Meet Hildebrando de Melo 

February 2010


Mormon Artists Group seeks to be an advocate for artists who are LDS, worldwide. In this issue, we introduce you to an emerging artist from Luanda, Angola. His name is Hildebrando de Melo, and he is thirty-one years old. Additional images can be seen on Agora Gallery's website.

MAG: In April, 2008, you had a beautiful exhibition at Agora Gallery in New York City. That’s a long way from home in Angola in West Africa. How did that exhibition come about?

HDM: It was truly nice being in New York City and at the same time, magical, I think. Why? Because since I was a child, I had the idea of bringing something to NYC. You are talking about my childhood dream, and it happened to me. The American Dream! I think.

I woke up one morning, I went to my studio downtown, and I entered and I turned on my computer, and I saw an email from somebody from New York: Agora Gallery. The first idea that came to me was that this was junk mail. I opened it and got a big shock. The people that work with me thought I was crazy because I was yelling. They did not understand.

You can’t imagine what it was like to arrive at J.F.K airport in New York. The sensation was the same as winning a war of faith. I always had the idea that before the age of Christ, I would be in New York, and this happened to me at 30 years old—truly magical exhibiting in NYC, my dream.

Later, I discovered who submitted my portfolio to the gallery; it was Patricio Batchicama, a curator. In NYC, I went to the gallery and I met the director, Angela Di Bello. It was really nice knowing her and receiving her advice. In addition to her position as director of the gallery, she is truly an Art-Mother. That is what I call her. I asked her about my artwork and she said: 

"Hildebrando, I think you have a style that is only yours. That´s what matters. In NYC there are over 500 galleries. All of them are good, the machine is very big, and you must wait for your turn. One day somebody will look into your work, and you will never stop any more. This is America." 

First I believe in God and second in the words of Angela that came from the bottom of her heart. I have a dream similar to this one…the American Dream! 

MAG: How do you describe your paintings to people who are seeing them for the first time?

HDM: I think they have something that attracts the viewer’s attention. I don't know how to explain it. It’s related to the aura of God, the idea of creation from God. They look like petroglyphs, but they are also very contemporary. This artwork has come through my hard studies to find a simplicity and a new form of painting. That´s what I want to share with my times. Because art is the fruit of its time.

But there is also the other perspective, that viewers must get into the artwork for them to bring new worlds and see new things. Art viewers see things that in other ways they would never see. That´s why I have faith that in this regard, art is from God. We painters are an instrument in the hands of God, and we receive energy from him and only translate that energy into the art. That´s why something spiritual happens between the viewer and the artwork, I think.              


"Stroctor" mixed media on canvas, 79" x 79"

MAG: What is the contemporary art scene like in Angola?

HDM: I live in Luanda, Angola. At this moment there is a nice movement happening with new appreciation for painting. But like everything else, we humans miss something. And in Luanda we do not have, in this moment, cultural support. There is not much investment in the art scene from the government. Angola has a lot of natural resources, and the government does not look into their culture and what it should look like. They don´t look at art as an extension of the human being. Let’s see were we are going to end up. Maybe the next generation…we will see, who knows?

MAG: Where did you study painting?

HDM: I studied in Portugal and I worked with many people from all over the world. But I must say that talent comes from God and that’s what is important to me. That’s why I became very sad with the world today. I cross countries and continents and everybody is a bit distant from God. In the art world, I see a big human arrogance. They love themselves, but they don´t question anymore who created all this for us.

MAG: You are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How did you join the church?

HDM: During our civil war, I got sick, and my mother did not have the chance to keep me in Angola. The only solution was to send me to Portugal to be taken care of in my grandmother’s house. That´s why I grew up in Portugal. There, all of my family became Mormon. It was thanks to my grandmother. She put us in the way of Christ; she was the heart of our family. And thanks to her and my aunt, I am what I am. It’s astonishing the way my grandmother deals with a   problem. For her, a problem is no problem. There is always a solution for everything. I love her for that very much.

We used to live in Oporto in Portugal. When she got older and sick, the Elders went to see her 30 kilometers away from Oporto. It was very kind of them, those missionaries. We found it very encouraging that they did not abandon a member.                  

MAG: Do your religious beliefs appear in your artwork?

HDM: Certainly. God is the center of all my artwork. If you look into nature, it has really a strong force and that’s the main point of my work. And the questions that came along the way, they are very important too. I find it more spiritual and less human, I believe. Like I said before, as an artist, you are being used to transcribe what God wants from you.