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Jose Arenas

“My paintings explore a personal and globally shared immigrant experience through collage-like compositions that incorporate and combine familiar forms that speak to common journeys and a yearning for sense of place and belonging. Using a layered approach, I depict everyday objects derived from an ever expanding personal iconography. Familiar and recognizable forms are chosen for striking recognition, symbolic possibilities, and a capacity for meaning-making among diverse viewers. I enjoy combining and rearranging objects and decorative elements, sometimes spontaneously and at other times in a deliberate manner, to produce emotionally resonant narratives. The collaged images and words represent a limitless cultural mapping, driven by memory, reflection, and a longing for personal and historical meaning. This mapping is represented in works like All Things Big and Small (2022), where I incorporate multiple objects hovering above a single style family home. Like a starling murmuration, the collective symbols form a singular organism that floats lyrically as a visual representation of memories and experiences. In this painting, the idea of home is further explored as a place for building memories, manifested through the dense collection of symbols interspersed throughout the composition.” 



Jose Arenas is a contemporary artist based in California. His paintings explore dual identities, migration, cultural ritual, and the memoryscapes of a migratory childhood.  Born in San Jose, California, Arenas regularly traveled between Northern California and Guadalajara, Mexico. His experiences navigating two worlds - along with its complex processes of integration and assimilation - drive his impulse to form meaning using familiar objects, motifs, and culturally specific symbols. Arenas received a BFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute (1995), and an MFA from UC Davis (2000). His artwork has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States in cities that include San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and New York City. 


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