Interview: Raul Pizarro

Raul Pizarro took time away from his busy schedule of art making and debauchery to answer a few questions about his work.  Raul is a dear friend to the dA and is exhibiting one of his paintings in the 9th Annual Aztlan exhibition Returning to Aztlan: Revisited.  There have been many pieces written and directed about Raul and his work in relation to his muscular dystrophy, which of course plays a huge role in how and why he creates.  Let us take a moment to further think about some of his work and hopefully catch a glimpse of his wonderful sense of humor.

dA: Raul, I have known you for roughly ten years now and have always known you to exhibit at the dA. Can you please fill me in on how you came to know the dA?

Raul Pizarro: I first heard about the DA through a friend who mentioned their annual simply red show. A few months later I met Frank Garcia who is the curator for the Aztlan shows and it happened to be the first Aztlan show he was organizing.

dA: How many Aztlan exhibitions have you shown in? Can you tell me about your work and how it may relate to the Chicano/Aztlan theme? What does participating in a show called “Aztlan” mean to your practice or you, in other words why did you become involved in these exhibitions? Do you consider yourself a “Chicano Artist” why?

RP: I became involved with the Aztlan show because it was the first exhibit I was invited to partake in many, many years ago. To say I took part in the show because I considered myself a Chicano artist at the time would be fairly inaccurate because I didn’t know what Aztlan or Chicano meant. I’ve since educated myself and think I’m a bit less feral.

When invited to be a part of the Aztlan show, I remember saying yes and then looking up what Aztlan meant through books and web sites. Sadly, I didn’t get much of my information in the same manner in regards to the definition of what constitutes a Chicano. I asked people what it meant and found it was a loaded and sometimes very sensitive issue. I consider myself Chicano. I am proud of my Mexican origin and ancestry. I am also a painter. I am disabled. I am an atheist, and I’m a lavender swan. If someone wants to put me into a cubby they’ll have to split me into quite a few pieces.

dA: Specifically thinking of your “Day of the Dead” series, can you tell us more about those characters?

RP: My day of the dead series started about five years ago (holy mother of injustice, how time flies) when I was invited to show my work at a gallery in Olvera Street for dia de los muertos. The first two paintings I did were homage’s to my grandmothers. Since then, I’ve painted a new series every year, some that question how death is viewed now. Images of skulls and afterlife themed undertones are pretty prevalent in editorials and American culture. That idea, along with a wink and a nudge, have formed the new series. The new series is called Hijas de su madre, which is what many mothers use to scorn a daughter who is being too vocal/sassy or an all around ruffian. A lot of mothers use this term when they’re angry because it’s what their mothers used when they were misbehaving. What I really wonder though, is how many of those mothers are secretly proud of having a daughter that’s outspoken and ridiculously sassy.

dA: When you were working on “Probability Theory” and others from that era, you mentioned that you wanted to hurry and finish the figures so you could create the backgrounds which was your favorite part. Then you created “Host” and now your series “Serpentine Rumination” feels a lot more polished. I guess the question is: How have you come to this phase?

RP: Your memory is scary and clearly a tool of the devil. My work is a result of who I am; in terms of both weakness and small moments of personal triumphs. My views on what my life means and how I want to live is the catalyst to the imagery, stylings and painting techniques used in each piece. As of the past four years, my body has hit the gas pedal in terms of loss of strength do to the muscular dystrophy and with this in mind I’m striving to have a few moments visual reminders of where my strength went. Who I am as a person in this particular skin.

dA: What other exhibitions are you participating in this season?

RP: For upcoming dates on exhibits visit

Don’t miss the 9th Annual Aztlan exhibition “Returning to Aztlan: Revisited” opening this Saturday at the dA:

The dA Center for the Arts Presents:

Returning to Aztlan: Revisited
October 8 – November 26, 2011
More Info
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