Monday, June 27, 2011

Interview with Ricardo Paniagua

I met up with Ricardo Paniagua at his studio in Dallas at the Continental Gin Building in the Deep Ellum neighborhood.  From there, we walked over to Murray Street Coffee Shop for the interview.
I had the most wonderful chocolate and rose petal black tea as well as a grand view of the Giles Lyon painting seen behind Paniagua in the photo above.  We spoke at length about art and spirituality, two subjects in which Paniagua demonstrated surprising erudition. He didn't want me to take pictures of work in progress in his studio.  I totally understand this since my full-time artist partner does not want me to look at him working until he is ready for me to see the end of the day's progress.  Paniagua's craftsmanship is superb, though, I must say.  His stretcher frames are square and plum and large, most as tall as me.  His 3D sculptures are sanded to perfection.  Here are a four pictures I took in his studio earlier this year at an Open Studio event:
Here are two photos of recent 3D sculptures Paniagua has created.

photos by Kipp Lott used with permission from Ricardo Paniagua
And now for our interview:

HC:  So here’s one question, and you can answer how ever you want to of course.  Is Paniagua your actual last name?
RP:  No, it’s an adopted middle name. It’s my great grandfather’s, he emigrated from Portugal to Houston, and shit, that was his name.
HC: I mean, it fits a “starving artist”, sort of, you know what I mean?
RP: well, um, you know, I’m a deep thinker, and uh…
HC: Sure
RP: well, you know, the other day Kevin Obregon came over and he was leaving, and I had just bought some really nice organic fruit, and I said “hey, Kevin come here” and I gave him some fruit, and I said “this is the best part of real life that, you know, physical life that we can know”.  It gets back into blood.  A lot of suffering happened for us to be here right now.
HC: Sure, yeah
RP: lot of suffering….And if it weren’t for the semen in my grandfather’s penis, I wouldn’t be here. And all his hardships.  But that name, as you know, means ‘bread and water’
HC: Sure
RP:  And to me that’s a very spiritual concept
HC: Yeah
RP:  And since I was a little kid, I’ve always had dreams, and I’ve always been spoken to. And, you know, that’s a very spiritual thing to happen to somebody.  Somebody who doesn’t even know who God is.  So it’s that kinda coincidence that that name is, well my grandmother uses it, my dad uses it….I didn’t find it a coincidence that that blood is who I was. I even wrote it in grade school, because, you know, I am a lot more spiritual than a lot of people, and that name is no coincidence, you know.  So that’s why I’ve adopted that name kinda as my middle name.  My full name is Ricardo, then I say Paniagua, then Garcia and then The Third.  I’m a Third as well.  It can get pretty long, I guess, if you want to be proper about it.
HC: Yeah.  I knew your last name is Garcia because I’d seen it on the mail slots when I came for a Continental Gin Studio Tour, so I just wondered about it.
RP:  Yeah, when I started getting into shows and stuff, I was submitting my whole name, because that’s what I wanted. Then it became just too much of a hassle for art organizations, for the PR departments, you know, for the news media.  You need to have something simple, you know?
HC: You do, you do. And something that stands out and is different from everybody else’s name.
RP:  That too.
(He also told me when the recorder was off that he had been in a show at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center and he had used his full name.  But the curator of the exhibition shortened it to "Ricardo Paniagua" in the media and he has used it ever since.)

