During the last ten years I have painted traditional subjects seen from the lens of my Latino perspective. For me, it has meant painting people and places affected by the uncertainty of impermanence. Latino immigrants. Places slated for demolition, toxic sites, and historic buildings in cities that are too broke to restore them. After some reflection, I have decided these places mirror of my own experience in the US. But, I also know that mine is not a dystopian vision of the world. Like any artist, I love to engage in aesthetic pleasures, and through the practice of painting I have also discovered my gaze to be cultural and gendered.
As a young person I was most influenced by the figurative painting and social issue themes of Puerto Rican painters like Francisco Oller and Rafael Tufiño, and the Farm Security Administration photographs of Jack and Irene Delano. Joaquín Sorolla’s methods and paintings have appealed to me throughout the years, since they showed what can be accomplished working outdoors on a large format. My landscape paintings developed during the California plein air revival.
I paint non-professional Latino models. They come to me via word-of-mouth and are paid the going model rate. Their poses and clothes are chosen by them. They stay engaged because they are able to talk with me while they pose. The drawing stage goes quickly thanks to a large viewfinder. Then I spend the next few hours working quickly in oil, and might finish with the help of a reference photo. If I can afford it, I have them come in for a second session.
Outdoors, I work year-round in acrylics or oils. I research a location’s history then use Google Earth to find the best place in which to paint. I use larger canvasses (2 x 3′) and do the first 3-6 hours over one or two visits to the location. The last two hours are spent in my studio making minor revisions with the aid of a cell phone photo.