CRUISE SHIP INTERVIEW:
Richard H. Wagner
Norwegian Getaway stands out in any harbor. In addition to her large size, the vivid Caribbean colors and the designs on her hull immediately catch the eye. This distinctive artwork was conceived by David Le Batard, better known as LEBO.
Although he was born in New York, the Cuban-American artist was raised in South Florida and has become a leading figure in the Miami art scene. He works in a variety of media including painting, sculpture and murals. His works can be found in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angles, New Orleans and abroad in Canada, Germany and Italy.
“I started doing this professionally a little under 20 years ago. I didn't go to business school or art school to do it. I just found myself suddenly being able to make a certain amount of money at the point where it was either that or get a real job or go into crime – those were sort of my three options,” he laughs.
“I have never been into trying to get people to promote my work. I have always felt that if your work stands up people are going to notice and you don't need to have anybody trying to get you work. Now, I am in the position where all my work is sold before I finish it. I think as an artist who is running his own studio and wanting to maintain his independence that is really kind of a key.”
LEBO is known as the innovator of Post Modern Cartoon Expressionism, a movement that combines cartoon imagery with bold color and unique linear composition..
“A lot of my influences come from cartooning and popular culture so I think I have rather an inverse perspective on creating art. I like to create a very broad entry point for people to be able to identify with my work. The more you go into it, it gets more and more personal.”
LEBO's partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line was not the first time he worked with a corporation. Gibson Guitars, Ferrari and Harley Davidson have all called on LEBO.
“I really tried to take the atypical route [to becoming a professional artist]. Instead of going the gallery route, it was my attitude that I would really rather create brand partnerships with companies. It would hopefully allow me to be as creative as I could while still allowing me the integrity to create what it was that I wanted to create and that I could constantly evolve as an artist.”
He sees the corporate culture at Norwegian as being particularly in tune with his approach. “To have the vision not only to come up with the idea [of having art on the ships' hulls] but to execute the idea and pick artists as different as Peter Max on Breakaway and myself and whoever is coming next, I see that as the micro-version of what trickles through the rest of what this company is, which is people being chosen to come aboard and do what we do best and to give us the most amount of freedom to do that thing.”
Above: LEBO giving a painting demonstration on Norwegian Getaway.
LEBO's concept for the Getaway project began with the size of the blank canvas that Norwegian gave him. “With this job, I wanted to create something that would be iconic, something that would serve basically to give a really strong impression, something that you could see from far away and something that was larger than life. I really wanted to utilize that scale.”
“Within that, I wanted to create something that a lot of people could identify with. Sometimes that can be an over-simplifying thing but I think that a lot of the most sophisticated things are very simple. So in using something like a mermaid, I think that is something everyone can identify with on some level. It is a classic image and it has magic in it as well.”
“On the back end, which is really the most important part\ to me, there are three pelicans. I study a lot of symbolism. Pelicans are a sign of safe passage and they are also a sign of charity. It is kind of weird but they will actually feed their young by poking into themselves and letting the young feed off of them. That is kind of gruesome but on another level, it is a supreme act of love at the same time. So really it is those kind of symbols that I think can be simplistic but at the same time in a way that has a lot of meaning to it. I really just want to layer those kind of ideas together.”
“The colors and the vibrancy of it are something that growing up in Miami, it is just second nature to me to be able to work like that.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Getaway - David LEBO Le Batard