Carlos Donjuan is Mexican American painter who will receive his Masters degree in art in May 2009. Donjuan’s paintings explore the tension between his Mexican roots and American cultures that he has experienced since moving to this country. Some of the ideas that Donjuan encounters are Catholicism vs. politics, illegal immigrants vs. U.S. citizenship, graffiti vs. the law, and academia vs. the streets. Portraits embedded with clues, symbols, and text creates a narrative about the ideas and struggles that Donjuan is trying to convey in his paintings. He creates his work with the skills that he has as a graffiti artist mixed with techniques that he has gained through painting. You can see Carlos Donjuan’s arte at “Desmadre” Fresh Latino Perspectives” May 14th at Vermillion Gallery Seattle.
Where are you from? What is your heritage?
I was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. My parents brought me and my brothers to the U.S. when we were little kids. I was only 3 years old. I consider myself a Mexican American.
What is the medium that you most commonly work in?
I like to work with watercolors, acrylics, and spray paint on birch wood.
What tends to inspire you and your work?
Graffiti has always been my biggest source of inspirations since I have been involved with the movement for a couple of years now. Other than that, I am influenced by a lot of things such as Hip-Hop, Mexico, Religion, Politics, Photography, Bicycles, fashion, family and friends.
If it was not for art I would be………..?
Probably doing something with music, like being a DJ. Maybe learn to play and instrument and make music.
Do you have any artistic relatives? if so what do they do?
My brother Arturo is a Graffiti artist, painter, tattoo artist, singer and a great Barber. My brother Miguel is also a graffiti artist, painter, muralist, photographer, and an upcoming DJ. My Uncle Jesse was a graffiti artist. My uncles Joe and Efrain were great Mariachi musicians. My uncle Noe was great at drawing, graffiti, and DJing. He is the reason that I became and artist. My younger cousin Theresa is a really talented pianist, photographer and video artist.
Is music part of your creative process? What do you listen to most?
Music is a very important part of my creative process. I listen to everything from The Pharcyde, J-Dilla, Wu-Tang, Murs, The Roots, Mos Def, Buena Vista Social Club, Leo Dan, Sonora Santanera, Rigo Tovar, Tito Puente, Joe Bataan, Ray Barretto, Bob Marley, John Holt, Sizzla, Max Romeo, Buju Banton, Capleton, Richie Spice, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach, John Coltrane, Deftones, At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta, De Facto, Thursday, One Line Drawing, The Smiths, The Cure, Sparta, The Octopus Project, The Shins, M83, Prefuse73, Sub Oslo, Diplo, The Party, Sinden, Crookers, Buraka Som Sistema, Radioclit, Mad Decent, etc. I could go on forever.
What food most reminds you of home?
I would have to say Gorditas and all the fruits that you cant get in the U.S.
When you are with your family do you speak mostly in english or espanol?
We are a bilingual family, so we speak both.
What do you think could help raise the profile of young Latino artists here in America?
Education. I know a lot of young Latino artist that never get a chance to experience art through academia. There is not enough people out there encouraging these artist to go to school. We need to get out there and encourage our people to continue with their educations, because it is very possible.
Is there a connection between Latino artists here in the US and those throughout the hemisphere?
I would hope so. I know that the graffiti scenes in many Latin American countries is thriving. U.S. artist are now traveling south to paint with these latino artist.
Anybody you would like to thank or acknowledge?
Gracias a DIOS. Thank you to my family and friends. Thank you to my crew The Sour Grapes (www.sourgrapes13.com). Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me.
View more Carlos Donjuan’s art at www.carlosdonjuan.com