Peace in Painting
By Michelle Lepori
Raul Pizarro was born looking at life with a different perspective than most. It is not that he grew up in an area of Pomona with relaxed police presence and high crime. It is not his crippling muscular dystrophy or Chicano roots. More than anything else, it is his way of seeing life; a sunny-side-up outlook that does not shun reality, but sees and shares its best qualities with others. In short, Raul Pizarro is an artist that will make you laugh while telling the best jokes, all while he is creating beautiful and imaginative fine art.
This habit of humor showed up early on for Pizarro. Pizarro shares, “Junior High was when I got my first set of oil paints. A teacher there also loved my work so she gave me all of her dead grandmother’s art supplies. I like to think that they were haunted. But happy haunted, not push over your favorite vase while you’re sleeping haunted.”
His artwork is magical. The way he has dealt with having muscular dystrophy has not slowed down his determination to make great original art. As his muscles have deteriorated, he found ways to continue doing what he loves, painting. “It’s tough but not impossible, I sort of find ways of getting myself propped-up by leaning on small tables, on my own legs and such; it’s a series of stacking.” His recent paintings are smaller than past, but just as detailed. “I’m still trying really hard to find ways to paint on a larger scale but my arms have since emaciated along with the rest of my body . . . I tried painting as large scale as I could for a good number of years knowing that eventually my reach would become much more limited.”
Young Pizarro faced communication challenges that also paved the way for his artistic success. His parents thought it important he learn Spanish first and English second. Dumped into the American school system—emersion style—he stayed afloat by developing strong visual learning skills. His eyes led the way and on their route to the school bus in early morning hours, prostitutes walked the streets after a long night out. He would stare, they were so beautiful; these women covered in sparkles with high heels and done up hair. “Avert your eyes Raul! Pray for them,” she would say. His mother tried to shield the young boy from something he didn’t understand. He just saw it differently.
Pizarro pays homage to these beautiful women of Pomona in the painting, Silicone Avenue Prayer. As a glorious dark skinned lady with golden eyes in a short leopard dress and maroon kitten heels kicks back under an ultramarine night sky, next to a young boy on his knees, head bowed, quietly praying.
The visual context of Pizarro’s latest collection, Theatro Del Mondo lies in its inspiration of 15th century map-maker, Ortelius. These themes of charting star-filled skies saturate Pizarro’s latest collection. His modus operandi, “furry.” These paintings have “bears searching for enlightenment in text books they may or may not understand, badgers learning firsthand about compromise and love, and bunny rabbits that are fighting their natural urges to murder each other for ice cream,” he says.
Are we so different than animals? Perhaps they too are contemplating their own Nietzsche. These images are all presented under luminous Braille-like constellations; one can feel the warm summer air moving through their grassy hills.
“There have been some really cool moments in my art path so far, one of my favorites was recently being invited to work with a master printer at Self Help Graphics for a two week residency where we produced limited edition serigraphs,” Pizarro describes. He also just completed a showing at The Claremont Forum. July 13 marks the start of camping and nature themed group show, “The Great Outdoors.” This will be held in Downtown Pomona at Bunny Gunner. Co-owner and artist, Juan Thorp has showcased Pizarro before and, “found that his work is very well received. It sells immediately. I mean that is not always the most important thing, but his art is very popular . . . People are fighting over his paintings,” Thorp explains. What Thorp thinks is most important, “by anything, he is a great artist, all original work—just a great artist.” Pizarro and his family-friendly, fun and furry artwork will, no doubt, will engage your subconscious creative streak and put a smile on your face.
“The Great Outdoors” at Bunny Gunner, 266 W. 2nd St., Pomona. (909) 868-2808; www.bunnygunner.com. July 13-Aug 3. Free. All Ages.