Artist of Cuban origin Alexi Devilliers, known for his robot figures made of tinplate and old utensils, has been able to bring together three of the things people like the most in life: cooking, art and solidarity.
Devilliers creates robot-looking sculptures with the cans and cooking utensils he uses when preparing food for hundreds of homeless persons in Arizona.
“I like helping the elderly, cooking and I like making my art. My works are appreciated, the people understand that it is a funny and at the same time sad art, full of feeling, what could have been in the garbage now has sense,” said to EFE Devilliers, who has been residing in Phoenix, Arizona, for 15 years.
The artist born in the Bronx (New York) to a Cuban family found the path that has led him to sell his sculptures worldwide when he started the work of feeding homeless people.
“I saw hungry people in the park, I’m Cuban, I always cook a lot and I had leftovers, so I bought more beans, rice and pork and started giving food to 50 persons,” he recalled.
He has been giving out food every Saturday for eight years, “without fail,” to close to 120 homeless persons.
He gets up at five in the morning to start cooking, three hours later he’s got everything packed to take to the shelters, returns home at noon and finishes cleaning the kitchen at 2:00 p.m.
“After distributing the food and cleaning the kitchen, I wash the cans and paint them to use in my sculptures. Many people know what I do and they give me cans of stew, other things I buy in the secondhand shops,” he commented.
Rudy Soliz, coordinator and a volunteer at the Justa Center, a shelter for old indigents, said to EFE that Devilliers’ aid is of utmost importance for hundreds of persons who go hungry in the streets.
“There is great need in the streets, people don’t know about it, but in a minute you can become homeless, it’s easy to fall into disgrace, but getting out of this environment is the hardest part,” said Soliz, who lived for five years in shelters and now provides aid to the most needy.
Devilliers’ sculptures are sold in several galleries in Arizona and through his website. He has buyers in Japan, Jamaica, Germany, India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.
“I can spend from two to eight hours working on a piece, and I have small-format works as well as 12-foot-high (3.6 meters) sculptures, apart from the robots I make sharks, dogs, cats, cars, planes, but in downtown they ask me for robots,” he said.
Every first Friday in the month Devilliers goes to downtown Phoenix to sell his sculptures to visitors to the city galleries within everyone’s price range.
“The robots are my bread and butter, I usually sell the large-size sculptures in Scottsdale (Arizona), but here I sell pieces for 24 to 125 dollars, I try to sell them cheaper in the center,” he explains.
Devilliers became interested in metal and mechanics at the high school workshop classes. Later he started building small-scale planes with beer and soda cans, which gave him the foundation to create his sculptures.
The 52-year-old artist who currently resides in Tempe (Arizona) says he feels very fortunate to have found his path through altruism and, although he lives modestly, he works to feed others.
“That is my church, I feel good helping and making art, when I lived in Florida a drove a truck to take elderly people to the hospital and I saw how they were not treated well, now I try to help them and do something good at the same time,” he said.
He uses the money he gets for his works to buy food for elderly homeless people in Phoenix.
“If you buy these empty cans, I will have money to buy food to feed someone who really needs something to eat,” he tells those interested in his art.
EFE / OnCuba