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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/07/2005 Archived Entry: "An Interview with Raoul De la Sota"

An Interview with Raoul De la Sota

Raoul De la Sota was born and raised in Los Angeles by Mexican parents in a bilingual household. He studied at Los Angeles City College and then at UCLA where eventually he earned his Master of Arts degree. He received soon after graduation the first Fulbright Fellowship ever awarded to a Chicano artist for a yearıs study in Peru. That trip was to change his life by experiencing a Latin American country in person for the first time. The traditions, beliefs and sacred mountain landscapes have stayed with him throughout his life. He has exhibited in Oaxaca, Morelia and Valle de Bravo in Mexico along with shows in Lima, Peru, and Spain. Closer to home, he has exhibited his work in the Gallery of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., the Laguna Museum of Art, the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles commissioned a sculptural piece, and he was commissioned to do the cover of the book Wild Steps to Heaven by Victor Villaseñor. He currently leads travel groups to Peru, Spain and Mexico seeking a better understanding of Hispanic and Pre-Hispanic sites and their cosmological beliefs. He also teaches art at Los Angeles City College. Mr. Montoya gave this interview via email to Kathy Gallegos of the Avenue 50 Studio where Mr. De la Sota has a show up until May 23, and Ginger Mayerson of J LHLS in May 2005.

Ginger Mayerson: What paintings are you currently working on?

Raoul De la Sota: Rather than a painting I am currently working on an idea continuing with the earth and cosmos relationship. Perhaps the next one will be more abstract. I see the colors I want to use but the form remains unclear.

GM: What media do you work most in?

RDlS: I mostly work in acrylic paint because I can make it do anything I want. The real excitement comes from the surface on which I apply the paint from hard-surfaced wood to softer canvas. That is what makes all the difference in the painting.

GM: Can you explain your art training?

RDlS: I had a straight-forward training on HOW to paint at UCLA but my art "training" really began when I started to investigate my cultural past and identity - that's when I started to know WHAT to paint.

GM: What artists or art periods do you feel have influenced or inspired your work?

RDlS: My earliest influences were european artists of the 20th century like Kokoschka, Matisse and then I discovered the Mexican painters, Dr. Atl, Tamayo, Siqueiros. Their strong color and exciting brushwork attracted me.

GM: What do you consider the most important experiences in your development as an artist?

RDlS: It was the year I spent in Peru on a Fulbright Fellowship. for the first time I saw art as an extension of a people and not in the gallery/museum framework. The second greatest experience was the first long trip I took to Mexico, the land of my parents and truly felt the differences in the land and the people.

GM: How has your personal background influenced your art?

RDlS: I was very ill with asthma until the age of 10 so I was never outside, with friends, on the streets. therefore my art never dealt with the urban scenes of other Chicano artists. I was schooled at home and I think that made me more aware of my family identity.

Kathy Gallegos: Does Chicano culture here in Los Angeles have an influence in your art?

RDlS: I don't think that at this point in my development I look to anyone as an influence. I respect many artists for their skills and risk-taking but just as that 9-year old reclusive, introspective kid, I keep to my own ideas.

GM: What are the most important experiences in your practice of art now?

RDlS: Those would be classroom discussions with my Art History students. They seem to bring out new ideas, new approaches to how to identify and paint my culture.

GM: Are there any shows in the LA area or elsewhere you've seen lately that have had an impact on you?

RDlS: I've been too busy lately to see many shows although I've been to the Autry, LACMA, the Natl. Hist. Museum and some galleries. NO is the answer.

KG: When you talk with younger artists, how would you explain the role of inspiration and self-discipline? Which is more important?

RDlS: Inspiration has always sounded phony, like some outside force that has little to do with your inner workings. Inspiration sounds like something you experience with the eyes. Instead I ask my students to consider who they are, what makes them happy, what feels natural, what is it thast they really know well enough to describe with paint. Self-discipline is leading a balanced life. To me it doesn't mean working constantly at painting. To experience your emotional, physical and intellectual self sometime during the day is self-discipline to me.

GM: What are you reading and/or listening to these days?

RDlS: I love to read history and non-fiction: Krakatoa by Winchester, Collapse by Diamond and by the way the show Collapse at the Natural History Museum is a real bust, and Goya by Hughes. I ALWAYS listen to music-classical and world music in particular.

GM and KG: Thank you, Raoul.

Mr. De la Sota has a show of paintings at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Ave 50, in Highland Park until May 23. Please call 323-258-1435 for gallery hours.

Replies: 4 comments

I love Raoul's work and the show was wonderful.

Posted by merrill flam @ 05/19/2005 01:00 PM PST

Dear Ms. Mayerson,

I read this wonderful reveiw and interveiw on Raoul's work and you have done a wonderful job. The writer seemed to really sense the inner workings of Raoul's art.


Posted by Leticia Garcia-De la Sota @ 05/19/2005 02:43 PM PST

This interview makes clear the difference between having artistic talent and using it to say something important or explicate something mysterious. I admire the fact that you have explored so many different art forms and subjects. So many artists stick to the same subjects all the time, but you aren't satisfied with that. I found especially interesting what you said about your discussions with your students relating to self-discipline and a balanced life. We should all follow that model.

Posted by Susan Shields @ 05/20/2005 12:18 PM PST

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Posted by Editor @ 01/12/2006 06:04 PM PST

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