Raoul De la Sota

I was brought up in Los Angeles in a bilingual household, Mexican American by birth but thoroughly anglofied through a Euro-centric educational system. I was fortunate to have come from an artistic family where personal expression in the arts was encouraged.

After spending an entire sabbatical leave in Mexico, from my college treaching position, I realized for the first time the impact of my parent’s homeland on my art. I became completely absorbed with the culture and its people. My painting which had previously been of the cool mountainous terrain of California became charged with the colors expressive of the new, exciting topography of Mexico. I found the landscape a metaphor for the history, the culture and the myths of the ancient past and for the dynamic present.

In recent years I have been working on a series of “cactus portraits,” using that plant form as a symbol for the Mexican people and their indestructible aspects. Colorful and menacing, exuberant and dangerous, the forms mirror the duality so inherent in the land of Guadalupe and Tlaloc.

In another recent series, references are made to beliefs in Mejica cosmology, the Popol Vuh and its Mayan creation stories and specifically the journey of the soul to Mictlan. The journey refers to the mythological passage taken by the soul to its place of eternal rest, Mictlan. In the work, the soul, represented by Nopalito and his spirit guide dog Mancha, encounter the tests that the soul had to endure. Among these works there are references, probably because I am “Angelino,” to the social confrontations that exist in Southern California and to the barriers placed between countries and people that in the history of the Southwest have been so significant. The barbed wire, fence, cacti and suggested spirits are indicative of this ongoing struggle at our borders.


I begin work on a personal project with much research: travel to sites near and far, readings into historical and mythological information, personal photographs, long periods of tending my garden followed by a period of letting the “cocido” sit and enrich its flavors of what will appear. With few, if any, preliminary drawings I begin. The resulting painting or sculpture is always a compromise between what I originally had in mind and what the work has told me about itself as I worked.

SOLITARIO – Solitario came about as I was cleaning my brushes after working on a large painting of cacti “fighting for position against a fence”. It’s as if there was one more image that needed to come out from that brush. It stands upright, bristling with defiance, against that barbed wire. Its halt is only momentary however, as nature will outlast the manmade. The will usually conquers its adversities. It is my Grandmother.




SUN CACTUS – Sun Cactus is one of a series of four sculptures that connect the cactus form to the Mejica concept of the cardinal points. The East ruled by Huitzilopochtli, empowered by the sun god, Tonatiuh and flowing with the color red gives birth to its progeny. On the other hand, it can also represent a generational family portrait of my family rooted as were my grandparents in the Mexican earth and then their descendents as they moved northward and over the border.