Contemporary Pop artist Romero Britto creates bold artwork characterized by vibrant colors, solid lines, and creative patterning. While he grew up developing his aesthetic on scraps of paper in his hometown of Recife, Brazil, his work has now since been showcased in the Louvre, Hyde Park, and the JFK Airport.
Most recently, Britto visited law professor Daniel Shapiro’s freshman seminar, “Negotiation and Conflict Management: Dealing with Emotions and Identity,” and collaborated with the students on artistic interpretations of the themes they had studied and researched throughout the semester.
The Harvard Crimson: Would you mind telling me a little about yourself as an artist? What is it that you seek to accomplish with your work?
Romero Britto: I hope what I’m doing is producing images of hope and peace and inspiration for people to wake up in the morning… It’s all about inspiration. I’m here to share my policy about life with other people.
THC: What is the message that you seek to convey through your art?
RB: I try to spread the message of happiness—you know, good things that we see in life. A lot of times, artists see things that are not so great. We’re in a time that technology and information is so out there, so prevalent in any way we turn. I want to go back to the art of inspiration.
TCH: Recently, you visited Professor Daniel Shapiro’s Freshman Seminar on conflict management. Would you tell me a little about what you did with the students in class? What motivated you to come to Harvard and work with these students?
RB: I definitely want to have my art as close to education as possible. When you have education and knowledge you are able to make much better decisions in your life and appreciate more the other side. With education, more people know about how you can deal with people and how you can resolve things. [In the class,] the students talked to me about how they envision a picture. Then I visualize that in words, what they were telling me, and I put it on a canvas. It was pretty amazing to me, and, they told me, for them, as well. For me as an artist to see those young brains working so well together, it was a beautiful day together.
THC: My assumption is that this was very different from what you do in your daily work. Here the students were presenting you with themes they researched and artistic ideas they created, and you had to translate that onto the canvas on the spot. What was it like to create art with other people’s ideas and so immediately?
RB: It was very unique. Most of the time I’m always in control. In the same time it was an opportunity for me to share the canvas, share the space. It was different, something I enjoyed and shared and liked, as well. Sharing power, sharing control, sharing your role with people. At the same time I know where they stand, they know where I stand, and we appreciate each other. I’m an artist, they’re students, and they have a unique vision of the future.
THC: The premise of the course is that, as Professor Shapiro outlines on the course website, “traditional approaches to conflict resolution are faltering –at a great cost to human life and regional and global economies.” How do you feel the artistic approach that you and the students pursued addressed that concern?
RB: We need to know more about the people, we need to appreciate them. When people see each other as humans, when they try to work together, it makes such a difference. Once they start seeing people as people, it makes such a difference. When we don’t have dialogue we feel “Oh my God, there’s nothing we can do.”
THC: Can art take the place of that lost dialogue?
RB: It could. With art and sports people feel more free. It’s like the universal language, we need to create the universal language. People can have the dialogue and stop and think. I think it could be a different way of communication.
THC: What did you take away from this experience? Do you see it influencing your art in the future? Will you try to do something like this project again?
RB: I would love to be able to have my art as an instrument to bring people together. I love that I had the opportunity to do that. The power of the art—images, shapes, and color can bring people to a whole different world. Art in general can be used to bring people together as a language of love.