Friday, September 30, 2011

Ali Sifuentes

Painting of Kentucky Fried Chicken on U.S. Route 14, Rochester, Minnesota
by artist Ali Sifuentes

Often when I eat at a fast food restaurant, I walk by and glance at the "art" many of them hang on their walls, from the annoying "inspiration" posters, to faded advertisements from the 1990s, all ensconced in those annoying metallic-gold lacquer plastic frames.

But, while stopping by the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Rochester, a picture actually did catch my eye. I thought, "who dreamt up the advertising ploy to paint a KFC restaurant a la Edward Hopper, all full of alarming hues and chiaroscuro? Someone on Madison Avenue knows what they're doing!"

But, on closer inspection, I saw that the painting was an original, and not some high-quality reproduction. I inquired about the artist. It turns out the artist is one Ali Sifuentes, a 20 year-old painter who works the fryers and the drive-thru at this particular restaurant. The painting is a gift he made to the restaurant.

Although my Motorola Z6C cheap camera phone can't do justice to the tonal balance, and the brush and putty-knife strokes, here is a somewhat acceptable photograph of the painting. Ali hails from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, which is a border city across the Rio Grande from Texas.  When I mentioned the painting had a cinematic perspective and Edward Hopper feel, he smiled, and told me that was precisely the effect he was going for. Along with Hopper, he is a follower of Dali.  He has only been painting for two years, so until he was 18, Sifuentes must have had all this latent talent building up. Soft-spoken, and of diminutive stature, Sifuentes seems to be one of those artists who pays a lot of attention to the dull surroundings the rest of us take for granted, transforming them into something magical and arresting.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Road Less Traveled

 U.S. Route 12, Oakdale, Wisconsin, September 2011

Not to sound like Andy Rooney, but Have You Ever Noticed that whereas the old independent strip motels that dot our byways off the Interstate have character, that you would not want to actually stay there?

That's because they're are often run down, unhygienic, and you certainly wouldn't want to take a shower in Cabin 1 on some lonely, rainy night.  

I would much rather stay someplace luxurious and civilized, such as the DoubleTree Suites, in Minneapolis (/sarcasm).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Daniel Raven Valdes, 1945-2011

Portrait of Daniel Raven Valdes, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2005
Copyright © 2005, Lori V. M. Montoya

Bad news travels fast, but the saddest news takes its time.  I learned last night that the acclaimed American Indian artist Daniel Raven Valdes, died of a brain aneurysm. He was 65.

I first met Daniel in 2005 when fellow photographer Lori Montoya interviewed and photographed him for an article I was writing on how the American Indian and native Spanish populations were being systematically pushed out of Santa Fe's old city through gentrification.

What most struck me about Daniel was that he exuded an inner confidence and graciousness one seldom encounters amongst artists--particularly Santa Fe artists.  But Daniel was a real Santa Fe artist, not just a transplant who moved into the local art scene and pushed out the local artists.  Father Sun-Mother Earth, his gallery, planted its roots way back in 1976, and for over thirty years, Daniel was adamant about remaining the "last man standing."  He wasn't a bitter individual, just someone who knew his worth.  He was a fixture of the downtown scene for friends of his, like Lori, and another fellow artist, Cruz Eagleheart, and with his characteristic modesty, likened his gallery to the Woolworth's lunch counter, always making his art accessible to anyone who admired it, whether well-heeled, or on a student budget.

Daniel's work was gorgeous, but his best work--painstakingly done on scratchboard--had to be experienced in person, to appreciate its intricacy and texture.  He possessed an eye for color that was in keeping with the tradition of so many great New Mexican painters, not of the Georgia O'Keefe school, but in comradeship with the airbrush wielding artisans, waxing poetic over lowriding '63 Impalas in Española body shops.

Mother Wolf, Copyright © 1990 by Daniel Raven Valdes

In honor of Daniel's memory, there will be a gathering at Embudo Station at 1 p.m.,  Sunday, September 18th, in Santa Fe.

Daniel Raven Valdes at his gallery at 124 Galisteo
Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2005
Photograph by Robert Jones

Friday, September 2, 2011

Madhi Choudhury, Graphic Artist

Mahdi Choudhury's reimagining of a poster for
Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo

Sometimes, a graphic so totally bowls me over, I have to share it on my blog.  Case in point: Toronto artist Mahdi Choudhury, who has taken Kim Novak's silhouette from a key scene in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo, and transformed it into an arresting stand-alone graphic.

While I do not think Choudhury captured the thematic essence of the movie, he brilliantly distilled its emotional impactCompare that with Kate Whelan's design (see below), which captures the movie's theme splendidly, but totally lacks Choudhury's emotional connection.

I am certain the world will soon know Choudhury's work the way it does Saul Bass's or Paul Rand's -- the quite accomplished graphic designer is but 14 years old, though his soul is much older.

(Hat tip: Dan Auiler).