photos by Kipp Lott used with permission from Ricardo Paniagua

HC: How did you become inspired to become a painter?
RP:  Oh you know what dude….well in elementary school…well we’d oftentimes be put into groups, one of us would have to do the art, an’ one of us would have to do the edit, you know all the different stuff.  I would always do the art, and I remember I would really make some badass drawings, and I ‘d say "I’m the artiste" and all this shit….even my mother said that I was doing some pretty crazy shit at two or three years old.
HC: Cool
RP: Anyway that’s what she said.  But I was growing up an’ I never wanted to be an artist, you know, because somebody told me that artist have drug problems and cut their ears off.  And I didn’t want to be crazy.  I didn’t want to be known…
HC: Then don’t eat the paint, OK?
RP: I never wanted to <be crazy>.  I was goin’ to church, and, I don’t know, I went to church one day and picked up a book, this was when I was in my late teens or early twenties, it was called “A Tree Full of Angels”.  A friend has it right now.    And I said, well, if that’s the case then I’ll go ahead and accept myself as an artist. If I have to do whatever I have to do to maintain my own integrity in the world, then I’ll do it.  So that’s when I accepted, but I’ve always been creative. I’ve always been artsy-fartsy.
(We both laughed at his flippant reference.)

photos by Kipp Lott used with permission from Ricardo Paniagua

HC: Are there any artists that inform your work, or that you hold up as Art Gods?  I use ‘Art God’ because I know that has been a title of one of your art shows.
RP: (chuckles) I like that
HC: who are your Art Gods?
RP:  I like Antonio Gaudy. I like Julian Schnabel. Nicholas Roerich. As far as visual artists go.  Heironymus Bosch – all time great, favorite. William Bouguereau is really high up on my list.  And I also like Valasquez, he was a real spiritual guy in life.

photos by Kipp Lott used with permission from Ricardo Paniagua

HC: Have you seen any recent museum exhibits that have stuck in your mind, or made you think?
RP: Well on line, I’ve seen pictures of “Art in the Streets” at MOCA. (chuckles then continues, smiling) And I don’t care for it one bit, but it stuck in my mind.
HC: Why do you not care for it?
RP: Because I think street art is too confined.  You know, why does street art have to be graffiti?  Why does it have to be with spray paint?  You know, and all this different stuff.  And that’s one thing I’m trying to do.  Well that’s actually…I’m going to be doing this show in San Antonio at ArtPace and the Guadalupe Center that deals with the issues I have with the term ‘street art’.  The Brooklyn Museum wouldn’t let that show travel there, well they said it was financial, but I don’t think it’s right to be showing all these little kids that it is cool to, you know, vandalize all these people’s personal property.
HC: I’m sure property owners will agree with you!
RP: yeah….But I did just find out that, I think in 2012, I think the MOCA agreed to give JulianSchnabel a retrospective - which is pretty insane.  Some people think Julian Schnabel is the most overlooked artist of his time…I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I would put Schnabel’s work up there with, I don’t know if Schnabel would agree, but I like his work better than Picasso.  That would be the only other museum show that I’d be concerned with, even though it hasn’t even happened yet….I just love all of his paintings, I mean they’re just awesome.  But I heard he didn’t take a bath, I heard people say that he stinks. (laughs) oh, which I’m sure is true for me sometimes too (laughs)
(We both laugh)
HC: Well, you know, you get in your own world, and that is why people think artists are crazy, right?

photos by Kipp Lott used with permission from Ricardo Paniagua

HC: So what’s a normal day like for you? Do you work seven days a week?
RP: yeah, I work too much dude.  Like yesterday I got up at 8:30 (am) and I worked on my sculptures until I went to bed at 1:30 (am), and I went to lunch, and I went to the hardware store to get my materials, and I just, like, worked all day and did facebook all day (chuckles). So like yeah, my computer is in my studio, and when I get tired of working I’ll go get on facebook, and then when I get bored on facebook I go back to working. Then I’ll just do that same thing all day.

We walked back to his studio where I had left my truck.  As I drove through Deep Ellum, I stopped and took these two pictures of wall murals Paniagua was commissioned to paint a few years back.

This painting is currently for sale at the Ro2 Art gallery in Dallas

The paintings shown in between the interview text above (photos by Kipp Lott) will be featured in juried group exhibitions this summer at Galleri Urbane Marfa/Dallas starting July 9, and Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio starting July 14.  Paniagua's exhibition at The Museumof Geometric and MADI Art continues through July 10.

To close, here are a few of my pictures from the opening reception at The Museum of Geometric and MADI Art:

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