¿De harina o de maíz?, 1996 Photo collage and acrylic paint on canvas board, 14" x 18"
This painting, produced in the mid 1990s, is the first of a series of paintings which incorporate the technique of collage with paint. The use of collage is a key turn in my work where the popular cultural icon is thrust into unstable terrain: the artist's canvas. Viewers immediately bring to the painting arena their own perceptions and memories; and thus interpretation varies from one viewer to the next. The theme of this painting is the classic struggle between good and evil; however, undertones of class, cultural, and sexual tensions are clearly present, as argued by various friends. They interpret the supermodel as a "new" Virgin Mary being viewed by the stereotypical "Latino male gaze". This interpretation was not my aim at the outset of the painting; however, I welcome the emotional responses that people have shared.
Aside from the use of collage (largely inspired by the works of the German exile, John Heartfield, and the American, Romare Bearden), the painting technique (expressionistic acrylic brushstrokes mixed with modeling paste) also denotes a departure from my previous painting style. Prior to ¿De harina o de maíz?, accuracy was of the utmost importance. With the realization that technology (modern photography and printing) can aid me with accuracy, it has paved the road to playful expressionism and uninhibited brushstrokes. Although my work is forever rooted in representational painting, the use of collage has encouraged a slight gravitation towards abstract expressionism. My paintbrushes have increasingly become wider and my canvases slightly larger. Accuracy has given way to visual emotion.
No tocar la tierra, 1991 Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"
Contrary to my traditional painting approach, which is to draw various thumbnail drawings for months, sometimes years, prior to starting the actual painting, No tocar la tierra was a spontaneous painting that served as a therapeutic escape during a turbulent time in my life. During this time, the act of painting was a sanctuary for me and proved to be an unconditional ally. Along these lines, No tocar la tierra is also a departure from my current Siqueiros and Guston inspired expressionistic brush strokes. The calculated serene strokes have come to represent the safe haven that we all yearn for. Ironically, the foreground of the painting is a barbed-wire fence that adds a contradictory element to an otherwise peaceful scene. This contradiction begins to broach the topic of the complexity of the human experience. The most significant achievement of this painting is that it inspires a wide variety of interpretations. From ten close friends and family members, I received ten unique interpretations because the painting successfully invites each viewer to bring to it his or her own experiences and memories. Ultimately, my goal is to provide an art that reminds us of our humanity.