Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Armando Sebastian: Vestiges of a Mystical Paradise

Boys in the Garden
Oil on Canvas
Armando Sebastian
Armando Sebastian is an artist, a poet with a brush who is devoted to creating ideals of harmony through art that moves our emotions.  It is a perfect escape of everyday reality and an expression of creative imagination.  Distinctively dazzling, Sebastian’s art establishes a presence that is palpably alive.  Full of imagery and ritual, it is art that has the power to represent and create spectacular, timeless, flourishing.  His poetic body of work embodies vestiges of a mystical paradise.    

Sebastian was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico where he pursued a career at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León.  Art was ingrained in his heart from an early age, therefore, becoming a relentless renaissance man: Sebastian designed, cut fabrics, made costumes, created jewelry, continuously painted, ornamented every space in his room as a youth, and for hours dreamt endlessly about scenes that would later become his emblematic paintings that are now highly sought after.

Armando Sebastian is a self-taught artist and most of his learning came from pouring over hundreds of volumes of art books.  Being drawn to the Surrealist art movement, medieval art, 18th Century art, religious imagery, and Ex Votos, a type of Mexican artistic religious iconography, Sebastian implements symbolic meaning and dimension in his work.  

In his early years, Sebastian grew up watching Japanese anime cartoons that included fantastic beasts, powerful beings that resided over dark, evil deeds, and good characters that possessed human qualities that redeem the world.

Mexico City-based Spanish painter Remedios Varo became a strong, early influence.  Sebastian, in his enigmatic paintings, makes use of androgynous beings engaged in emotional expressions such as letter writing, poetry recitations,  proclamations of love, and even sadness with transparent, diamond-like tears over the face of his subjects.  Some depictions engage in magical arts and even the occult and shamanism or curanderismo.  

Another major influence in Sebastian’s work is French post-impressionist painter Henri Rousseau.  In Sebastian’s series: The Garden of Good and Evil, a few elements of Rousseau’s paintings can be seen as an influence.  The piece titled: Boys in the Garden depicts a paradise garden oasis full of fragrant flowers, a cult to the god of beauty and ecstasy, colorful, curious, and perhaps even picaresque with youthful prowess, one boy’s eyes can see, while the other boy is blindfolded.  In the resplendent and sumptuous blues and greens, birds of paradise, a heavenly waterfall, several wild birds, and even a poisonous snake about to devour a rabbit serve as a reminder that even in paradise there will be room for evil.  

Indra & Eloise / The Thieves of Hearts
Oil on Canvas 36x48 in
Armando Sebastian
Sebastian has stated that his inspiration comes mainly from life experiences, childhood dreams, and magical childhood stories.  His sense of embellishment and decorative exquisiteness can be fully appreciated in the painting: Indra & Eloise / The Thieves of Hearts.  The depiction is of two personages endowed with lavish, expressive eyes flying on a vivid and mysterious magic carpet.  The dramatic gowns are richly ornamented with gold threads, soft, thick velvet, and jewels from far away lands.  Black dots applied on the subjects are a resemblance of the eternal black hole of our universe or perhaps a kohl marking to ward off evil spirits.  The black dot is all-powerful and is the spiritual sight that can see things that the physical eyes cannot see.  There is no need to interpret the inherent genders, the narrative is gloriously imperial and their journey is seemingly frozen in venerable tranquil beauty lit by beaming moonlight.   

Sebastian studied the art of Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington.  Both women artists left an impressive formality of style that Sebastian ceremoniously renders admiration by enveloping elements into his artwork.  In Lagrimas de Cristal / Diamonds of Sorrow, a boy is consumed by sadness and aching for love.  A clear homage to Kahlo’s sorrow and personal pain can be admired in the wet, droopy eyes of the boy who lets out his cry with crystal-diamond beads and an emotional, unrequited love letter written on the blue wall.  You can’t ignore the counted tears on the table without also admiring his ruby-red lips that spark a sense of forgiveness for the misdeed. 

