Jose Arenas

Much of my work revolves around having a dual identity, of dislocation and displacement, and a sense of disorientation from growing up in 2 countries. These two geographies, Mexico and the United States, were parallel worlds with distinct customs and rituals that have become a point of investigation in my work. I explore this personal experience by creating collage style vignettes that become fully realized paintings. Metaphorical images like birds, navigational symbols that involve maps, compasses, and ships have been used to point to place, direction, and the feeling of living in a state of in-between.  The process involves merging many visual styles and representational methods that are manipulated both in a spontaneous and deliberate manner. The result is a pastiche of both familiar and abstract elements that create distinct narratives but also remain open to interpretation. I find it fascinating that a painting will provide an ever-changing experience for the viewer, and that regardless of a symbol’s fixed and literal representation, a host of meaningful and thought-provoking connections could emerge.

I like to think of my personal everyday patterns, habits, and rituals as direct source for my artistic practice. In my work I combine decorative motifs, representational forms, and culturally specific symbols that generate multiple metaphorical relationships. My current investigation marks a shift from using flat field color as a stage for symbols that merge with many other elements.  I’m presently incorporating landscape scenes that are idyllic and familiar and that are linked to personal ritual or rites of passage. They suggests a kind of innocence and coming of age that directly speaks to my experience growing up in Northern California and Guadalajara, Mexico. Many of the background landscapes are directly taken from postcards depicting quaint countryside locations that illustrate many regions in Mexico and the United States. The postcards are a visual record of a lived and shared moment that with time become a patchwork of meaningful faded memories.

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