My formal training as an artist started when I was 12 and enrolled along with my two younger brothers, Octavio and Abel, into the Academia de arte Yepes, a free art school held in the basement of Salesian High School in East L.A. We stayed for six years and studied easel and mural painting in a very informal and hands-on environment. We completed 35 different mural projects in that period of time and developed a real appetite for art. At eighteen, I applied and was accepted to the California College of Arts and Crafts. I attended for two years studying graphic design. It was there that I was introduced to printmaking and the letterpress through volunteer work at the San Francisco Center for the Book and the Mission Cultural Center. I moved back to LA in 2002 where I continued learning printmaking by volunteering at Self Help Graphics & Art. Since then, I’ve established a printmaking and letterpress studio in Highland Park where I continue my practice today.
My work is inspired by the folk stories that my parents and grandparents have passed on. I have a desire to invent and share my own narratives and vision through printmaking. I want to be able to communicate through the image an invitation to tell a new story to be told or an old one to be remembered.
My life has been shared between two countries, the United States and Mexico. I’ve experienced the hard rural life of my parents in Mexico and the dangerous and fragmented life of the inner city. I am a person made up from experiences from both of these worlds. I am Mexican but I am also American and I can slip between these two worlds with ease and exist in both simultaneously. I am aware of the reality that an ethnic and racial border exists between people and that it is destroying the bond that we have as a human race. Culture does not honor borders. Culture is about change and growth. I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist to be a vehicle for culture, to inspire a sensibility of the creative, to pierce the fence we have built to keep ourselves apart and to remind people of the common experience we share in life.
Spending summers with my family in El Teúl, Mexico has been something I will always cherish because of the time spent with my grandmother listening to her stories. In America, one is always being told who we are simply because it is so difficult to remember any more. Blind materialism, over consumption and self interest have become the American way. It has blinded many people from having a genuine vision of life and has sold them a mass produced picture of what should be. My grandmother’s stories reminded me of who I am and where I come from. One time she told me something that instilled in me a great anxiety. She said, “For every Indian that dies a whole library is set on fire”.
My work records through images these stories and the events that have shaped my life but also touch on the allegorical and universal experiences shared by many. Those stories that are passed on from mother and father to daughter and son that seem so impossible yet are told with such conviction you dare not question their authenticity. Stories that give place and meaning to your existence, stories your grandmother tells of guardian angels by bedsides, of the devil dancing on roof tops, stories of hardships past when things seemed dark and uncertain. All these narratives are important and they touch on religion as well as on the impact of politics, ecology and cultural unrest in our society. Each piece I make is a voice to memory, an artistic artifact recalling old words that fade with time, a celebration of the survival of a culture and a reflection of the inequity and divisiveness of people as a race.