Mateo Blanco already has 14 pieces in Ripley’s Believe it or Not galleries. In January, he’ll add a another.
HORIZON WEST In the Louisville Slugger Museum, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not gallery features a portrait of Jennifer Lawrence — made entirely from peanuts.
It’s the handiwork of Mateo Blanco, a Horizon West resident.
The portrait is one of Blanco’s most visited and photographed works, but it’s not his only piece for Ripley museums.
In January 2017, his 15th piece for Ripley’s will debut at Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum in Gatlinburg. The piece is a portrait of Dolly Parton, made with several pieces of fabric from his grandmother’s clothing. The artwork gives a nod to Parton’s song, “Coat of Many Colors.”
Blanco agrees to do portraits of those he respects as artists and people.
“I love people who give a positive image of the culture of the United States,” Blanco said. “She’s an iconic singer of the United States. I love the idea that she’s sang for many, many years. So many artists sing for just a few years. She proves that you can sing for many years if you work with love and passion.”
Blanco refers to himself as a Colombian-American. He was born in Miami, but his family was from Colombia.
At a young age, Blanco returned to Colombia and spent most of his formative years there. After high school, Blanco moved back to the U.S., where he studied music at Florida Atlantic University.
Music was Blanco’s first artistic passion. He sang at the Opera House in Colombia and performed as a tenor at venues around Boca Raton.
One day, he received an invitation — from the White House. In 2003, he sang for both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
After college, he moved to Atlanta to record an album, and he moved to Canada for a year. But he missed his country.
“Canada is beautiful, but I feel always I belong in the U.S,” he said. “I’m happy everywhere in the world, but I feel I am at home in the U.S.”
A friend, who knew Blanco loved the nature of Canada, suggested Blanco move to the Windermere area.
“I love Windermere,” he said. “It’s a lot of nature, and it’s peaceful. It’s the perfect place for an artist. Everyone is so respectful and friendly. I just love it.”
He was working as an art promoter when Edward Meyer at Ripley’s Believe it or Not! stopped him.
“Mateo, you love to promote art,” he said. “Why don’t you create your own artwork?”
Fifteen pieces later, Blanco is far from done.
Ultimately, he hopes to keep making portraits of artists who represent the U.S. well, those who are dedicated and humble. He is a big fan of Dolly Parton and hopes to meet her when she comes to the Ripley’s museum to sign Blanco’s work.
“The U.S. helped me to make all my dreams come true, and I want to create more dreams in art,” Blanco said. “I want to give a good image of the U.S. around the world.”
Dante and Oliver
His latest piece, Dante and Oliver, is for a private collection, but he wants Windermere residents to be the first to see it.
“I’d like to share it with everybody in Windermere because I know everyone in Windermere loves dogs,” he said.
The artwork, inspired from a photograph of two dogs standing on staircase, is made entirely out of black and white paper.
To connect with Mateo Blanco, visit mateoblanco.us.