Lagrimas de Cristal / Diamonds of Sorrow
Oil on Canvas 30x40 in
Armando Sebastian
In Parallel Universe / Ciervos en Primavera, Sebastian applies his deep understanding and connection to the art of Leonora Carrington.  In this scene, a powerful act of his imagination depicts a divine world with a sense of time-related to the here and now, but also eternity.  His space and dimension for creation are open and boundless.  It brims over and you’re pulled in.  It's a different world with an alchemy of symbols. It's a scene that invites the viewer to step back and let you observe details and small moments.  Glorified in the power of color to awake love and passion, there is a boy hidden behind an evergreen garden of perfumed blossoms begging for pollination.  Drawn by his sense of smell, his masked, peeking eyes are oblivious of a hungry, black, serpent eating a fawn and his defeated mother.  In his harmonious garden, he stands tall like the obelisk at the distant hills and he is master of his paradise.  The scene is framed by a theatrical red curtain, perhaps a symbol of palpitating blood, he’s in another mysterious dimension, unbeknownst to him that the viewer is observing his world.  

Parallel Universe / Ciervos en Primavera
Oil on Canvas 48x60 in
Armando Sebastian
Armando Sebastian is deeply connected to his Mexican roots.  Culture plays a major role in his work.  He carries with him a sketchbook so that wherever he may be, he can doodle ideas that come to mind.  His love of music such as boleros, ballads, and electronic music, poetry, coffee, and chamomile tea nourish his senses while he works.  His process for each piece usually starts with the burning of incense, a shrine of objects, and a collage or inspirational board that fills his studio with artistic energy.  He’s mostly inspired to work in the early dawn hours, but he also works at night.  His studio is his sanctuary.  

Sebastian’s hope for his extensive body of work is to transcend time, language, and cultural boundaries.  He hopes to reflect on human experiences and to record the expressive mind that will live on.

For more on Armando Sebastian and his work visit:

Armando Sebastian Artist
Photo © Leticia Alaniz

Written by
© Leticia Alaniz
All Rights Reserved 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Brent Kollock: Stories from the streets of Mexico

Woman offering prayers
Photograph © Brent Kollock
Deep in the hills and valleys of Mexico lie spellbinding tales of the people that have inherited the secrets of living in ancestral tradition and newly adopted modern ways.  Quietly capturing these stories is the everlasting curiosity and talent of life and street photographer Brent Kollock.  

His travels have led him to the everyday lives of market vendors, street circuses, performers, carnivals, children, street food, religious ceremonies, Prehispanic rituals, and even burials.  Different regions have provided a background of photographs in their purest form, setting the stories in their most natural, vulnerable, and unobtrusive capture of a reality that can be seen today.  It’s a stark, black and white vérité style with subjects stopped in an eternal moment in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Guanajuato, and Puebla. 

Tuba Player
Photograph © Brent Kollock
Photographing everyday life confronts Kollock to see and live like a local.  To acquire a delicate sensibility to his surroundings and understand the customs of the natives and the realm of their triumphs and hardships of survival and celebration of life.  People commune with animals, with the past and the present, with the underworld, the dead and the living.  Their food becomes ritual and ceremony becomes blurred with dreams.

Armed with such sensibility, Kollock’s craft and skillful command of the camera, have led him to closeness with his subject to chronicle moments as they happen.  In many of the photographs, his subjects’ eyes seem to hypnotize and speak to the viewer which can be interpreted as an invitation to look in.
Children performing Pastorela
© Brent Kollock

Brent Kollock is an artist of life, a poet, an artist documenting on 35mm film and digital capture.  They’re scenes of relevance and passing time.  
There’s an almost spiritual quality to his photographs.  His images are filled with the beauty and absurdity that never fail to evoke a strange yet intimate sense of humanity.  

Kollock’s perseverance to capture humanity has led to an exploration of the significance of the stories he has brought from far away lands.  At the heart of his stories, lies the human spirit and the quest of seeking peace and harmony.  A quest to establish meaningful connections to people and animals and a clear representation of who we are.

Market Musicians (Abuelos)
© Brent Kollock
Kollock’s body of work is of light and darkness and assumes the perspective of his subjects.  There is a fundamental narrative of struggle, survival, joy, and even oppression and freedom.  His subjects emerge from the shadows and they belong to their societies, they may be solitary or in groups of families, but all have intricate and fascinating stories to tell.  They’re a reminder that all of humanity has a fundamental need for expression. And the photographs serve as a lasting monument to his talent.

Artist, Photographer, Writer Brent Kollock
Brent Kollock presents A World Away Just Next Door: Street Photography in Mexico in a solo exhibition at the Latino Cultural Center, Dallas.  Fine art black and white prints are selected and curated by legendary artist and activist Viola Delgado.

The exhibit is free and open to the public on November 22 through January 4th, 2019.

2600 Live Oak Street - Dallas, Texas 75204

For more on Brent Kollock or to purchase his art photography books visit:

Written by Leticia Alaniz
© 2019