“I render in a way that is most respectful to the subject,” painter and creative Delfin Finley says of his lifelike paintings. “I want the viewer to look at the subjects in the inactive reverence that’s not offered to communities of color, to question whether the subjects are resigned to carrying the weight of the ropes or empowered by them to move forward.” The ropes that Finley mentions are both literal and figurative—systems and structures that have disproportionately impacted people of color throughout the history of the United States and a constant focal point throughout his hyperrealistic portraits and abstractions.
A native of Los Angeles, and the son of fashion designer parents, the arts were ingrained in Finley’s day-to-day from an early age. While immersed in the bustling city, Finley gravitated toward the essence of L.A.’s graffiti scene. “Graffiti is something that I [saw] every day growing up—all over the walls, the neighborhood,” Finley shares. “It drew me in because it was people getting their message across in any way—they’re literally risking their entire livelihoods.”
Though the arts were ubiquitous in Finley’s upbringing, it wasn’t until the then-emerging artist met L.A.-based graffiti artist EL MAC that it became real. Guiding Finley artistically, he and other local artists showed Finley the ropes, later cementing that a creative career was tangible for the burgeoning artist.
After beginning a degree at ArtCenter in Pasadena shortly after, Finley’s 2017 debut solo show saw the artist’s signature, thought-provoking aesthetic on full display for the first time. Brimming with takes on the artist’s friends and family—Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, his father, Ron—the exhibition was met with immense success. Finley depicts his subjects in the type of manner that Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rubens did—though Finley places communities of color in contexts and spaces that historically have not been afforded throughout history.
While Finley’s brushstroke is fluid, it is also innately precise—embodying an innate sense of realism that rivals the snapshot of a DSLR camera. Gearing up for a solo show titled Coalescence in May, Finley is decisive in his next steps. Though he remains guarded about the contents, viewers can expect the artist’s signature style, with new explorations on display. “This collection of work captures a higher level of awareness and finds more ways to convey how I imagine the world should be,” Finley shares.“If I can inspire you to feel, to take in a different perspective, and maybe even walk away ruminating about the cause and effect of my work, I have succeeded.”
Coalescence is on view at the David Kordansky Gallery May 12 to June 16, 2023.
This story appears inside the pages of VMAN 50: now available for purchase!
Photography Greg Swales
Fashion Luca Falcioni
Grooming Lisa-Marie Powell (Art Department)
Producer Alexey Galetskiy (AGPNYC)
Photo assistants Sandy Rivas, Juliet Lambert
Stylist assistant Frankie Benkovic
Production assistant Sasha Milostnova