there is out there… in Biscayne Bay, which just had a lot of fish die. And it has to do with pollution and human activity and we're all part of it – I'm part of it. So I think that we've got to organize as a population to make changes… I think that the way that immigrants are treated in this country at the moment – it's not right. It's not the tradition of this country. This country was made by immigrants for immigrants. And I think that it has to go back to what it's always been. The only people that are not immigrants in this country are Native Americans. And I think that, you know, everyone else is here as an immigrant – first generation, second generation, third generation, fourth generation, whatever generation it is. But we're all immigrants and we all are equal. So that's the way we should all be treated. Whether you're a first generation immigrant or you're a fourth generation immigrant. And I think that the president of this country should share those thoughts. But that's just my opinion. And I'm going to voice my opinion by voting.