De la Rosa: I was born here in the Valley in the W.E. Stewart Land Company or better know as Weslaco. My mom talks about my birth all the time. She tells the story like it happened yesterday and like I have never heard it before. I have to say I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Nuevo Progreso Mexico. My mom has a bridal shop there and we used to live inside the shop. My dad made a small apartment like complex in the back of the building. The walls didn’t touch the ceiling; it was like being in a studio! Everyone on that block was new in town, mostly young couples with kids my age. Every store shared the same back yard so everyone would come out and play.
On the corner of the block there stood the only and first movie theater in town, “El Cine Gloria”. I remember watching three movies for a dime. Sometimes the kids form the block and I went to the movies as a group. These movies were mostly foreign martial arts films that were not dubbed in Spanish or had any Spanish sub-tiles. I think everyone just went to see all the cool martial art moves, which of course, we would mimic in the back yard after movie. I saw El Santo Emascarado de Plata, Cantinflas, Mario and Fernado Almada movies and a lot of mainstream American Movies. The Almada brother movies are my favorite because they are so kitsch! I also like that a lot of their movies were filmed here in the Valley!
El Cine Gloria would commission a very large canvas to be painted of the subsequent movies to be shown. Those canvases were really badly painted, but I wish I had collected all of them as well as all the movie posters. It would be so cool to have them now.
Other fond memories are of me working with my dad at his ranch during harvest season. It was a lot of fun to look at fields of sorghum and corn and stare into the nothingness of it. We would usually have lunch under a tree, where we would start a small fire and heat up some ranch style beans or anything else we had brought for lunch.
I also worked as a “bolero” and shined shoes outside my grandmother’s shop. I could keep going but I’ll stop here. Those were all some really good times!
TAOB: If you had to choose a place where else would you live other than the Valley and why?
De la Rosa: If I had my choice of anywhere it would be, Italy. I would also like to be playing pro soccer for AC Milan, as a forward of course. I’m a fanatic soccer fan. I love to watch the English league. They play with so much finesse and the fans get to sit really close to the action.
TAOB: What would you say you learned from the exhibit: "As of Now”?
De la Rosa: I needed to edit the show by reducing the amount of artists, it would have made that show come together a better, but the show was more of a survey of artists making work in the valley and put forward the question to artists in the exhibition: What are you doing right now?
Some artists in the show have never stopped working their original ideas, other showed old work and others had new work were exploring other ideas. Others had stopped and had not practiced for years. Some valley artists were upset that I didn’t include them in the exhibition. I don’t know why?
A lot of curators and institutions bring artists from outside the Valley to exhibit here. While I think that is a great thing, it is a one-way road. We need curators and our institutions to create bridge where there is an exchange between Valley artists and outsiders.
This was the intention with the exhibition, to get artists out there, even one hundred miles away. From that show I’m wondering if we Valley artists have an aesthetic? What is the South Texas aesthetic? This is a conversation I want to keep exploring. I also think we should have our own bi-annual, we used to have Art Rio Grande, but that was by invitation only. We need a juried Bi-Annual that is judged by a prominent national curator, artist or art critic.
TAOB: Your a graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a bachelor of Fine Arts, and also earned Master of Fine Arts in studio art from The Ohio State University, tell us a little on what motivated you to pursue a career in Fine Arts and return to the Valley?
De la Rosa: One motivation has been to strive for the highest academic degree in the field of studio art. The decision to be a studio artist I think came about in part from living next to the movie theater, and watching all those films. Films are just moving paintings. My mother is also very crafty and a seamstress. I have watched her work on all these very intricate wedding decorations and dresses. She is an artist in her own right. Spending every summer at the ranch also made me think about landscape, place and nature. I wanted to be a national park ranger at one point. I think those experiences indirectly informed my visual senses and still inform my work today. It also helped that my parents have always been very encouraging and of course, there was a lot of people that pushed me and helped along they way. Lenard Brown when he was at UTPA was one of those people along with Carlos Gomez at Brownsville and Santa Barraza in Kingsville. I also got to work and a lot of help from Pheoris West, Stephan Pentak, Charles Massey, Terry Barrett, Scott Kaplan and Ann Hamilton when I was in Ohio.
Studying and living outside of the Valley became really important to me, because I knew I wanted to have a perspective of my community from afar. Staying in the Valley all of my life would be like always painting one foot away from the canvas. I needed to step back and see the whole picture. Visiting a place for a while gives me some of that, but getting out of my comfort zone and dealing with a new environment on a daily basis is totally different, than just visiting. It also helped that OSU waived my tuition, granted me a fellowship my first year, and a $1200 monthly stipend. The second year the only thing that changed was that I was teaching 2D design and drawing classes, which was a really awesome! My first year all I did was paint; meet a lot of people and travel. I think having that experience would encourage anyone to pursue an MFA.
