Ruben Espinoza: Confessions of a Mexican Entrepreneur, CORE Winery, Orcutt
Santa Maria-based artist Ruben Espinoza’s “Confessions of a Mexican Entrepreneur” opened this month at CORE Winery in Orcutt, in time for and inspired by the season of Day of the Dead. Espinoza’s solo show is part of a series of exhibitions that feature fifteen artists per year in CORE Winery’s alternative art space.
Q & A with Ruben Espinoza
LUM: Why did you decide for this series to use a process of beginning with a digital image and adding paint to a printed image on canvas? Why not just paint on canvas?
Ruben Espinoza: Because of the subject matter, I wanted to have the gallery opening in October in order to have it displayed during Día de los Muertos, Nov. 1 and 2, and I knew if I worked with traditional mediums, I would not have it complete on time.
I was trained traditionally and learned to paint using acrylics and oils, but going the digital route is much faster considering the time frame I was working with to complete the paintings. I love the brush strokes that are left behind when working traditionally, and I wanted to have the same effect digitally, so I used digital brushes that give the paintings a bit of texture. After the canvas is printed and mounted, I embellished the paintings using acrylics and gel medium.
What drew you to the Mexican Day of the Dead iconography to represent street vendors?
In the paintings, the street vendors are represented as wooden skeleton marionettes whose strings have been cut off. I’ll let the viewer decide what that means, but I will say my fascination with skulls began when I first encountered the prints of Mexican artist, Jose Posada about 15 years ago. I liked that he used calaveras (skulls) to make social and cultural critiques on important events that were happening during his time. Since I was making my own social commentary about the unseen culture in Santa Maria, I thought it appropriate to use calaveras in my own work.
Did you base these vignettes on scenes you observed in Mexico?
The vignettes are inspired by a combination of experiences, travels and conversations over the last couple of years. The architecture and use of color is definitely inspired by my travels to Mexico, but the calaveras and food carts are inspired from my conversations with street vendors and other entrepreneurs in Santa Maria. I like finding out their backstories on how they got to where they are, and also getting a feel of why they do what they do.
How would you contextualize these works in the context that you work, North County Santa Barbara?
My hope is that these works will spotlight the creative and culturally rich Latino experience that sometimes North County doesn’t exactly know how to showcase.
I want to put a spotlight on the entrepreneurs that don’t often get praised, because maybe the businesses they run are not as glamorous as traditional business. North County is branded as a farming- and agriculture-only community, but we are much more than that. With this gallery show, I wanted others to see that North County, and particularly Latinos in North County, have an appetite for art, and that there is a market for it.
How would you describe yourself as the artist who created this series?
I’m an artist who is constantly inspired by my surroundings and I use those inspirations to tell stories. I value my culture and I want to share my appreciation of it with others by creating works that speak from my heart.