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2023…What is Done is Done

Happy New Year! For the first blog post of year, I like to review my completed art pieces from the prior year. I find it’s a good way to assess accomplishments and shortcomings, artistically speaking. This is also an opportunity to write an unofficial artist’s statement for my 2023 body of work.   

 

In late 2022, I may have hinted to the premise of the body of work I was going to be working on in 2023. As I wrapped up the “Lyrically Painted” series in 2022, I had a clear idea of where I was heading next, a series of multi-media collages.  I entitled the series “Talking Back to the Past”.

 

I wanted to share a little insight into my process for these collages since it’s completely different than how I have ever created art before.

 

So, once upon a time ago, as a punk teen who was pissed at the world, I wrote a lot of poetry…a lot of bad poetry. I have like half a dozen notebooks filled with my own free-associating thoughts and misguided emotional angst. Without realizing it, I had documented my adolescences through poetry. It was meaningful at the time and served its purpose as a much-needed outlet to express myself, a journal of sorts. At the time, I was also just discovering painting. I guess you could say I dabbled in the visual arts, but my go to was poetry. Now, in my defense, I did read lots of poetry from Robert Frost to Charles Bukowski and everything in between. That seemed to inform my writing, or at the very least, I mimicked the writing styles I read.

 

Perhaps one of the smartest things I did was archive those notebooks. I stashed them away with old photos of friends, letters, and just about every greeting card I have ever received. Flash forward to the Fall of 2022 when I’m organizing my studio, I came upon the cherished notebooks. They take up an entire drawer of a bureau in my studio that I keep for reference materials and rough sketches of completed work. My kneejerk reaction was, now’s the time to let them go. Nothing was ever going to become of all those old poems and no one even knows they exist.

 

I thought I’d thumb through one last time before tossing them in the garbage when it hit me. Amongst page after page of utter literary nonsense, I found a gem. Then I found another and another. Not whole poems, but just a title, or a line, or a phrase. Some of the lines were incredibly insightful for a 15 or 16 year old kid. How many of my dreams, hopes and fears became fully realized throughout my life? That was the moment, the epiphany, this is a conduit to the past, my past.

 

All the knowledge that comes with decades of living life, raising my own family, starting a business, reading, and studying history was now going to help me decide what part of my teenage years were worth showcasing.

 

I tried my best to separate myself from the nostalgic sentimentality and just read objectively as a 52-year-old man. There was an emotional gulf between the awkward moody kid I was and who I am today.  I began by writing down the lines or titles from my old notebooks in my current sketchbook. Rarely do you have an opportunity to really connect with your inner-child, but there I was with my actual words and thoughts from 40 years ago in front of me.  An opportunity to connect the “me” of today to the younger “me,” thus, the title of the series, “Talking Back to the Past.”

 

The mission here wasn’t to necessarily illustrate the selected words or phrases but simply use them as titles to the collage pieces that I would create. Instead of working diligently for weeks on a piece to end up deliberating on the title, I was starting with a title and creating the work around the title, essentially working backwards. As I was explaining the process to my family, I used the analogy of pitching a movie to a production company with just a working title. Could you imagine trying to secure funding for a project with no plot, cast, or potential locations?

 

To stress the point, these pieces are based on fragments of poems, they’re not illustrations. Without further ado, here is my 2023 body of work. I finished a couple of paintings that were not part of the “Talking Back to the Past” series as noted.


Have You Ever Heard the Sound of Blue Laughing Its Way through the Sky?, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"


The first of the series is Have You Ever Heard the Sound of Blue Laughing Its Way Through the Sky?

As I started the Talking Back to the Past series, I gave myself a couple of rules, well, more like parameters. Every piece is on black Strathmore heavyweight paper either 16”x20” or 18”x24”. All the pieces are mixed media but have a heavy concentrate of collage materials.


Sugarhawk, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"



Lovers Angels and a House of Cards, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"



City Central Paradise, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"




Shadows of a Lesser Dark, but Still of Night, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"


Rage Contained in Eggshells, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 18"x24"


The Sand Makes Promises the Stars Wont Keep, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"


Peace is a Crust of Bread, and My Spirit is a Hungry Dove, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 18"x24"


For the most part, these poem-based pieces really don’t have an explanation, which for me is weird. I’m so used to carefully orchestrating symbols to create a painting with layers of personal meaning, that it was liberating to free-associate random “stuff” and just have fun.


Amore Enternos (Eternal Love), 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic and gold leaf on Masonite, 18"x24"


A painting I did in the Spring was Amore Enternos (Eternal Love). The painting is rich with symbols of the cycle of life (and death). It speaks to the beauty of a pair and the bond to a significant other. It has a direct Puerto Rican sensibility by incorporating the Tiano Indian symbol of eternal lovers, two birds facing each other, perhaps kissing. Yet, the painting isn’t relegated to being ethnic. Bright beautiful colors that dance across a shimmering gold background in a calculated symmetry. As I worked on this, I thought of it as a “visual merengue.”


Father Sky has Time for his Son, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on canvas, 24"x24"

Right around Father’s Day I finished Father Sky has Time for his Son. It’s an allegory of fatherhood that depicts a central figure with a smaller figure within it. Both with their arms reaching over their heads flying a kite. The element of time is a central theme portrayed by four skies demarking the passing of the seasons. Time is a treasured commodity between father and child, likely of more value to a child than money. I painted the composition on an angle to loosely hint at the shape of a kite.


The Gillespie Suite, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic and collage on watercolor paper, (all) 6"x6"







The Gillespie Suite is four 6”x6” paintings that I created, well, because that’s my little guy.


Eclipse 2024, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on black Strathmore heavyweight paper, 16"x20"


This piece I did as a working study in anticipation for the 2024 eclipse, which will be a community painting event with the Memorial Art Gallery


Hearts, 2023

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media and collage on Masonite, 6"x6"








I ended the year doing four more hearts, also 6”x6”, that are part of a long-standing series of hearts. Not sure what I’m going to do with them yet. Maybe valentines?

 

As 2024 launches, I’ve got ideas for this year too. I’m not sure how many of those ideas will crystalize. I may have mentioned before, many paintings live and die in my head and never see a blank canvas. Making art is not a race and at this stage of life, I’m more about quality than quantity.

 

Cheers to a creative 2024!

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