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Guillermo Sotelo wants to break stereotypes about fatherhood | 2023 Lansing ArtPath Profiles

 Mural of a serene-looking father and child painted on a wall
Sophia Saliby
Guillermo Sotelo used both acrylic and spray paints to make his mural

The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center’s ArtPath exhibition along the Lansing River Trail provides an opportunity for artists to get their message out in a public place.

One muralist is using his piece to break stereotypes about fatherhood and inspire parents to be more vulnerable.

Kalamazoo-based artist Guillermo Sotelo has named his mural FathrHood, and it’s clear why because the focal point of his piece is a father standing and guarding over his child.

"My biggest goal with this piece is to have a father and their child come here and kind of reflect on those things like that bond, that relationship between a father and a kid."

The man Sotelo has painted has multiple arms, almost like a spiritual figure. One of the father’s hands holds a heart to represent love. Another holds an eye to represent being a visionary.

 Guillermo Sotelo uses a long paint roller to cover his mural with a protective coating
Sophia Saliby
Guillermo Sotelo also works under the name ASMA.

"All the different hands just to represent like all the different things that dads are doing all the time. You know, we're working. We're doing this or doing that, and we're trying to raise a kid all amidst it."

With the mural, Sotelo says he’s both reflecting on his own childhood and how his life has changed since becoming a dad.

"I grew up without a father. And as a kid, you know, I was constantly looking for a father figure."

In the background of the piece, Sotelo has painted mountains. He’s added words he was told as a young person about how to be a man.

"People were telling me like, “Hey ... you gotta stop crying like a girl, you know, stop being weak,’ you know, and so these were all the things that I've had to overcome, the mountains that I've had to climb to get to where I'm at."

Fathers should be gentle with their kids and show them emotional strength and support.

Now, Sotelo has a four-year-old son, and he says he’s trying to embrace softness.

"There's some flowers hidden in the piece, just to kind of show that men can be gentle. Fathers should be gentle with their kids and show them emotional strength and support."

He says he’s worked hard as a parent to not fall back on the toughness he learned as a child. And he’s already seeing the impact in how his son acts.

"He's telling me things like, 'I'm feeling anger rising,' and I'm like, 'Okay, that's good. That's great. You know, like, let's talk about it.'"

You can tell the father figure in Sotelo’s piece is trying to protect his child, from the broken arrows in his back. Because of that, the child looks at peace like they’re meditating. Then there are more symbols Sotelo has painted onto the father’s shirt.

"Spray paint caps to represent my creativity. There are little wavy lines which represent like rivers that I’ve have had to cross metaphorically to become the father that I am."

That's a real pulse of the community is when people are writing on the walls and saying what they need to say when they maybe they don't feel like they're heard anywhere else.

The spray paint caps are also a nod to how Sotelo got his start as an artist by doing graffiti. He says he doesn’t want people to discount it as vandalism and instead see it as public art.

"That's a real pulse of the community is when people are writing on the walls and saying what they need to say when maybe they don't feel like they're heard anywhere else."

He even points out a piece of graffiti a few feet away on the same wall as his mural

"If you look at it, you can see the craft there. You can see that somebody spent time on those letters. Somebody spent time on that identity and that voice, and that's necessary. And we need that, you know?"

Guillermo Sotelo’s mural FathrHood can be found under the Beech Street bridge. It’s the final piece on the Lansing River Trail as part of this year’s ArtPath exhibition.

The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center is a supporter of WKAR.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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