My work is linked to my political activism, the majority of it having to do with perceptions of immigration. Much of my early work was done in the tradition of the Royal Chicano Air Force (R.C.A.F.), who are a Sacramento based Chicano art collective that formed in the late 60s. Their political protest silkscreen posters inspired me to follow their footsteps and produce my own silkscreen prints which were used in immigration rights marches. Currently I’m venturing into mixed media installation and sculpture. Unlike my political posters my mixed media pieces are not blunt. Although the mixed media work is driven by my political philosophy, the goal is not to make the viewer agree or disagree with my ideas, but rather connect their own experiences with the work. Manuel Rios’ work can be seen at “Desmadre: Fresh Latino Perspectives” May 14th at Virmillion Gallery Seattle.
Where are you from? What is your heritage?
I was born in San Jose, California, but grew up in Hollister, California. I identify myself as a Chicano.
What is the medium that you most commonly work in?
I have a background in printmaking which is included in many of my mixed media work as well.
What tends to inspire you and your work?
I’m inspired by the spirit of people who have all odds against them yet still find the heart to fight on.
If it was not for art I would be………..?
If I wasn’t an artist I’d probably be a high school history teacher as well as a basketball coach.
Do you have any artistic relatives? If so what do they do?
Most of my family can draw, but I was the one who was more interested in the content of work rather than the design alone.
Is music part of your creative process? What do you listen to most?
I can’t explain how inspirational music can be when I’m in the studio! It ranges from Hip-Hop to Folk music. If I had to choose one artist to get me through a week in the studio it would be Bob Dylan, hands down.
What food most reminds you of home?
Homemade tortillas are home for me. So much that I forced my mom to teach me how to make them before I left to college in 1998 because I couldn’t stand store tortillas.
When you are with family do you speak mostly in English or Espanol?
I only speak English because that’s all I really understand. Once and a while I understand a sentence or too of Spanish, then I think I’m all bad.
What do you think could help raise the profile of young Latino artists here in America?
I believe that Chicano/Latino artist could benefit ourselves if we stop promoting the stereotypes of who a Chicano/Latino is. Lowriders and cholos are cool and all, and they are part of our culture, but that’s not all we are.
Is there a connection between Latino artists here in the US and those throughout the hemisphere?
I believe that there is a connection between all Latinos, this is obvious. But what is less obvious is the fact that all people of the world have a connection. For example, the immigrants in the U.S. have many of the same odds against them as the immigrants in France.
Anybody you would like to thank or acknowledge?
I would like to acknowledge my Mom, Estella Rios, and my Dad, Jose Rios for being great roll models and always reminding me who I was and never letting me forget where I came from. I’d also like to acknowledge my late great teacher Ricardo Favela for treating me as a peer, and my art history professor Elaine O’Brien for opening my mind to other artistic possibilities.
See more of Manuel Rios’ work at www.manuelfernandorios.com