Biography Artist's Statement
I was born in the coastal town of Ensenada, Mexico in 1978. My father is of Spanish, Mexican Indian and Irish descent. My mother is Ashkenazi Jewish, Dutch and Alsace. I immigrated to the United States when I was two. My parents owned a small natural foods business in Boston. My father studied there under Michio Kushi, the founder of macrobiotics. We then moved to Seattle, where my father studied Naturopathic medicine at Bastyr College. I used to color in the body parts in my dad's Anatomy Coloring Book, and enjoyed looking at Leonardo's studies of the human body in his textbooks.
I was a shy, quiet child. I used to hide somewhere when recess was over, and stay outside reading. In the fifth grade, I had a book report assignment. I wrote a thirty-six page report, with chapters on the various battles, treaties, women in the military, maps and timeline of the Revolution. This was my first experience as a scholar.
In high school I began studying black and white photography. My work expressed the abstract qualities of nature, or of the human figure set within the landscape. Phoenix-based curator Nicole Royse has said that these early images "echo a feeling of mystery and isolation." I think that she is right in this assertion, but that sense of isolation manifested as a personal struggle as well. It was an affliction, a detriment, as well as a form of artistic expression.
The spring before graduation, I left Seattle with a few belongings on my back, and hitchhiked through Montana, Wyoming, and then finally down through Utah, New Mexico and to Tucson, Arizona, where my father lived at the time. I backpacked in Yellowstone, slept on a glacier in the Tetons, saw the hot sun go down over Shiprock, and slipped into the darkness of the vast and starry desert night.
I enrolled in college and began studying drawing and painting, and continued studying photography. I transferred to Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, and the next year went on scholarship to Rome, where I was astounded by the churches of the Renaissance, and the ruins of the ancient city. Although I attended my courses regularly and completed my assignments, my work wasn't well received. Ironically, my interest in the Renaissance, and taking a more formal, classical approach to my work caused even stronger criticism from my professors. This eventually led me to be driven out of the program completely.
When I returned to the United States, I began studying under my friend's father, Osvaldo Romberg. Osvaldo is a conceptual artist, whose work is a critical re-examination of the history of art and architecture. Osvaldo instructed me in classical painting by master copying, drafting, architectural modeling and theoretical art. Osvaldo was an incredible mentor and is like a second father to me.
During this time, my work was based not only on classicism, but with an obsession with the ongoing war post 9-11 that ensued in the Middle East. This manifested in my work as a form of conceptualism, involving geometry, cartography, cryptography and secret intelligence.
I met my wife at a funeral in 2008. As the pall bearers were carrying the casket out of the church, we exchanged glances. Our friendship eventually developed into a passionate relationship. I married Elizabeth Anne Riedel in 2012, and this drastically changed the course of my life and my work. Elizabeth became my muse. She is now the main subject of my work, along with my two sons, Griffin and Elliot.
I completed my BFA in 2009 at the University of Arizona. In 2010, my work was in the exhibition Hybridity: American Unity at the Latino Museum of Art, History and Culture in Los Angeles. In 2013, my work was selected for the Arizona Biennial at the Tucson Museum of Art.
I am currently working on my dissertation at Arizona State University in art and architectural history. My paper is called Geometry of the Sun: Guarino Guarini and the Church of San Lorenzo.
From the beginning, my work as an artist was about light. The medium of photography yielded to this perfectly. But the fascination with light, and more so the fascination with vision and the eye as its instrument has become a prevalent theme in both my work as an artist and as a scholar. The light through the viewfinder of my camera led me to places that do not exist, yet they are intimate. They are memories, but they are of things that have not happened and never will happen.
During times that I have felt weak, painting has made me stronger. The line of a shoulder, the shadow around the conjunctiva of an eye and the edge of the pupil, the light upon the surface of the retina, the application of flesh tone and glaze to build the surface of the skin.
The structure of this imagination turned into paint on canvas allows my world to feel real. It allows me to grasp onto something when I have felt like a ghost.
Art can be a way of waging war. It can be a way of piecing together that which has been destroyed, or defending those who have been attacked. This defense in painting, makes the surface of the canvas like armor. The prevalence of the color black in my work is a manifestation of this, of impenetrable night.
Marriage changes everything. My wife became my devotion in painting. After painting her a multitude of times, I struggle to express, to understand her delicate, complex features. She is in my world what Helen is to ancient Greece. I cannot perfect her face, and struggle even to try. Love binds us to one another. Children are born and we are bound once again. The miracle of witnessing the birth of my children, of pulling Elliot out of the womb with my hands, was both incredible and traumatic. I depict these events a number of times in drawing and painting.
Memory is still an important part of my work in more recent times. Sometimes it feels like piecing together a puzzle, like remembering disconnected events in a state of amnesia. The recollection of memories, of recreating them in a work of art is also a reaction to a fear that what I experience, what I have in life does not exist. It is about the existential crisis of not being certain that when the sun goes down it will rise again in the morning. It is about an uncertainty that occurs when one comes to the realization that life is a dream. A dream of which the solidity is only apparent by remembering what is true.
Truth in art is important. Derrida said it. But people don't like to hear it. The word truth appears too full of judgment, and needs to be swept under the rug of subjectivity. Subjectivity is lost in painting by way of the artist's gaze and how he represents what he sees.
Truth in painting can express sadness or joy or pain, but most effectively it needs to portray all of those at once. The movement of someone's body, the gesture of their arm being raised, or the turn of their head expresses the physical force of movement, but also the elegance of the soul which shines forth. This, from the beginning, is about light.