100 Dallas Creatives: No. 64 Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email email@example.com with the whos and whys.
Self-Portrait Part of 40-photo essay about all the possible ways this hat may be worn, which showed at Conduit Gallery for TepeQuetzalandia in 2013
No matter the medium, the work of Roberto Munguia seems riddled with mystery. It's not that it's enigmatic, although interpretation is often difficult, it's that he creates complexities. Throughout his career, Munguia has worked in numerous media from ink drawings to encaustics to clay. Simultaneously he been investigating language, sculpting words into poetry. And he's done much of this artistic inquiry in Dallas.
He remembers a time when the Dallas Museum of Art was still in Fair Park and the gallery scene was next to non-existent. He belongs to the city's artistic old guard, but his work continues to be fresh. I've long been an admirer of Munguia's work and it was nice to put a face and a story, with his rich, varied approach to art.
If you remember it, what was your first encounter with Art?
I started drawing at age 5 and really liked to impress Mom with little drawings of animals, but it wasn't until I was a bit older that I got my first taste of disciplined Art effort. I saw a picture of an actress playing the lead in a remake of the film The Blue Angel, and I REALLY wanted to draw her face and tried repeatedly to capture her likeness. After much effort I was able to get it and that helped me understand that perseverance pays off.
Roberto Munguia Bardo TepeQuetzal 3A, encaustic on Yupo, 2012
Have you lived your whole life as an artist or was there a first/ alternate career?
Art came first and still does, but I've been an educator for the past few decades. I consider it a privilege to help young artists develop their talents. It's a way of passing on that spark that's determined my direction in life.
What is your creative process? i.e. where do your ideas come from and how do you execute them?
Gee, that's a tough question. I make it a point to not "land" on a specific process or style for too long, but rather keep my inner ears and eyes tuned to what needs to come next. I work in a wide range of media and mistrust fascility, so I'm always looking for the point of contact with a more expansive vista. For instance, I've worked with encaustic painting since the late 70's, but my current work with this medium has revolutionized my previous 40 years of Art practice. I have never encountered a method that so immediately reveals unknown wonders and more or less leaves me with only limited control of the results. Kind of scarey/ kind of LIBERATING! I'm really interested in finding a way into unexplored territories and in pulling forth something that hints at the miraculous.
Is there a simple way to explain the influences of Chicano Art in your work?
Having grown up in South Texas during the '60's, I have always considered myself Chicano, and am lucky to have known and worked around some of the really important artists in the movement such as Carmen Lomas Garza, Cesar Martinez, and the late Sam Coronado. I tend to internalize the politics, though, and approach my work more abstractly. Can a personal non-representational style still reflect Chicanismo? I think so, but it won't look like 90% of the Chicano Art that's going around.
There seems to be a streak of rebellion in your work, would you say that you're rebelling against something? The art world or commonly accepted artistic practices, for example?
If anything, I'm rebelling against the hardened attitudes and practices that generally find favor in the current art world. Marketable formulaic repetition is a pet peeve in that I've seen a lot of artists die creatively because they stick to what sells and won't allow themselves to grow through and out of their comfort zones. Of course, they're crying all the way to the bank! Don't get me wrong; I'm all for a committed exploration and a long-term investigation of one's vision as long as it's bearing fruit. I think things are changing for the better. I'd like to think that someone would care enough to find out what ties all my work together in it's kaleidoscopic expression and stop looking for a recognizable cue from a previous approach.
Texas has changed quite a bit during your career here. For better or for worse, or both?
When I arrived in Dallas back in 1976, there were just a few contemporary art galleries in town. The DMA was in its old Fair Park location, and the DW Co-Op Gallery was just starting up. Things have persistently gotten better though there have been ups and downs, recessions, cultural upheavals, and the constant ebb and flow of artists coming then leaving the city. It's been an interesting time here. I think Leigh Arnold's DMA DallasSites show did a great job of giving us a good view of things over the past 50 years. I can't remember a more exciting time than now, though, and I hope that we continue to build on this foundation, not only here but throughout the state.
You also write poetry. Do the two art forms inform each other or are they entirely separate?
I have always written to clarify ideas or to muse on a certain situation, but I usually have to be driven to words before I pick up the pen. I don't write daily. I had a delightful awakening several years ago when I met one of my poetic inspirations, Naomi Shihab Nye, at one of her readings at Conduit Gallery. She has done alot to help me believe in the power of my own words, and even graced me by reading one of my poems at my first public reading, also at Conduit, in 2006. Poetry informs my visual art but it's not very obvious. The great Mexican painter and writer, Leonard Brooks, said he liked that my poetry was visually oriented, that he could tell a painter had written it.
Who are some Texas artists you admire?
There are so many! I'll stick to local artists. In fact, I am always challenged by the work being produced here. It keeps me inspired. I would have to mention Celia Munoz, Benito Huerta, Arthur Peña, Francisco Moreno, Lucas Martell, Chuck and George, Giovanni Valderas, Fred Villanueva, Bonny Leibowitz, Gabriel Dawe, Clay Stinnett, Simeen Farhat, and so many more. I have great respect for my fellow Conduit Gallery artists, too. They're some of the best.
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