I returned to the Valley because all my famila lives here and I want to be close to them.
TAOB: What would you say has helped the creation of McAllen’s Artwalk do you see a notable movement in art from both McAllen to Brownsville?
De la Rosa: Artwalks, gallery hops, first Saturdays or Fridays are not a new thing or new idea, they happen all over the country. I think the one in McAllen was spearheaded by a group of savvy business people that own property on Main St. They understand that creating an Artwalk near their place of business would raise their property value, all this done in the name of Art.
The McAllen Artwalk is a really good thing for business and the community, but if we as a community are going to use Art as the flag of prosperity we also need to create and exhibit work that asks really difficult and challenging questions. The Artwalk also needs a venue that exhibits contemporary work that is not commercial.
The party, flash and the fluff are great and they are part of this event. There is a lot of room and need for the intellectual and non-for-profit sectors. At other artwalks around the country local Universities have opened spaces were these Artwalks take place. These spaces allow the Art Departments to present intellectually stimulating work, lectures, gallery talks, critiques and workshops to a larger and more diverse part of the community. These spaces reach out to people that would never set foot at a University function or campus. These galleries become great recruiting, teaching and outreach tools.
TAOB: As an artist where do you think success comes from?
De la Rosa: Success comes when a person sets a goal, whatever it may be and obtains it. These are different for everyone and depend on circumstance. One of my friends has a saying,”Picandole” or “siguele picando”, meaning just be “terrco with your goals”. The odyssey is the fun part. Once you reach your goal the journey is over. Then just set a new one y picale!
TAOB: What is one of the struggles you think an artist faces on a daily basis?
De la Rosa: Keeping an Art practice is very difficult; because as people we all go through very mundane situations, like filling taxes or acts of God that keep us from working. My goal has been to always work no matter the situation. Those situations may cause me to change medium. I used to work an 8-5-office job; during down time I would work on all these drawings on post-its and then go post them all over the building. Sort of like post-it graffiti, but it wouldn’t’ damage any property.
Currently, my commute to my job in Kingsville is 216 miles a day round trip. That is four hours gone out of my day; however, I been documenting my travels by hooking up a video camera to my dashboard. The video will later be edited and exhibited in the context of Art. So this is a situation that I have to deal with for now. The trick is to find the medium to produce artwork in whatever situation one may encounter and give yourself permission to do so. This has also made me really excited about my daily drives and kind a sad that they will end when I move closer to my new job. It has been a really unique situation to drive the same road everyday and notice a lot of these small changes in the landscape. There is a lot going on in the vastness and nothingness of the King Ranch. A lot of it reminds me of the summers I spent working with my father at his farm.
TAOB: What is your favorite type of music and what type of character would you say describes you?
De la Rosa: I listen, own and enjoy many genres of music. I used to play drums in a band that went by Redsofa, back in the mid nineties. We did a few gigs around the valley and recorded a lot of original music that is stored somewhere my mom’s house along with my Yamaha drum kit. I think that bug will bite me again someday.
Right now, I listen to a lot of Internet radio, mostly KEXP out of Seattle and NPR. The band that I’m listening to the most right now is Kings of Leon. Those guys are awesome, but I really wish I had satellite radio for that long commute to Kingsville!
I wouldn’t say any character describes me, but I some people tell me (more than once and at very different times) that I remind them of a bear.
TAOB: As an artist what can you say you are afraid of?
De la Rosa: As an artist Nothing, there is really nothing to be afraid of, it’s just Art.
TAOB: Tell us your view on any particular political issue local, state or federal, that is of importance to you?
De la Rosa: I think the drug war is huge issue right now. People have a violent nature and we have always lived with some violence and very complex issues on the border. There is violence everywhere, but it seems to me that respect for life is on the decline.
TAOB: Do you believe in a community of artist to be beneficial, why or why not?
De la Rosa: Yes, we need to help each other out, but first we all need to get over ourselves and get over our Artwork. Lets have a huge valley artist keg party and get a dunking booth. I bet we would have a community after that. Keg party, dunking booth and Valley Art Bi-Annual, think about it!??
TAOB: Besides family and art what else is important to you?
De la Rosa: My health. I have to lay off all the great food the Valley has to offer!
TAOB : Jesus many thanks for your time and your response to this interview it is greately appriciated.