NCMA Recommends: Laughing Clouds

Angel Otero, Laughing Clouds, 2011, collaged oil paint skins and resin on canvas, H. 86 1/2 — W. 74 — D. 3 in., Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

While an art student, Angel Otero was challenged by his professors to make painting “stand out.” Otero’s problem became the paint itself: how to make paint, a medium in use for centuries, contemporary and unique? His answer was to use it in an almost sculptural manner.

The familiar clich© of the poor, starving artist ended up inspiring his artistic innovations. “That’s where I started doing this painting/collage thing. I was broke–so I was experimenting with what was around me.” He started scraping paint off paintings he no longer liked and recycling the used paint to create new works. He eventually developed a process of painting thin layers of oil paint onto plate glass, leaving it to dry for several weeks, then peeling the paint off in large strips and collaging it onto canvas with resin.

Acknowledging the vast and overwhelming history of painting that bears down on young artists, Otero says, “It’s not about trying to make a pretty painting; it’s about trying to make a different painting.”

When the Museum acquired this work in 2011–the same year it was created–Otero was an emerging artist just starting out in his career. He has gone on to become widely recognized, with numerous exhibitions and works in many museum collections. –Linda Dougherty, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art

Learn More

Read about Otero’s artistic practice in the gorgeous book Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing, edited by Valerie Cassel Oliver.

Listen to Otero discuss his upbringing in Puerto Rico and his education in this Artist Profile Archive video.

Local Artist Feature

Natalia Torres del Valle, Landform Meditation No. 34, 2021, mixed media, 4 —6 in., Courtesy of the artist

Raleigh artist Natalia Torres del Valle creates abstract and dimensional paintings, sometimes using materials similar to Otero’s. In this video produced by the NCMA, she says, “I admire … his pushing the boundary of what is possible with oil paint skins in their shape and manipulation.”

Conferencia virtual: ¿C³mo se construy³ Mesoam©rica? / Virtual Lecture: How Was Mesoamerica Built?

Esta presentaci³n en espa±ol por ngel Gonz¡lez L³pez el Martes, 23 de noviembre, de 10 a 11 am, ofrece una descripci³n general de las t©cnicas y los materiales que utilizaron varias sociedades en la antigua Mesoam©rica. Inscribirse en Zoom.

This presentation in Spanish by ngel Gonz¡lez L³pez on Tuesday, November 23, from 10 to 11 am, provides an overview of the techniques and materials used by several societies in ancient Mesoamerica. Register on Zoom.

Playlist for Laughing Clouds

These artists have roots in Latin America, and their influences and impact expand beyond any single classification. Listen to classics as well as cross-genre up-and-comers such as Lido Pimienta, Helado Negro, Cuco, and more.

Film Recommendations

Inspired by Laughing Clouds, we recommend three Latin American films that, like Otero’s paintings, are multilayered and address themes of identity, belonging, and memory.

  • I’m No Longer Here / Ya no estoy aqu­ (2019). Country: Mexico, director: Fernando Fr­as de la Parra. This coming-of-age drama tells the story of Ulises, who tries to maintain his cholombiano identity after fleeing to the US. Watch on Netflix.
  • La Llorona (2019). Country: Guatemala, director: Jayro Bustamante. This horror film blends a supernatural tale with the political history of Guatemala to tell the story of a war criminal who is haunted by the atrocities he committed. Rent on YouTube or iTunes.
  • The Mole Agent / El agente topo (2020). Country: Chile, director: Maite Alberdi. This documentary follows Sergio, who goes undercover in a nursing home to find signs of elder abuse. Watch on Hulu, or rent on Amazon or YouTube.

Museum Store Pick

The Museum Store supports Latinx and emerging artists and artisans across the state and offers artworks made using diverse materials and processes. Natalia Torres Del Valle creates highly textural paintings that often result in unpredictable forms. The artist’s originals are on display and for sale in the Store. Please email help@ncartmuseum with any questions.



Nov 12, 2021


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